A year after getting our first Echo, I’ve compiled my favorite tips for using Alexa to make your life a bit easier and even more organized.
I spent a good 6 months lusting after an Amazon Echo last year, all the while worrying that my desire was more of the middle school crush variety that would disappear once I had the object of my obsession.
Santa smiled down at me last year and an Echo appeared in our living room Christmas morning. But would it just be a fun novelty?
Just shy of a full year later, we’ve come to depend on our new friend Alexa to make every day easier AND more enjoyable.
In fact, we added a 2nd unit, the cordless Tap(no longer available), to our family for my birthday in June. This week, we added a THIRD Echo (the new 2nd gen) downstairs.
I wish I could say we were done, but I feel like I’ve seen the smart home light and we’re just getting started. And just to clarify, we paid for all the Echos with our own cash, but if you’ve got the hook-up at Amazon, I’d happily write a sponsored post for them too. 🙂 #obsessed
If you aren’t familiar with the Echo line, the devices themselves are Amazon Echos, and the magical friend inside is Alexa.
7 Ways We Use Alexa Daily
The idea of using the Echo as a voice-activated radio was #1 reason I wanted to jump on the smart home train. I love having music playing throughout the house, but rarely followed through on making that happen. Now whether we’re cooking dinner, cleaning, or working, there are task-appropriate songs filling the air around me.
It sounds a bit silly to say, but the house has actually been cleaner this year because cranking up some upbeat pop every time I empty the dishwasher or vacuum almost always makes me continue cleaning beyond the task I start with. Suddenly, dancing around the house with the feather duster seems more fun than anything else I could be working on.
I do have the Amazon Music subscription, so almost anything I want to listen to is available instantly. I rely on the radio station feature the most, starting with an artist appropriate for the mood. “Alexa, play the station Michael Bublé” is a common phrase you’d hear as we start cooking. She’ll automatically play not only Bublé, but similar artists. Alternatively, I can just ask her to play Michael Bublé if I want only him, or I can name a specific album.
When I’m not in the mood for a specific artist, I can be more vague and she still delivers. In the morning, I often ask her to play praise and worship, and she always comes up with a great mix.
I use all these variations of asking her to play music.
“Alexa, Play the station “Any artist”
“Alexa, Play “any artist”
“Alexa, Play the album “any album name” by “artist name”
“Alexa, Play “any genre or description” (ie, something upbeat, praise & worship, top pop, even “play some music”)
We put the new 2nd generation Echo in the living room, which covers not only that space, but the kitchen and dining room. We can talk to her in a normal voice from all those rooms, and the music definitely gets loud enough to cover them.
Sure, our phones, microwaves, and ovens all have timers, but this is so much easier!
“Alexa, set a cleaning timer for 20 minutes”
“Alexa, set a timer for 90 seconds”
Hands down, this feature has saved us the most time. The first Echo you add to your home should be in talking distance to your kitchen. Because it will change your life.
This is a newer daily use for me, which evolved from having the Tap in the master bedroom. In Oklahoma, it’s not uncommon for the temperatures to swing wildly one day to the next. If I get dressed assuming the day will be the same today as yesterday, I could end up with frost-bite or heat stroke. 🙂
Even hanging pictures is easier with Alexa, because she does the math for us. Ever stood in a room trying to calculate half of 37 7/8″ to center a photo on the wall? We sure have! Instead of setting tools down to find a phone, we just ask out loud. Same thing goes for measurement conversions while cooking!
I think having Echos around the house must be similar to having a live-in personal assistant. So many times Corey and I find ourselves telling each other to remember something for later. Even things as simple as “Don’t forget TU is on ESPN tonight!”.
Now we’ve realized that we can tell Alexa and she can be in charge of remembering for us.
Bored or just need a little break from a task? Play Jeopardy or 20 Questions with Alexa! She can also even tell you a choose your own adventure story with the Magic Door skill. You control how the story goes as she pauses to ask things like whether you should go to the sea or into the forest.
Our original 1st generation Echo now lives in my office. I have it set up in a group with the living room 2nd Gen Echo, so I can opt to play music on both of them at once.
As I mentioned, we have the Tap in the bedroom (right outside the bathroom), which is cordless and amazing! In addition to daily use while I’m getting ready in the morning, I love using it in the garage or on the back patio. It sits on a little round charging dock, so you just grab it and go.
It seems like Amazon isn’t promoting them as much, so I fear they are going to discontinue it soon. The only downside is that you can’t put it in groups with the others, and it doesn’t work like an in-house intercom like the other versions do. Both those trade-offs have been fine with us in exchange for the mobility.
My sweet friend Alexa is still learning, and while she’s gotten better over the last year with more contextual questions, she doesn’t always know the answers to random questions you would normally Google. I’ve heard the Google Home is a bit better in that area (because, Google). But, we just asked her who was playing in Monday Night Football and she knew the answer to that one!
Now that I’ve embraced the fact that these are more than toys are really are helpful, I’m ready to fully board the smart home train.
We’re looking at integrating some smart lighting, exterior door locks, and thermostats in the near future. If anyone already uses their Echo with a thermostat, I’d love to hear your recommendations. We have a lighting and lock plans, but can’t decide on a thermostat brand.
Post update: You can see the smart lighting, door locks, and thermostats we’ve integrated with Alexa! Each of them has their own post, just click on the one you want to see in the last sentence.
Meanwhile, I’ve got my eyes open waiting for Black Friday/Cyber Week sales so I can snag an Echo Dot for the guest room. Guests will be able to adjust the upstairs thermostat from bed! I’ll probably also end up with another 2nd Gen to use in the game room for nights we want to listen to something other than the record player. Plus, being able to talk through it from downstairs could come in handy sometimes.
Have you implemented any smart home technology to your house (either connected to your phone or Alexa)? Let me know in the comments below!
I’m convinced even though I’m not very technologically inclined. It’s the music thing!!
Melissa George says
Yes! The music thing alone is worth it and definitely the first thing I started using daily. Everything else added up slowly. Once you get it set up and synched to your phone, you don’t even think about it being techy anymore since everything is verbal.