Easily control your lights with your voice for about $35
You may be thinking to yourself that controlling your lights with your voice is just silly. At least that’s what I thought until I tried it. I thought that it would be too expensive, it wouldn’t work reliably, or it would just be a gimmicky fad that would quickly fade away. But, I was intrigued enough that when I found a way to give it a try inexpensively, I gave it a shot. And let me tell you, it’s addictive. Once we tried it my whole family was hooked. I couldn’t get the rest of our lights onto the system quickly enough.
Would you like the ability to walk into your home at night and just say “Alexa, turn on the living room lights”, or “Alexa, turn on all lights”? Or when you’re going to bed, “Alexa, turn off all lights”? What about setting a schedule so that the carport lights come on at dusk and you tell Alexa to turn them off when you go to bed? From your bed?! If you get woken up in the night by some strange sound, how much comfort would it give you to be able to say “Alexa, turn on every light”, or “Alexa, emergency!”? You can even say things like “Alexa, let’s watch a movie” and have all the lights set just like you like them. Really, it’s addictive. I used to turn off 11 lamps before going to bed every night (not to mention turning them on). A year later I still get a kick out of saying “Alexa, bedtime” and having all the lights turn off within 2 seconds.
There are literally dozens of ways to accomplish this but I’m going to tell you about just one. It’s relatively easy and it works phenomenally well. Now I have to preface this how-to with one caveat; if you don’t have great WiFi, stop now and fix that. By great Wi-Fi, I mean this: it works so well, on every device you’ve ever tried, in every corner of your house that you never think about it. Until your WiFi is so good that it fades into the background of your consciousness, it’s probably not good enough. It needs to be on par with your light switches; you never think about whether a light switch is going to work, it just does, every time. I can help you get WiFi that good, but that’s a topic for another day. OK, got fantastic WiFi? Then let’s go!
You might have guessed by now that you need an Amazon Alexa device. You can also use a Google Home, but again, I’m just going over a single way to do this. If you don’t already have an Amazon Alexa device then I’d recommend you pick up a 2nd Generation Echo Dot. These were $19.99 on Black Friday and the following week and will probably be that price again before the end of the year. Just follow the directions for getting this setup when it arrives.
You’ll also need a “smart plug”. A smart plug is nothing more than a device that connects to your WiFi and to the electrical plug of the device you’re controlling. Most of them plug into the wall and then you plug in your device to it. There are also several Echo Dot and smart plug bundles available. For a single smart plug, you can expect to spend $20 - $25. The price goes down as you purchase more of them in bundles. And while you can mix and match smart plugs from different vendors, it will mean that you have to use a different app on your smartphone for each vendor. In other words, I’d recommend choosing a vendor and sticking with them. TP-Link in particular lets you set up a schedule based on sunrise and sunset which is in turn based on your GPS location. This means that you can set up a schedule once and know that it will adjust itself automatically with the changing of the seasons; a very nice feature.
Once you have your smart plug and have set it up according to the manufacturer’s instructions you’ll be able to control it with an app on your smart phone. You can turn it on and off, set up schedules, and create scenes with multiple devices.
Now you’ll need to link your Alexa device and your smart plug so that you can control your smart plug with your voice. To do so, Google “Connect Smart Home Devices to Alexa” and follow the directions you find there on the first Amazon result that comes up.
Now give it a try! Pretty amazing, right?
You’ll soon figure out that you have to name every light and use that same name every time you give a verbal command. Remembering all the names can get difficult though, especially as the number of lights you’re controlling grows. You might want to put labels on each light until you can remember their names. Another way to alleviate this is to create groups. While your smart plug app may support this, I recommend using the Alexa app instead. It just works better. You can create as many groups as you need. And you can create groups with only one light in it. This comes in handy when you can’t remember if the name of that green lamp beside your bed is the “green lamp” or the “bedside lamp”. You can have as many groups as you like with the same light or lights in it which basically means you can create aliases and just say “green lamp” or “bedside lamp”, whichever comes to mind first. You might also create a group called “All Lights” and another group with the same lights in it called “All the Lights”. Sounds unnecessary until you’re saying “Alexa, turn on all lights”. It’s just more natural to say “Alexa, turn on all the lights”. So get creative, try things!
Oh, and one more tip. If you’re handy with electricity you might want to check out the SONOFF Basic from a Chinese company called ITEAD. These are only $4.85, so if you end up with a whole house full of these things, it can save you some money.
Don’t be overwhelmed by this, just take it one step at a time. It really isn’t difficult at all. You’ll be super glad you did!
Contact ProbityTec today at www.probitytec.com and let us show you just how economical and beneficial it is for us to manage all this for you. (Oh wait, we’re actually focused on business customers. But if that describes you then definitely give us a call!)
Mr. Bentley started ProbityTec in early 2018. He explains that the word probity just means integrity and he requests that you stop using the word integrity in favor of probity from this day forward. ProbityTec provides managed IT services to small and medium size businesses, churches, and nonprofits throughout West Tennessee. Mr. Bentley can be reached at 731-410-7017 and firstname.lastname@example.org.