Amazon's Echo is the most popular smart speaker and while Alexa is very useful for weather forecasts and setting timers, she can also control compatible smart home gadgets. This is arguably one of the best reasons to buy an Echo, since being able to turn the lights with your voice is not just a useful feature: it's also a great party trick.

How do I make Alexa turn on the lights?

Hardware

You need lights, or a switch, that is compatible with Alexa before you can control it.

Alexa works with many smart lights, including Philips Hue and LIFX bulbs.We're big fans of these because they're high quality, reliable and offer lots of features. They come in white and colour versions, with the latter costing more, but still able to produce good whites as well as bright colours.

How to control lights with your Amazon Echo

However, even the cheapest Wi-Fi bulbs are expensive, so if you don't want to splash out on new lights, you can instead buy smart switches that are compatible with Alexa. One is TP-Link's Smart Plug which costs around £25 / US$30 from Amazon. You can plug a lamp into this, then ask Alexa to turn it on and off.

How to control your lights with Amazon Echo

A better alternative is to install an Alexa-compatible light switches so you can control your ceiling lights, rather than floor-standing lamps.

These include Lightwave RF and Energenie MiHome. Note that - like Philips Hue - these both require a 'hub' which plugs into your router: they don't talk directly to it using Wi-Fi. The TP-Link Smart Plug and LIFX bulbs do not require a hub.

Fortunately the way to control compatible lights, plugs and switches with Alexa is the same.

How do I connect might lights with my Amazon Echo?

To get started, you need the Alexa app. It is available on Android, iOS and Amazon Fire tablets. You can even use it in a web browser.

You'll probably have the app already if you have an Amazon Echo.

  1. Tap on the menu icon - the three horizontal lines at the top-left.
  2. Now tap on Skills.
  3. Search for your device or manufacturer
  4. Tap Enable
  5. Link your account

How to control lights with Amazon Echo

When you find the Skill, tap on it (for example TP-Link Kasa for the Smart Plug or LightwaveRF) and then tap 'Enable'.

At that point, you'll be asked to enter your username/email and password for that account so that you can authorise Alexa to control it.

You can also add new devices to the Alexa app by doing this:

  • Tap the main menu icon
  • Tap Smart Home
  • Tap Add Device
  • Wait for devices to be discovered

What do I say to Alexa to turn on the lights?

The simplest command is:

  • "Alexa, turn on [name of light]"

If your light or switch supports it, you can also say:

  • "Alexa, make the front light purple"
  • "Alexa, dim the living room"
  • "Alexa, make the kitchen brighter"

We've been using Alexa to control our lights for months now, and we can offer this tip: edit the name of every light, switch and plug. Don't use the default names, but change them to the shortest possible names.

For example, instead of LIFX Color 1000, change the bulb's name to "Bedroom" or "Barney". It needs to be something easy to remember, so go for the name of the room, or the person who sleeps in that bedroom, for example.

Longer names or names with multiple words increase the chance of Alexa mis-hearing and failing to do what you asked. 

How do I control groups of lights with Alexa?

Recently, Amazon has made it easier to control groups. You do this by adding an Echo to that group as well as the individual bulbs themselves. This is very useful if you have more than one Echo as it allow you to - for example - walk into the living room and say "Alexa, turn on the lights" and she will understand what you mean because you have grouped the Echo in that room with the smart bulbs in that same room.

  1. Open the Settings menu in the app
  2. Tap Smart Home
  3. Tap on Groups at the top
  4. Tap Add group
  5. Tap Smart Home Group and choose which devices you want to be in the group

These devices must be already linked via the appropriate Skill, or discovered in the Alexa app in order to be shown in the list. Be sure to add the correct Echo device to the group as well.

How to control lights with Amazon Echo

You can change the name of the group to something that's natural to say, such as the room name. Then you can say:

  • "Alexa, turn on kitchen"

Another recent update allows you to change a plug or switch's type to 'light'. This is helpful if you want to control the lights attached to that plug or switch as part of an Alexa-enabled group.

  • Tap the switch or plug in Smart Home
  • Tap the three horizontal dots
  • Tap on Type
  • Tap on Light

How to control lights with Amazon Echo

In case you need to, here's how to update your Echo's software.