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The 10 Essential Alexa Skills to Get Your Smart Home Running

Do you have an Amazon Echo? Are you using it to do more than listen to your favorite tunes? If not, it’s time to step-up your Alexa game by utilizing these 10 essential skills to get the most out of your smart home.

use alexa in your smart home

1. Turn your lights on and off.

Is there a simpler demonstration of Alexa’s power than just turning lights on or off with your voice? To get started, you’ll need a connected light or outlet device, such as Wemo, Philips Hue, Lutron, or the Wink Connected Hub.

Connecting these devices to Alexa is pretty straightforward. If you want to dim and brighten your lights you’ll need to go through a couple of extra steps, but it’s worth the effort to bring some ambience into your smart home.

To connect a device such as the Philips Hue, start by opening up the Alexa app and selecting Smart Home from the side menu. Select Discover Devices in the Devices section and press the button on the Philips Hue bridge. Your Philips Hue bulbs should be displayed in the Devices section of the Alexa app.

Next you need to create a Group in order to control the lights that you want to control. Select Create Group in the Groups section of the Settings menu, such as all the lights in your living room or bedroom.

Once your groups are set up through the app, you can change the color of your lights in each group or room.

You can also change the color of your lights by syncing your Alexa account to IFTTT, and creating an applet. This involves;

  • Authorizing Alexa to work with your IFTTT account.
  • Opening the IFTTT app and selecting Create an Applet.
  • Selecting the Amazon Alexa icon.
  • Choosing “Say a specific phrase.” This will activate the Echo after saying “Alexa trigger…”
  • Entering the phrase you wish to use. For example, if you want the lights to turn blue, then you would type “lights to blue” and press Next.
  • Selecting “That”.
  • Scrolling down and choosing the Philips Hue icon.
  • Choosing Change Color. This will allow you to pick the color you want the lights to change and which lights you want to change.
  • Pressing Finish.

If you want turn the lights on or off, all you have to say is “Alexa, turn living room lights on.” But, if you’re going through IFTTT, you’ll need to say “Alexa, trigger lights to red.”

2. Control speakers with your voice

Thanks to the arrival of the Amazon Echo speaker and Echo Dot you can easily control your music or other audio with just your voice. In fact, it’s becoming a standard feature of Alexa.

At CES 2017, Lenovo introduced the Smart Assistant speaker. The goal of this device is to harness the power of Alexa and combine it with the sound quality of Harman Kardon. There’s also Arcam’s rPlay DAC that will essentially bring Alexa support to any audio system.

Sonos also just released an Alexa skill to listen to music.

3. Make your TV even smarter.

Tired of losing the remote? That’s a problem of the past. Samsung and LG have already released voice controlled remotes. The Logitech Harmony Remotes, such as the Harmony Elite, literally put the control of your smart-home in your hands. It can be used with Alexa to turn your TV on or off or go directly to the app or channel that you want. It can even dim the lights or adjust your speaker volume.

4. New modes of communication.

Is it possible for Alexa to change everyday communication? Absolutely.

For example, Ooma partners with Alexa so that you can initiate calls by saying a number, saying the name of the person you want to call or asking to check your voicemail. With the launch of Echo Connect next week- you’ll be able to make calls hands free. Ooma also plays nice with devices like Philips Hue so that your lights can change when someone calls or leaves a voicemail. If your Nest alarm is triggered, you’ll receive a call. You even have the option to place a call to your home’s emergency service operator.

ooma in your smart home

5. Keep your home clean.

Tired of getting the vacuum out for a minor spill? Let Alexa take care of that for you. Alexa works with the Neato Botvac Connected robot vacuum so you can start, pause, resume, and stop cleaning with voice commands like “Alexa, ask Neato to start cleaning.” You can even ask Neato what the battery level is at.

To get started, simply select the ‘Enable Skill’ button and link your Neato account by discovering your Neato Botvac Connected robot vacuum.

6. Food and drink.

Are you curious about food and drink pairings for an upcoming dinner? Just ask, “Alexa, ask Wine Gal what goes with salmon?” using the MySomm skill.

Need to know what temperature is safe when cooking various meats? Use Meat Thermometer. Say, “Alexa, ask Meat Thermometer what is the best temperature for turkey.”

How about a new recipe for the family dinner tonight? Alexa has got you covered. “Alexa, tell Best Recipes I’m hungry” or “Alexa, ask Best Recipes what’s for dinner.”

And, if you don’t feel like cooking at all, you can place a Domino’s Easy Order just by speaking, “Alexa, open Domino’s and place my Easy Order.”

7. Adjust the temperature.

If you own a Nest, Ecobee3, or any other smart thermostat, just ask Alexa to adjust the temperature setting in your house to your preferred temperature.

Here’s how you connect your Nest Learning Thermostat to Alexa, which is similar to how you’ve connected the other devices listed above.

If it’s not hot enough to turn on the AC, you can use Haiku to control the speed of your ceiling fans.

8. Start the shower.

If you’re in a rush, and don’t have time to wait for the water to heat up, just tell Alexa “to prepare a hot shower” and tado will get that started for you through IFTTT.

9. Control your appliances.

If you own a smart fridge you can ask Alexa to add items to your shopping list or even place a grocery order for groceries.

For smart washers/dryers, you can ask Alexa to start a cycle and also how long is left on a cycle.

Believe it or not, there are even smart ovens. Ask Alexa to start preheating your oven before you make dinner or ask Alexa to turn your oven off when you’re finished.

GE already has several appliances that work with Alexa, with Whirlpool also working on compatible appliances.

10. Secure your home.

If you have a smart home hub that’s compatible with Alexa, such as Nexia, Vivint, Securifi Almond, Wink, Lutron, or Samsung SmartThings, then you can ask Alexa to lock and unlock your doors. Don’t be concerned about burglars trying to imitate your voice in order to break-in, as Alexa is very reliable at voice recognition.

These smart hubs can also be used to open and close your garage doors. For additional layers of home security, you can use the Blink for Home smart-home security system and remotely arm and disarm it.


















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Thad White

Thad is the Director of Product Management at Ooma, responsible for driving great user experiences across Ooma’s portfolio of hardware devices, mobile apps, and services. Thad has more than 20 years experience building and managing consumer tech products at leading tech companies including Yahoo!, BlackBerry, and 3jam (acquired by Skype). He has worked on messaging and communications products used by hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Thad holds a BA from Rice University in cognitive science and linguistics.


  1. steve
    December 13, 2017    

    Sounds great, will I be able to choose between using my regular house phone and the echo? I dont want to only be able to make calls using Alexa, what if it is a private call etc

  2. Silvia Martin
    December 23, 2017    

    Hi Thad, having problems with big 3 telecom company who wants to charge $35 for digital phone line.
    Would love to get OOMA, but need fax to work.
    How can I get OOMA and also use a fax machine?

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