Automating a House with Alexa Devices

July 25, 2018

While I was moving my stuff into my future home in Loreto, a lot of little projects were completed so it will be just right for me. One of those projects was to automate some things so they can be controlled via voice. I’ll discuss the various products involved in this blog. Yes, I do receive a piddly commission if you buy one with the links I’ve provided. No, they didn’t give me anything for free.

Let’s start with light switches. There are a couple of switches in my kitchen and dining room located in very inconvenient locations. One requires walking around the dining room table to access and the other reaching across the stove or the bar. I used the Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Light Switch by TP-Link in each of the locations. The manual switch is still there and even has a glowing circle so it is easier to see in the dark. But I can also flip the switch via an app or by asking Alexa.

That switch works great for single switches, but doesn’t really work for 3-way switches. For that, I got the Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Light Switch, 3-Way Kit by TP-Link. On the stairs between the upper and lower level are three coach lights. Switches are at the top and bottom of the stairs. By using this kit, they can also be controlled manually with the switches, via the app or using voice commands with Alexa.

Sure, the switches have a cost and they do need to be installed. But it was a small price to pay to be able to control them with voice commands and the new switches are very attractive. If you don’t want to worry about wiring in new switches, you can use plugs to control anything plugged in. This is great for lamps and other devices. I got the Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug Mini by TP-Link (2-Pack) for those devices. There is nothing to install, just plug it in and configure it in the app. That gives me even more devices I can control via voice or the app.

With any of these you need something to control them all and that’s where Alexa comes into play. I’ve talked about various flavors of it before and I have two Amazon Echos and one Amazon Echo Dot. A new member of the Alexa family was recently released to give you control over your television and other entertainment devices.

Amazon’s Fire TV Cube supports most all popular streaming apps and allows you to control your devices (TV, stereo, etc.) as well. While I already had a Roku Streaming Stick, the Fire TV Cube is a nice upgrade. I’ll still use the Roku on another TV so it won’t be thrown in a box or discarded.

Next was deciding on a streaming TV service. I looked at several of them. Which services had the channels that I personally watch? I had been a DirecTV satellite customer for nearly 20 years and I finally decided the DirecTV Now streaming service was the best option for my needs. It costs far less than my satellite service and still has the channels I watch. There is a Cloud DVR service which allows me to record up to 20 hours of programming. It still has a few glitches, but it mostly works. Once it is out of beta, I wouldn’t be surprised if they allow more hours of recording for an extra cost.

My home automation is by no means complete, but I’m really happy with the things I’ve put into place so far. Give these products a look and maybe they can help you automate your home.

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Foster D. Coburn III

Foster D. Coburn III

Foster D. Coburn III is author of 13 best-selling books on CorelDRAW and has been a contributor to numerous technology and graphics-related magazines. Foster has taken many projects, including this Web site, from the early design stage through to a finished piece. He has been a featured speaker at many graphics conferences. His first Web site was built in 1995 and he has been working exclusively in WordPress since 2013.

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