If you could just speak a question or request into the air and get an immediate response, wouldn’t that be lovely? Meet Alexa, brought to you by Amazon. We bought our first Amazon Echo about 2 years ago, and now we have an an Alexa in every room of the house. For those who haven’t been introduced, the Echo is a smart speaker. Saying “Alexa” triggers the speaker to listen to your question or request and respond. Amazon Echo was one of the first smart speakers. Others, such as Google Home, have since entered the market. We can’t weigh in on the pros and cons of the Amazon Echo compared to other smart speakers (because we don’t have them), but we’ve pulled together the top 15 ways Alexa can change your life, including cool Alexa tricks, Alexa Easter eggs, and Alexa commands that we use almost every day. If you don’t already have an Alexa-enabled device, check out the bottom of the post for a comparison of the top models.
#1: Never lean over to turn off your bedside lamp again
“Alexa, turn off the lamp”
It’s that simple, and our bedside lamp is either on or off. It may seem unnecessary, but trust us, once you start using your voice to command your lamp off, you’ll never want to reach over again. To do this trick, you have to buy a smart indoor outlet to plug the lamp into. We’ve had good luck with this smart plug from Amazon, and it’s great because it doesn’t require an additional hub.
#2: Cool your bedroom without leaving bed
“Alexa, set the house temperature to 72 degrees”
Nothing is worse than getting to bed and realizing it’s too hot or cold. Alexa totally fixes that, and we can adjust the temperature without every getting out from underneath the covers or having to grab our phones. Of course, you’ll need a smart, alexa-compatible thermostat. We’ve had a Nest thermostat for almost 5 years now and absolutely love it, but others like Ecobee, Honeywell Lyric, and Sensi WiFi Programmable are all compatible with Alexa and get great reviews.
#3: Control the outdoors while indoors
“Alexa, turn on the Christmas lights”
We can control our Christmas lights, outdoor fountain, and patio lights, all through Alexa. Similar to the indoor outlet, you’ll need to purchase an outdoor outlet. We use this one from iDevices (no extra hub required!) We’ve had the iDevices outdoor outlet for a couple years ago and have had really good luck thus far.
#4: Water the lawn on your schedule“
“Alexa, turn on the sprinklers for 15 minutes”
If you have an outdoor sprinkler system, you’ll love having the Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller. You can command Alexa to run all or some of your sprinklers for a certain duration or to pause your set schedule because of rain, among many other commands. If you get this, check out Rachio’s website for all of the commands you can use with your Alexa.
#5: Set the mood by controlling your lights
“Alexa, turn the lights to light salmon”
Yes, light salmon; it one of the 1600 colors you can choose if you have the Philips Hue lighting system. The Philips Hue bulbs have all sorts of funky colors that are fun for different occasions. We love them! We have custom settings for watching a movie or dinner with friends. This Philips Hue starter kit includes four bulbs and the hub that connects Alexa to the Phillips Hue bulbs.
#6: Get into a morning routine
“Alexa, start my day”
You can set all kinds of routines with Alexa. We pre-loaded a routine in the Alexa app so that once we say the phrase above, Alexa turns on our bedside lamp, says “top of the morning to you,” tells us the weather, and starts to play NPR—all with that phrase. You can create routines for almost anything. Amazon has a good video tutorial to show you how to create routines.
#7: Communicate throughout the house
“Alexa, announce dinner is ready”
With that phrase, all of the Echos throughout the house will play, “Dinner is ready.” This command also has fun Easter egg in that it will automatically ring a dinner bell at the beginning of the announcement. The commands “hurry up” and “good night” also have fun Easter egg sounds. In addition to making announcements, we can use the Echos as an intercom between two rooms.
#8: Play music
“Alexa, play pop music”
Alexa comes with access to a ton of songs. We can ask her to play a specific song or a particular genre. Every night before we go to bed we ask her to play music for sleep, and she plays a great collection of slow, soothing songs. Some songs aren’t available unless you have Amazon Unlimited, which has a monthly charge, but we’ve found the selection already included to be great. You can also hook Alexa up with your Spotify or Pandora accounts.
#9: Play games when you’re bored or have people over
“Alexa, play Jeopardy”
Alexa has a ton of fun games we can play either by ourselves or if we have friends over. We can ask her to play games like “Beat the Dealer,” “Price It Right,” “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” “Heads Up!,” “Jeopardy!,” and “Twenty Questions.”
#10: Order an Uber
“Alexa, order an Uber”
We take an Uber a few times a week and love being able to ask Alexa to order it for us as we’re putting on our shoes downstairs. It has our home address stored and automatically directs the Uber to that pick-up spot. Once we get in the car, we just have to add our destination. We had to link our Uber account in our Alexa app, but that’s it!
#11: Ask random questions
“Alexa, what is the capital of Iceland”
This one is pretty straightforward but definitely a feature to highlight. We ask her all sorts of random questions, and she (generally) responds with the information we’re looking for. Like Siri, there are limitations to what she knows, but Alexa is a handy resource to have in every room of the house when we need to know something.
#12: Get in shape by working out with Alexa
“Alexa, start my 7-minute workout”
You read that right; you can work out with Alexa. She has both 5-minute and 7-minute workouts. It’s hard to argue that we don’t have 7 minutes in our day to devote to a workout. She has access to dozens of exercises that she uses to spice up each workout and to keep us on our toes. It’s surprising how much she can pick up our heart rate in just 7 minutes!
#13: Ask for a joke to lift your spirits
“Alexa, tell me a joke”
Sometimes Alexa will personally tell you a joke, or she’ll ask a comedian like Jimmy Fallon to tell a joke. The jokes are PG and corny, but we can always count on them for a chuckle.
#14: Check the weather
“Alexa, what’s the weather in Los Angeles this weekend”
We love being able to ask Alexa about the weather while standing in our closet picking out our clothes. She will tell us the weather for today, this week, or this weekend and for any location on earth—all we have to to is ask!
#15: Set daily alarms or timers
“Alexa, wake me up at 7am”
This is another routine command that’s easy to forget how much we appreciate it. Alexa has replaced our alarm clock.
She also does wonders in the kitchen when cooking dinner. We set multiple timers by just specifying what the timer is for, such as, “Alexa, set a 20-minute timer for the cookies,” or “Alexa, set a 30-minute timer for the sweet potatoes.” She will let you know which timer is going off when, so you don’t burn the cookies!
Don’t have an Alexa yet, and now you want one? Don’t worry, there are several models to choose from for any budget.
While this is the most expensive model, the sound in the Sonos One is superior to any others, which you’d expect from a company like Sonos. We have one for our downstairs kitchen and dining room area, and it fills the room with quality sound. This is by far our favorite model, and we’d have one in every room if money didn’t matter. 😉
The Amazon Echo was the first Alexa we purchased. While the Sonos One model definitely produces higher quality sound, this one still produces solid sound, especially in light of the price difference. We have this model in our bedroom and love it.
We have an Echo Dot in all of our other rooms. The speaker doesn’t measure up at all against the Sonos One or the Echo, so we primarily use these for commands like turning on lights, communicating throughout the house, and asking Alexa for information. The price is pretty incredible for getting all of the Alexa features.
Don’t forget some accessories!
If you’ve bought all these devices, but are running out of counter space to put them, consider these outlet wall covers that include a small shelf for your echo devices. Perfect for bathrooms and other tight areas. Once you get an Alexa-enabled device, you’ll want one in every room!