Amazon Echo's Top 11 Smart Home Skills in the Alexa App
Amazon Alexa's Smart Home Skills
Amazon Echo has its own set of smart home skills located within the Alexa app.
Smart home control is what the internet of things is all about, but only a few products do the job well.
Below are the 11 best smart home skills available for your Amazon Tap or Echo devices.
These top eleven skills are a must-have for anyone interested in smart home technology.
Also keep an eye out for the new $150 Echo Plus, which is an Echo with an integrated Zigbee smart home hub that eliminates the need for separate smart hubs (among various brands) to control lights, thermostats, and more.
11. Logitech Harmony
Logitech Harmony Remote
- Full control of turning on/off your TV, AV receiver, and cable box
- Customized names to turn on various entertainment platforms such as Netflix
- More streamlined entertainment voice control through activity setup
- Requires the Logitech Harmony hub and Alexa only supports one hub/device
- It doesn't have volume controls
- You can't play/pause or mute and it has connectivity issues
The Logitech Harmony remote companionship with Alexa is the first step towards a complete voice control entertainment center, but there are a lot of limitations.
At the very least it does streamline the entire process without the need for IFTTT triggers or other smart home companions devices/skills. However you still can't control volume, play or pause, and mute your TV via voice.
There were also complaints about connectivity and the fact that only one Harmony hub can be accessed via Alexa.
Despite these problems, it's the start of deeper integration with the Alexa platform, and I expect a lot more developments in the future.
10. SmartThings & Samsung Connect
Samsung SmartThings for Your Home
- The best overall skill in the Alexa app with seamless integration for the Amazon Echo
- Most efficient way to control your lights, dimmers, thermostats, outlets, and door locks
- Offers variety of smart home control including dimming and turning on and off products like fans or heaters
- Setup & linking errors may occur from time to time
SmartThings was in my top 20 best skills and is king of the smart home skill set. The integration with Echo devices is seamless and is the best way to control lights inside or outside your home.
Samsung Connect helps you connect with various outlets, dimmers, switches, door locks, and thermostats for complete smart home control including the ability to change the color of lights.
You'll need to get the 2nd generation hub first before purchasing compatible devices, so it won't be cheap. There have also been problems with setup and linking your account to the skill, so be aware of technical errors.
However if you're ready to jump on-board home automation, then this is the product to start with.
The Wink Connected Hub
- Another way to control lights or groups of lights in your home
- Set up is relatively simple and works with Nest thermostats
- Have separate names for each device as similar sounding names may confuse Alexa
- Problematic if there are many products linked within the Wink hub
- Be weary of disconnection and slow response times
The Wink hub is a great, slightly cheaper alternative to SmartThings though it's not quite as efficient.
Initial set up is simple but gets more challenging with additional devices. Make sure the names you give your devices sound different otherwise you'll confuse Alexa.
Also there may be connectivity issues and slow response times if you have a lot of devices or live in a large home.
Strong, widespread Wi-Fi connectivity is important, so use range extenders if possible.
- Gives you the ability to change your Nest thermostat's temperature
- Increase, set, or lower temperature by desired degree units for maximum comfort from anywhere in your home
- Limited functionality; Alexa doesn't know the current temperature that's set
- Needs more features such as ability to change home/away mode or alternate between heating/cooling
- Choosing the right names for multiple Nest items is important otherwise it may not work
Having the ability to change the temperature of the most popular smart thermostat, Nest, via voice is amazing. You no longer have to get out of bed and fumble with your home's temperature settings.
Unfortunately there's also things that are lacking including Alexa's inability to control home/away modes as well as alternating between heating and cooling. She also won't tell you the current temperature.
The Nest integration is still a work in progress, but it's amazing that we're living in a time where you can use your voice to control something so vital within the home.
The Insteon Starter Kit
- Gives you the ability to dim your lights and turn on/off appliances
- A good alternative to SmartThings and Wink
- The Starter Kit gives you a variety of products for a relatively low price
- Alexa may not pick up all connected devices
- Not as well known or trusted as other smart home brands
Insteon is another alternative to both Wink and SmartThings, but it's not as well known. Not being a popular brand in the smart home ecosystem makes this product line a bit of a wildcard.
However the Insteon Starter Kit gives you everything you need particularly if you're new to home automation. The kit includes two dimmer modules, which can turn on/off appliances and dim your lights.
Overall this smart brand gives you a lot for the price and is great for newbies.
6. TP-Link Kasa
TP-Link Smart Plugs
- One of the most trusted brands of smart plugs out there
- No hub required
- Cheaper way to control lights and small appliances
- The plugs are very large and may cover both outlets
- Connectivity issues, may not work all the time
The best part about using TP-Link Kasa is that you don't need a hub and it'll cost you less than buying an entire starter kit.
The smart plugs are easy to set up and you can control lamps and other small appliances. Sadly the design of the plugs is very large, bulky so it may cover both outlets during use. There have also been reported connectivity issues with Alexa.
This product is good if you want to scratch the surface of smart connectivity as it doesn't involve a hub and is cheaper. It also helps that it's one of the best connected plugs available.
5. Caseta Wireless
Caseta Wireless for Light Dimmers
- Works very well as a light dimmer
- The Dimmer kit comes with a remote and required smart bridge for use
- It doesn't support scenes
- The full Lutron-Caseta kit is pricey
This is arguably one of the best light dimming products we have and the kit comes with its own remote control, which is good for nights when using your voice may not be best.
The biggest complaint besides the cost is that it doesn't support scenes, however; it's a sophisticated smart product that is extremely effective with lighting controls.
4. Vivint. SmartHome - Complete
- Vivint is a built smart ecosystem with lights, thermostats, door locks, and home security
- It allows you to check if your garage and doors are locked and locks them accordingly
- Full voice control that's far more reaching than any other smart product
- Setup is lengthy and expensive with a multitude of products required
- Can be frustrating when things don't work
Vivint is a third party skill but it works as well as premiere smart home skills.
Vivint is a complete smart ecosystem that includes lighting, thermostat, and security, which means it's time consuming and costly.
Vivint is not for beginners; you need to have a full grasp of smart home technology. Once everything is installed and it works, then the experiences have been fantastic as stated in reviews.
On the other hand when things don't work, then it can be incredibly frustrating so tread lightly.
3. LIFX: Optimized for Smart Home
LIFX Colorful LED Lights
- Dual skills enable ability to dim lights and change colors of LIFX bulbs
- Set up is easy
- Impressive bulbs with variants of shades and colors
- Very costly, particularly the color bulbs
- Not all colors are supported
If you combine both the smart home LIFX skill and the third party skill of the same name, then you can control shades of white light and change colors.
To change colors, say the phrase "Alexa, tell 'Life-Ex' to make my lights (choose color).
You won't get all the colors included but at least you'll get the standard rainbow set. The LIFX bulbs are very powerful and provide impressive shades of light, so they're costly.
You'll easily spend well over a 100 dollars on a couple of LIFX smart LED color bulbs, but at least you'll get a variety of light and color.
Hopefully the price will come down overtime because these light bulbs are some of the most powerful I've seen.
2. Haiku Home
Haiku's Big Fans
- Smart control of your Haiku fans (including fan speed) and lights
- Setup and control is a snap
- Control ceiling fans without having to buy/install smart switches/plugs or outlets
- Reviews complained of Echo's inability to pair with Haiku Home products
You can finally control your ceiling fans via voice including fan speed without the need for smart switches, plugs, or outlets. The setup is easy and the Haiku Home product line is sleek and beautiful for any home.
The Haiku fans are expensive though, so if you're not willing to spend a lot of cash, then I'd stick with smart plugs and outlets for standard fans.
Echo's integration with Haiku Home is the most modern idea of a smart home to date.
Nexia Home Intelligence
- Works with a variety of smart home devices including lights, locks, and thermostats
- Fast recognition from Alexa
- Top rated smart home skill
- The products may be expensive
- Difficulty with thermostat control and some missing features
Nexia allows for mass smart integration with a variety of products that's easy to setup and connect.
As with many smart devices, the individual products may be expensive and you do need a separate bridge for them to work.
Some issues include lack of control over thermostats settings such as getting current temperature readings.
There are also missing features for smart locks such as the inability to unlock, however; this is due to security reasons.
Regardless, smart ecosystems like Nexia are another sign that we're living in the future, and the smart home market is exploding as we speak.