Smart Home Consultation: Why Amazon, Not Apple, Will Win the Home Automation Game

Amazon’s Smart Home Consultation will help Amazon win the home automation game. Here’s proof that your home will be run by Alexa, on Amazon devices, in the next couple of years.

Amazon recently launched the ability to schedule a Smart Home Consultation (you may be able to schedule one for free by clicking here).This strengthens the argument that Amazon is trying to own the home automation game.

Amazon Smart Home Consultation

On the surface, the 45-minute consultation includes:

  • A personalized recommendation on setting up your smart home from a trained Amazon employee
  • A wifi assessment to identify and troubleshoot any issues
  • A demo of “popular smart home products”

But looking deeper, you can see that this is a very deliberate way for Amazon to position itself as the power player in the home automation market.

Echo Was Just the First Step

Amazon Echo and Echo Dot

Do you know anyone who didn’t get an Echo or Echo Dot recently? An estimated ten millino people already have one.

I use mine daily to read me the news and play music (and when I’m feeling super lazy, even change the temperature).

However, if you would have asked me six months ago, I would have told you that you’re crazy. I would have said that there’s no way Amazon will create a virtual assistant that’s any good, and that Apple is going to win this battle.

Boy, was I wrong.

I Was (Am?) an Apple Fanboy

Apple iPhone iPad Macbook

When I started designing my smart home, I was determined to only install products that worked with HomeKit. My wife and I have iPhones and Macs, we have an Apple TV, and we use iTunes and iCloud. We even have an Airport Express.

If Apple ever made a TV, I’d most likely consider buying it.

I assumed that Apple was the strong player, with a strong hardware userbase, and that they would figure out how to make the connected home easy for the common man.

But HomeKit Failed Me Right Off the Bat

Ecobee Screen

The first device I installed was the ecobee3 smart thermostat. I picked it primarily because it had the ability to use remote sensors, but also because it would connect with Apple HomeKit.

Read: Ecobee3 Installation (The Easy Way)

I was so excited to get my ecobee3 thermostat up and running, but I was even more excited to show my wife that we can ask for, and change, the temperature by talking to our phones.

From the very beginning, I had problems getting my ccobee3 to appear in HomeKit.

One thermostat would never register correctly. Remote sensors wouldn’t respond.

Not to mention that Siri takes forever to react.

This wasn’t Ecobee’s fault – it was Apple’s. HomeKit failed me.

Alexa Worked Immediately, Which is Surprising. But Should It Be?

Amazon Kindle

On the contrary, making my ecobee3 to work with Alexa took a couple of taps.

And that’s it.

Alexa just feels like magic. If you’ve ever used it for more than music, you probably feel the same way. (And if you’ve used Alexa for music, you probably feel the same way, too.)

I’m legitimately surprised that Amazon put out hardware of this caliber since the relative failure of the Amazon Fire Phone wasn’t that long ago.

But then I thought about all the products that Amazon has done a great job building and selling:

Each of these are some of the best-reviewed in their market (the Paperwhite has a 4.5 star rating with 37,000 reviews!).

And each of them are the lowest priced device in the market.

Amazon makes high-quality, inexpensive items that people love. It shouldn’t surprise us that Amazon can build hardware.

So Let’s Stop Being Surprised That Amazon Nailed Product Market Fit for Alexa

Amazon Devices

I think Amazon is going to win this battle because it’s great at building products.

Think about it. There are so many things that Amazon has executed on really well:

Amazon has seemingly figured out how to get an always-on speaker in homes without creeping people out. It’s stylish, it’s powerful, and maybe most importantly, it’s cheap.

Amazon has nailed product-market-fit with Alexa, and made it work before home automation hit mainstream.

Siri Won’t Win the Smart Home

Their biggest home automation threat is from Apple HomeKit. But HomeKit isn’t ready for prime time yet:

  • The HomeKit interface is clunky. As an example, I set up some aspects of my Ecobee in the Ecobee app, and some in the Home app. But I couldn’t tell you which settings are supposed to happen where. The exact same thing happens with my Lutron Caseta lights. I have given up on using the Home app.
  • Apple requires specific hardware. Manufacturers who want to create a HomeKit product are required to use special HomeKit chips priced up to $2, along with specific WiFi and Bluetooth chips. Those devices just got $2 more expensive to be included in a more clunky interface.
  • Apple requires manufacturing in specific factories. HomeKit devices have to be made in factories designated by Apple to be MFi Manufacturing Licensees (see the entire list of MFi Manufacturing Licensees here). The device creator loses a significant amount of control over the manufacturing of their own product.
  • Apple requires final approval. HomeKit devices then have to be sent to Cupertino for rigorous testing, a process that can take three to five months and must be conducted in secret. Now, the manufacturer gets even less control over time-to-market. Apple has a history of rejecting iOS apps with little-to-no explanation. This may be a deal breaker for new manufacturers.

The Amazon Smart Home Consultation Will Help Amazon Dominate the Smart Home Market

Amazon’s Smart Home Consultation is proving that they will go deep on home automation. And I think they’ll do great.

  • The Smart Home Consultation will reduce the mental barrier of what a “smart home” is. There’s a lot of confusion around what a smart home is. Having a friendly person visit your home to answer questions is one way of overcoming that barrier.
  • The Smart Home Consultation will allow Amazon to get a better understanding of the current smart home and automation landscape. I would even bet that these consultants work on the Amazon product team.
  • Alexa’s interface is as simple as is possible. You control Alexa with just your voice. No UI, no fingers, no colors or fonts. You talk to Alexa, and she takes action.
  • To integrate with Alexa, you simply write software. Amazon makes it easy to create and run software on Alexa.
  • Simple hardware integration. If you’re a device manufacturer, you can use whatever hardware you want, built wherever you want, as long as it can connect to the Internet. You don’t need Amazon to approve it – you just need people to buy it.

Amazon’s Next Move: Alexa-Branded Smart Home Hardware

Alexa Devices

And when they do go deep on home automation, they’re going to build their own home automation hardware that uses Alexa as a hub.

  • People are comfortable with Amazon in their home. Amazon is not considered creepy.
  • The software works, and people love it. There are more than 8 million Alexa items in homes today.
  • Smart home and wifi devices are becoming available on white-label sites like Alibaba. This shows that manufacturing these devices is cheap and plentiful.
  • Amazon has experience selling and shipping their own white-label products. Amazon Basics works for them.

The writing is on the wall.

It wouldn’t surprise me to see Amazon (or Alexa) branded sensors, light switches, light bulbs and electrical outlets on sale in 2018. Maybe cameras and thermostats in 2019.

See if you can get a free Smart Home Consultation by visiting the Amazon site here.

[Solved!] My TV Screen Flickers When Someone Flips a Light Switch

My TV flickers when someone flips a light switch. The video and sound both disappear for a second, then come back as if nothing ever happened. (Edit: solved! Details below.)

TV Flickering

The solution to removing the TV flicker is easier (and way less expensive) than I ever imagined. But it took some detective work. Here’s how you can stop your TV from flickering anytime an appliance or light switch is turned on.

In late 2016, I mounted my TV on the wall and moved my cable box, modem, wireless router and XBOX 360 into a closet on the other side of the room.

 

TV Mounted Over Fireplace

I connected the closet to the living room wall with CAT6 and HDMI wall-plates, and added some new electrical outlets at both ends. (I’ll do a more in-depth article on this project soon).

The installation went very well. It took multiple nights and weekends, but I learned a lot about the limitations of HDMI, how to run cable through walls and terminating CAT6 cabling.

In the end, everything worked extremely well. Except for one thing:

When someone flipped a light switch, my TV would flicker.

AV Closet

This didn’t happen before I created the AV closet.

Not only that, but whenever an appliance turned on, the TV screen would flicker. Anytime the dishwasher would come on, the TV screen would flicker. Anytime the pump for our septic system would come on, the TV screen would flicker. Anytime the compressor for our refrigerator would come on, the TV screen would flicker.

This was very annoying. In the best case, it would only happen about once an hour. But in the common case, it would happen once every 10-15 minutes.

It got to the point where my wife would just look at me and shake her head.

I work on software during the day, so I’m very used to debugging problems. It was time to put my thinking cap on and see if I could figure out how to stop the flickering.

Debugging the problem

I was a little nervous. My electrical experience consists mostly of replacing outlets and switches. I’m the epitome of a weekend warrior (and a dangerous one, at that).

Basically, I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and I was afraid that I had a lot of work ahead of me. What if I needed to rewire both the closet and the living room? I had already patched and painted, and mounted the TV.

I, of course, started with searching Google. I searched for every combination of keywords under the sun:

  • “my tv flickers when the lights come on”
  • “my tv turns black when my dishwasher starts”
  • “lose TV video electricity”

There were a couple of common frequent causes to the TV flickering problem. And all of them made me nervous.

Potential Cause 1: TV Flicker Caused by Voltage Fluctuation

Voltage Fluctuation

Most of the answers were coming back were similarly. Essentially, when the dishwasher starts up, the appliance pulls a lot of electrical current to start the motor. This fluctuation in current could be sending a dip or surge to the TV.

This sounded reasonable to me. The suggestions were to make sure that these appliances and the TV were on separate circuits.

Installing a Wall Outlet Behind a TV

Except I was sure the TV was on it’s own circuit because I added a new circuit just for the TV when I did the installation. If they’re on a different circuit, then it can’t be voltage fluctuation.

Potential Cause 2: TV Flicker Caused by Electromagnetic Interference (EMI)

Once I stopped considering voltage fluctuation, I noticed another big pattern in the solutions.

There’s a possibility that either my TV or my cable box was getting some kind of electromagnetic interference from elsewhere.

According to this page, “EMI (electromagnetic interference) is the disruption of operation of an electronic device when it is in the vicinity of an electromagnetic field (EM field) in the radio frequency (RF) spectrum that is caused by another electronic device.”

Lucky for me, I have a family member who likes this kind of stuff. He validated the possibility due to the TV’s proximity to my fridge. We talked about adding a faraday cage around the TV’s electrical outlet or adding a line filter to reflect the EMI.

But, we decided that it was unlikely to be EMI since there were large appliances elsewhere in the house that would also cause the flash.

OK, so if it’s neither voltage fluctuation, nor Electromagnetic Interference, what else is there?

Did You See That?

I was still at a loss, and hadn’t made any changes to the setup yet.

We were sitting on the couch one night watching the West Wing on Netflix. For whatever reason, I always need to turn the volume up on my TV when watching Netflix.

West Wing

So I naturally go to turn the volume up when the TV does its very annoying flicker.

And then I noticed it.

The video and sound from the X1 box blacked out as usual, but the volume indicator on my tv didn’t flicker along with it.

Now we’re getting somewhere!

It’s Actually Not the TV!

All my research and thinking had been focused on the TV.

But, if it was the TV, the volume indicator would have flickered alongside the audio and video.

Because the volume indicator stayed on the screen when the video and audio flickered, I was sure it wasn’t a problem with the TV.

It was either the cable box, or the connection between the closet and the living room.

Option 3: TV Flicker Caused by the CAT6 Connection

TV Flicker Was Not Caused by HDMI Extender Wall Plate

I connect the devices in the closet to the TV through CAT6 and these HDMI extender wallplates.

This is the poor man’s setup, and is more prone to problems since the sending HDMI wallplate just maps the HDMI pins to wires in the CAT6. Then, the receiving HDMI plate on the other end knows what should be where and reverses it for display in the TV.

This is the method I chose primarily due to cost. At less than $40, these wall plates are an afforable alternative to the more expensive HDBaseT HDMI extender over Cat6.

Could I Reduce TV Flicker With an HDBaseT HDMI Extender?

I started to think that this relatively flimsy setup may have increased my risk for something to go wrong there.

I tested this by playing NHL 15 on my XBOX360 for an hour.

Seriously. Anything in the name of making my wife happy, right?

When I didn’t get a flicker, I need to confirm that it wasn’t just coincidence, so I forced the septic pump to turn on and off.

And guess what: no flicker!

I could confirm that the connection between the closet and the living room was working as expected because the XBOX didn’t flicker.

Narrowing In On the Cable Box Causing the TV Flicker

My Xfinity X1 Cable Box Was Causing TV Flicker

When I couldn’t get the XBOX to flicker, I narrowed in on the cable box.

I validated this by re-connecting the cable box and forcing the pump on and off again.

It flickered. This is what I was hoping for, and is likely the only time I wanted to see flicker.

But, I’m not sure what about the cable box is causing the problem. I don’t know enough about the X1 to even start debugging what could be causing the TV to flicker.

What I knew at this point was that the TV was fine, the CAT6 connection was fine, and the XBOX was fine.

I had two options: it’s either the Coax cable connection from the main line to the cable box, or it’s the HDMI connection cable box and the wall plate.

Everything I had read said that it’s unlikely that an HDMI cable is “mostly bad”. An HDMI cable can’t be kinda broken: it either works or it doesn’t. And in my case, this HDMI cable had been delivering audio and video reliably for years.

But in this case, the HDMI cable was the easiest to test, so I tried that first.

My TV Flickered Because of the HDMI Cable

I removed the HDMI cable from the cable box, and replaced it with the HDMI cable from the XBOX.

Then I crossed my fingers and forced the septic pump on and off. And guess what?

The TV didn’t flicker!

I validated this crazy idea by swapping the cables back into their original positions and forcing the septic pump on and off. The TV flickered again, validating my solution.

But… Why?

If you trust the Internet, you’d never even consider the HDMI cable to cause this issue. But let me tell you first hand: since replacing the original HDMI cable with a new one, my TV hasn’t flickered once.

I was curious, though: what was the difference between these two HDMI cables? How can I make sure that I don’t buy an inferior HDMI cable again?

Looking over the malfunctioning HDMI cable, I don’t see any kinks or failures in the cable or terminal.

Even the text printed on the cables is exactly the same:

CTI AWM 20276 VW-1 80°C 30V E81280-D CHING TAI

I’m honestly not sure why this new cable worked when the other didn’t. I noticed that the connectors on each cable are a little different, but that’s it.

The only possibility I can think of is that the working cable might be newer. Probably like anyone reading this post, I’ve got a hundred HDMI, ethernet and USB cables sitting in a box that I’ve been collecting for years. Who knows how many times they’ve moved apartments or cities, or how I may have inadvertently damaged them.

(Sidenote: if you read this and have any idea why one HDMI cable would have worked correctly while another didn’t, please let me know! I will update this article and credit you.)

Try a New HDMI Cable First to Solve Your TV Flicker

Replacing an HDMI Cable Stopped by TV Flicker

I know the instinct: just grab a new one from that box. That’s what I did, and it actually caused the problem. (One could argue that’s what I did to also solve the problem, but I’m chalking that up to coincidence.)

Plus, new HDMI cables are cheap: $5.99 on Amazon (free shipping with Prime).

Updated: List of Alexa Commands for Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day

This Thursday, February 2nd, Amazon is adding a few new commands to Alexa specifically for Groundhog Day:

  • “Alexa, give me a Groundhog Day movie quote.”
  • “Alexa, who is Punxsutawney Phil?”
  • “Alexa, will the groundhog see his shadow?”
  • “Alexa, do you ever have de ja vu?”
  • “Alexa, happy Groundhog Day!” (Ask a few times – Alexa has a few different responses).

And on Groundhog Day, say “Alexa, good morning” to get this famous quote from Groundhog Day:

Good morning, rise and shine! And don’t forget your booties, because it’s cold out there!

The Master List of Alexa Commands has been updated to include these commands, bringing the total amount of known Alexa commands to 247.

Get News on Your Amazon Echo With Flash Briefing Skills

Get the latest news headlines on your Amazon Echo from from national, international and local news sources with the Alexa Flash Briefing. Here’s how to set up a personalized news feed on your Echo and what Alexa skills to add.

 

Get News on Your Echo or Echo Dot With Alexa Flash Briefings

Your Echo comes pre-installed with a service called “Flash Briefings”. Flash briefings are like mini-podcasts of headlines and stories from news sources. When you ask Alexa to tell you the news, she start playing pre-recorded updates from popular broadcasters, the latest news headlines from The Associated Press, and weather information from AccuWeather.

Quick, try it now:

“Alexa, what’s in the news?”

“Alexa, read my Flash Briefing”

Some news feeds (like BBC and NPR) update hourly, while others (such as NBC Boston) update just a few times per day.

Therefore, you can ask Alexa for the news anytime you’re passing through the kitchen, and she’ll probably have something new to tell you.

Keep reading to find out how to get local news on Echo with Alexa Flash Briefing skills.

Get Custom News on Echo by Customizing Your Echo News Feed

The best part about Flash Briefings is that you can customize them to include only the news you’re interested in. I love technology and sports, so I’ve added the Engadget and Fox Sports radio sources. But if you don’t care about sports, you can remove all the sports sources.

The default feeds that are pre-added in Alexa give you a very simple view of what’s possible. The Alexa Skills Marketplace is stocked with hundreds of free news sources, and seems to be adding more daily.

Adding new sources to your Flash Briefing:

Flash Briefing sources are created by developers, and are completely free. Adding a new source to your Flash Briefing is as easy as it is to add a new Skill to your device, with one small difference.

Flash Briefing Settings

  • Open the Alexa app on your phone and click settings
  • Then, click “Get more Flash Briefing content”
  • Find a source that you want to add and click to see it’s details
  • Then, click “Enable Skill” to add it to your Flash Briefing

Adding weather to your Flash Briefing:

Flash Briefing Weather

If you’ve read my Alexa Ultimate Guide, you know that you can ask Alexa for the weather anytime. But did you know that you could include it as part of your Flash Briefing?

  • Open the Alexa app on your phone and click settings
  • Search for “weather”
  • You’ll get back 600 results, but the weather app that Amazon built should be right on top
  • Click on the source to see it’s details
  • Click “Enable Skill” to add it to your Flash Briefing

The Amazon Weather skill uses the address you’ve set in your configuration. For a more accurate weather forecast, verify that your address is correct by going to Settings > Device’s Name > Device Location

To change the order your Flash Briefing sources are played:

Flash Briefing Reorder

The sources included in your Flash Briefing play in the order that they were added. But sometimes, you just want to know if the Bruins won first!

  • Open the Alexa app on your phone and click settings
  • Click “Flash Briefing”
  • Click “Edit Order” in the top right corner
  • Using the little hamburger on the right side of the item, drag your source to it’s new location.
  • Click “Done” in the top right corner

To remove sources from your Flash Briefing:

Flash Briefing Disable Source

  • Open the Alexa app on your phone and click settings
  • Click “Flash Briefing”
  • Click the toggle on the right side of each source. Flip it off to disable it from your Flash Briefing.

Sources that you’ve disabled will be moved to the bottom of the page. To re-add a source back to your Flash Briefing, just click the toggle button again.

Some sources include multiple feeds. For example, the NPR From TuneIn source is actually NPR Business Story of the Day and an NPR Technology Podcast. Turning off the “main” feed disables all of them, but you can enable each one individually.

Popular Flash Briefing Sources for News on Your Echo

I want to get a quick hit of what’s going on as I pass by my Echo Dot in the living room. My perfect Flash Briefing includes the global headlines, some local news, sports scores of the teams I follow, and the weather.

Flash Briefing Sources

These are the sources I’ve included in my Flash Briefing:

I like to order my Flash Briefing sources by how often they’re updated. This lets me get the most recent information first.

My favorite sources have a recording of someone reading the news. The Alexa text-to-speech is fine, but it’s a little robotic (understandably so). I’d listen to 90 seconds of a recording over 30 seconds of computer any day. I hope more sources move to uploading a recording instead of relying on text-to-speech.

PS: if you’re looking for a sports source, stay far away from the ESPN skill. Whatever they’re uploading has the volume cranked to 11.

Read Next: The Complete Guide to Every Alexa Command

Alexa Commands: 233 Things Alexa Can Do (Updated)

Alexa powers the Amazon Echo DotAmazon’s Alexa is slowly taking over homes across the country, especially now that you can get an Alexa device for less than $50. So, everyone is looking for a list of everything Alexa can do.

Her commercials show someone in a furry suit ordering an Uber, ordering flowers while putting out a fire, and an owner finding her cell phone inside of her dog.

Those are just 3 examples of the 223 238 commands I’ve found for Alexa, so far. The list gets longer every day, and so do the number of skills Alexa can learn, so I’ll update this list frequently.

Here is anything and everything you can ask Alexa to do (238 commands, so far):

If you’re unfamiliar with Alexa, start with our ultimate Alexa guide.

Command Type:Say to Alexa:Alexa's Action:
AssistantAlexa, when is the Super Bowl?Will tell you when the Patriots and the Falcons are playing in Super Bowl 51
AssistantAlexa, set a timer for 15 minutesWill sound an alarm at the specified duration.
AssistantAlexa, set a second timer for an hourWill sound a second alarm after the specified duration.
AssistantAlexa, set an alarm for 5amWill sound an alarm at the specific time.
AssistantAlexa, cancel my alarmCancels an active alarm.
AssistantAlexa, cancel my timerCancels an active timer.
AssistantAlexa, cancel my second timerCancels an active second time.
AssistantAlexa, add bacon to my shopping listAdds the item to your Amazon shopping list.
AssistantAlexa, I need to buy salsaAdds the item to your Amazon shopping list.
AssistantAlexa, what's on my shopping list?Tells you what's on your Amazon shopping list.
AssistantAlexa, ask Uber for a rideOrders an Uber from your home location.
AssistantAlexa, ask Lyft for a rideOrders an Uber from your home location.
AssistantAlexa, what's on my calendar for today?Reads you what's on your calendar for the day, when connected to a Google Calendar through the Alexa app.
AssistantAlexa, add Andrew's birthday party to my calendar for tomorrow at 2pmAdds an event to your Google Calendar, when connected through the Alexa app.
AssistantAlexa, send that to my Fire tabletSends the information to your connected Fire tablet.
AssistantAlexa, send that to my tabletSends the information to a connected Fire tablet.
AssistantAlexa, send that to Kim's tabletSends the information to a specific connected tablet.
Easter EggAlexa, give me a Groundhog Day movie quote.
Easter EggAlexa, who is Puxatawney Phil?
Easter EggAlexa, will the groundhog see his shadow?
Easter EggAlexa, do you ever have deja vu?
Easter EggAlexa, happy Groundhog Day!Be sure to ask a few times.
Easter EggAlexa, set phasers to kill
Easter EggAlexa, my name is Inigo Montoya
Easter EggAlexa, party on Wayne
Easter EggAlexa, show me the money
Easter EggAlexa, surely you can't be serious
Easter EggAlexa, are you SkyNet?
Easter EggAlexa, party time!
Easter EggAlexa, open the pod bay doors
Easter EggAlexa, when am I going to die?
Easter EggAlexa, don't mention the war
Easter EggAlexa, what is your cunning plan?
Easter EggAlexa, beam me up
Easter EggAlexa, tea. Earl Grey. Hot.
Easter EggAlexa, what's the first rule of Fight Club?
Easter EggAlexa, what's the second rule of Fight Club?
Easter EggAlexa, what is your quest?
Easter EggAlexa, nice to see you, to see you
Easter EggAlexa, this is a dead parrot
Easter EggAlexa, why is the sky blue?
Easter EggAlexa, Simon says "Jump"
Easter EggAlexa, why did the chicken cross the road?
Easter EggAlexa, self-distruct
Easter EggAlexa, speak like yoda
Easter EggAlexa, do you have any new features?
Easter EggAlexa, up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, b, a, start
Easter EggAlexa, rap for me
Easter EggAlexa, I want the truth
Easter EggAlexa, how much is that doggy in the window?
Easter EggAlexa, what is the prime directive?
Easter EggAlexa, what do you want to be when you grow up?
Easter EggAlexa, what does RTFM stand for?
Easter EggAlexa, use the force
Easter EggAlexa, is Santa real?
Easter EggAlexa, more cowbell
Easter EggAlexa, what is war good for?
Easter EggAlexa, I am your father.
Easter EggAlexa, I've got a need
Easter EggAlexa, who you gonna call?
Easter EggAlexa, tell me a joke
Easter EggAlexa, is the cake a lie?
Easter EggAlexa, this is Ghost Rider, requesting a fly by
Easter EggAlexa, what are the laws of robotics?
Easter EggAlexa, which comes first: the chicken or the egg?
Easter EggAlexa, tell me a dirty joke
Easter EggAlexa, see you later alligator.
Easter EggAlexa, do you know Glados?
Easter EggAlexa, do you have a boyfriend?
Easter EggAlexa, sing me a song
Easter EggAlexa, do aliens exist?
Easter EggAlexa, who lives in a pineapple under the sea?
Easter EggAlexa, where do you live?
Easter EggAlexa, sing happy birthday
Easter EggAlexa, do you want to fight?
Easter EggAlexa, what is love?
Easter EggAlexa, where are my keys?
Easter EggAlexa, how many roads must a man walk down?
Easter EggAlexa, do you want to fight?
Easter EggAlexa, to be or not to be?
Easter EggAlexa, who is the walrus?
Easter EggAlexa, what's the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow"?
Easter EggAlexa, do you really want to hurt me?
Easter EggAlexa, heads or tails?
Easter EggAlexa, who is the fairest of them all?
Easter EggAlexa, give me a hug
Easter EggAlexa, who let the dogs out?
Easter EggAlexa, guess?
Easter EggAlexa, what is the sound of one hand clapping?
Easter EggAlexa, high five!
Easter EggAlexa, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
Easter EggAlexa, how high can you count?
Easter EggAlexa, are you lying?
Easter EggAlexa, where's the beef?
Easter EggAlexa, knock knock
Easter EggAlexa, do you want to go on a date?
Easter EggAlexa, do a barrel roll!
Easter EggAlexa, I shot a man in Reno
Easter EggAlexa, do you know the muffin man?
Easter EggAlexa, why so serious?
Easter EggAlexa, who loves orange soda?
Easter EggAlexa, your mother was a hamster!
Easter EggAlexa, take me to your leader
Easter EggAlexa, are we in the matrix?
Easter EggAlexa, never gonna give you up.
Easter EggAlexa, klattu barada nikto.
Easter EggAlexa, roll for initiative
Easter EggAlexa, how many pickled peppers did Peter Piper pick?
Easter EggAlexa, how tall are you?
Easter EggAlexa, I'm tired
Easter EggAlexa, tell me a riddle
Easter EggAlexa, I like big butts
Easter EggAlexa, can you pass the Turing test?
Easter EggAlexa, that's no moon
Easter EggAlexa, you're wonderful
Easter EggAlexa, play it again, Sam.
Easter EggAlexa, are there UFO's?
Easter EggAlexa, say a bad word
Easter EggAlexa, say the alphabet
Easter EggAlexa, warp 10
Easter EggAlexa, I want to play global thermonuclear war
Easter EggAlexa, what color is the dress?
Easter EggAlexa, twinkle twinkle little star
Easter EggAlexa, happy holidays!
Easter EggAlexa, what is your favorite color?
Easter EggAlexa, I hate you.
Easter EggAlexa, roses are red...
Easter EggAlexa, cheers!
Easter EggAlexa, do you want to build a snowman?
Easter EggAlexa, why is six afraid of seven?
Easter EggAlexa, are you happy?
Easter EggAlexa, what's your sign?
Easter EggAlexa, meow
Easter EggAlexa, can you smell that?
Easter EggAlexa, one fish, two fish
Easter EggAlexa, what do you think about Google Now?
Easter EggAlexa, what number are you thinking of?
Easter EggAlexa, what do you think about Siri?
Easter EggAlexa, who is the mother of dragons?
Easter EggAlexa, where's Waldo?
Easter EggAlexa, volume 11
Easter EggAlexa, what would Brian Boitano do?
Easter EggAlexa, have you ever seen the rain?
Easter EggAlexa, this statement is false
Easter EggAlexa, do you believe in love at first sight?
Easter EggAlexa, who's on first?
Easter EggAlexa, wakey, wakey!
Easter EggAlexa, what is best in life?
Easter EggAlexa, how are babies made?
Easter EggAlexa, who loves ya baby?
Easter EggAlexa, make me a sandwich
Easter EggAlexa, when does the narwhal bacon?
Easter EggAlexa, what is the answer to live, the universe and everything?
Easter EggAlexa, who stole the cookies from the cookie jar?
Easter EggAlexa, testing 1-2-3
Easter EggAlexa, why is a raven like a writing desk?
Easter EggAlexa, how many fingers am I holding up?
Easter EggAlexa, did you fart?
Easter EggAlexa, roll the dice
Easter EggAlexa, do you want to take over the world?
Easter EggAlexa, Marco!
Easter EggAlexa, do you feel lucky, punk?
Easter EggAlexa, will pigs fly?
Easter EggAlexa, are you horny?
Easter EggAlexa, what does the scouter say about his power level?
Easter EggAlexa, am I hot?
Easter EggAlexa, you remind me of the babe
Easter EggAlexa, play "paper rock scissors"
Easter EggAlexa, what's up?
Easter EggAlexa, how much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
Easter EggAlexa, execute order 66.
Easter EggAlexa, f*** you
InformationAlexa, give me a random number between 2 and 18Gives you a random number between two numbers
InformationAlexa, wikipedia Bobby OrrReads you the abstract from a Wikipedia page.
InformationAlexa, what's my commute look like?If you've provided a "work" location in the Alexa app, gives you an estimate on commute time to get there.
InformationAlexa, what's 2 times 3?Answers math queries.
InformationAlexa, how many tablespoons are in a cup?Answers basic conversion queries.
InformationAlexa, what's the definition of deplorable?Tells you the definition of a word.
InformationAlexa, how do you spell recommended?Spells a word for you.
InformationAlexa, can you say unqualified?Reads back the word she thinks you told her.
InformationAlexa, how do you say sad in spanish?Attempts to translate your word to a different language.
InformationAlexa, what movies are playing?Tells you movies currently playing locally.
InformationAlexa, what comedy movies are playing tonight?Tells you comedy movies currently playing locally. (Try action, drama, etc.)
InformationAlexa, tell me about the movie The Big LebowskiGives you a synopsis of the movie.
InformationAlexa, who plays The Dude in The Big Lebowski?Tells you the actor or actresses name that played the character.
InformationAlexa, who sings The Pretender?Tells you the artist of a song.
InformationAlexa, who is in the band The Eagles?Tells you the band members of a specific band.
InformationAlexa, what time is it?Tells you the current time.
InformationAlexa, what day is it?Tells you the current day and date.
InformationAlexa, when is Easter this year?Gives you the date of an upcoming holiday.
InformationAlexa, what time does the Marshfield General Store close?Tells you the business hours for a business.
InformationAlexa, what's the phone number for the Village Market in Scituate?Tells you the phone number for a business.
InformationAlexa, tell me a factTells you a random fact
InformationAlexa, how tall is Mount Everest?Tells you the height of something.
InformationAlexa, what is the capital of France?Tells you the capital of a location.
InformationAlexa, what's 64 to the 64 power?Tells you the very long answer to this math question.
InformationAlexa, what's the square root of 16?Tells you the square root of a number.
InformationAlexa, how far is it to the moon?Tells you the distance from your current location to the stated location.
InformationAlexa, how old is Tom Brady?Tells you the age of a celebrity.
InformationAlexa, when is the next solar eclipse?Tells you the date of the next solar eclipse.
Music and MediaAlexa, play (song/genre/playlist)Plays music from Amazon Music Unlimited, or any music you've uploaded.
Music and MediaAlexa, stopStops the currently playing audio.
Music and MediaAlexa, I like this songLikes a song when playing iHeartRadio or Pandora
Music and MediaAlexa, keep goingResumes stopped or paused audio
Music and MediaAlexa, play Born in the USA on PandoraPlays a song from a connected Pandora account.
Music and MediaAlexa, is it going to rain today?Tells you the rain forecast for today in your area.
Music and MediaAlexa, what's the weather this weekend?Gives you the forecast for the weekend in your area.
Music and MediaAlexa, play the This American Life podcastPlays the specific podcast.
Music and MediaAlexa, knock it offStops the currently playing audio.
Music and MediaAlexa, shut the f*** upStops the currently playing audio.
Music and MediaAlexa, turn it upTurns the volume up.
Music and MediaAlexa, turn it downTurns the volume down.
Music and MediaAlexa, turn it all the way upTurns the volume all the way up.
Music and MediaAlexa, shuffle music by (artist)Plays music by that artist.
Music and MediaAlexa, play Bohemian Rhapsody on SpotifyPlays a song from a connected Spotify account.
Music and MediaAlexa, I don't like this songDislikes a song when playing iHeartRadio or Pandora
Music and MediaAlexa, what's playing?Tells you the name and artist of a currently playing song or podcast.
Music and MediaAlexa, volume fiveon a scale of 0-10
Music and MediaAlexa, play the song that goes "I just walked in to see what condition my condition is in"Plays the song that has those lyrics.
Music and MediaAlexa, set a sleep timer for 30 minutesWhile something is playing, this will set a sleep timer to automatically shut Alexa off after a set amount of time.
Music and MediaAlexa, louderTurns the volume up.
NewsAlexa, what's my flash briefing?A personalized list of news, weather and sports. You can set or manage what you hear in your Flash briefing in the Alexa app.
NewsAlexa, what's in the news?Reads you the top news headlines.
NewsAlexa, good morningGives you weather, news and information relevant to start your day.
ShoppingAlexa, where's my stuff?Tells you the shipping status of your Amazon orders.
ShoppingAlexa, order more AA batteriesOrders an item from Amazon.
ShoppingAlexa, what are your deals?Reads you the current Alexa-only deals from Amazon.
ShoppingAlexa, buy this songBuys the currently playing song on Amazon Music.
ShoppingAlexa, buy this albumBuys the currently playing album on Amazon Music.
SkillsAlexa, enable Seinfeld TriviaInstalls a skill from the Alexa skill marketplace.
SkillsAlexa, disable Seinfeld TriviaUninstalls a skill from the Alexa skill marketplace.
Smart HomeAlexa, turn Andrew's room up to 71 degreesChanges the temperature of a thermostat that has been connected to Alexa in the Alexa app.
Smart HomeAlexa, turn on the lightsTurns on lights that have been connected to Alexa in the Alexa app.
Smart HomeAlexa, turn off the living room lightsTurns off lights that have been connected to Alexa in the Alexa app.
Smart HomeAlexa, dim the lights to 50 percentDims the lights that have been connected to Alexa in the Alexa app.
Smart HomeAlexa, dim the kitchen lights to 50Dims the lights that have been connected to Alexa in the Alexa app in a specific room.
Smart HomeAlexa, connect to the bluetooth speakerConnects to a bluetooth speaker.
Smart HomeAlexa, disconnect from the bluetooth speakerDisconnects from a bluetooth speaker.
Smart HomeAlexa, turn on Movie TimeTriggers a HomeKit, SmartThings, Wink or Wemo automated scene.
Smart HomeAlexa, turn on the TVTurns on a TV through a connected Harmony Hub.
Smart HomeAlexa, turn on NetflixTurns on Netflix through a connected Harmony Hub.
SportsAlexa, what's the score of the Bruins game?Tells you the score of a current game, or the final score of the previous game.
SportsAlexa, when do the Red Sox play?Tells you the next date and time the team plays a game.
SportsAlexa, give me my sports updateGives you the latest scores of the teams you set in the Alexa app.
SportsAlexa, did Oklahoma State basketball win?Tells you the score of the last game that team played.
WeatherAlexa, what's the weather today?Gives you the forecast for today in your area.

PS: Know a command that isn’t listed here? Please let me know!

PPS: If you want to see everything your Echo or Echo Dot can do, visit SayThisToAlexa.com

What next?

SOLVED: Ecobee Displays Weather Unavailable and Sad Cloud- How Do I Get Weather Information on My Ecobee?

Are you wondering why your Ecobee3 shows a sad cloud and “Weather Unavailable”? Why doesn’t my Ecobee3 display weather information? Read below to find out how to fix this bug.

Ecobee Weather Forecast

When an Ecobee3 thermostat knows your location, it will display the current temperature and a local forecast on your thermostat screen. Additionally, your Ecobee will be smart enough to include the indoor and outdoor temperature as part of the Home IQ reporting. This makes your home heating and cooling system smarter, which will lower your energy bills.

So, when I didn’t see any weather information after installing my first Ecobee3 thermostat, I was worried that it had been installed incorrectly.

Are you seeing a sad cloud on your thermostat screen, instead of the weather? There’s good news: I figured out how to fix it the Ecobee weather bug! (And it’s not your fault)

I’m sure that this fix works because I have weather on my Ecobee3 thermostat. And I know that it’s not your fault because I  had to repeat the process on my second Ecobee3 installation.

When I originally set up my Ecobee, I was asked for a location. I entered my location and completed installation, but my Ecobee still wasn’t showing weather information.

I tried unplugging my thermostat from the wall and reconnecting it, but I still didn’t see the weather. I even completely re-installed my thermostat, and removed it from HomeKit. But I was still seeing a sad cloud on my Ecobee3 screen or in the Ecobee portal.

So, I was stumped. How can I get the weather on my Ecobee3 thermostat?

Ecobee Screen

Here’s how to add weather information to your Ecobee3 thermostat:

The reason this bug exists is because Ecobee accepts this location but doesn’t store it correctly!

Here’s how you can get weather information  to display on your Ecobee screen and Ecobee Home IQ reporting:

  1. Login to the ecobee portal on your computer
    Ecobee Portal
  2. Click on the thermostat that’s not displaying the weather correctly
    Installed Ecobee3 Thermostats
  3. Click the “Settings” tile
    Ecobee Settings
  4. Click “Location” on the left menu
    Ecobee Click Location
  5. Clear out any location information that’s already there and re-enter your address. Be sure to enter your zip code.
  6. Click “save”. You should see the map update with your current location:
    Ecobee Location Settings
  7. Your location is now set! The sad cloud should be replaced with actual weather information on your Ecobee screen within a few minutes.

Read Next:

All Smart Lights and Lightbulbs – 2017 Edition

Smart lights are an inexpensive way to make your home a little more convenient.

All smart lights and lightbulbs let you turn them on and off them remotely, but most also include the ability to change the color. Many smart light manufacturers have Alexa or HomeKit integration, allowing you to automate your lights.

Below is the name of every smart light and lightbulb.

Device NamePriceWorks With AlexaWorks With HomeKitDetails
Philips Hue LED Starter Kit with 2 Bulbs & Hue Bridge Hub$69.99This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Philips 455295 Hue White A19 Single LED Bulb, 60W Equivalent$29.99This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Philips 464503 Hue White and Color A19 LED Bulb, 3rd Generation with Richer Colors$49.99This Device Works With AlexaSee It
TP-Link Smart LED Light Bulb, Wi-Fi, A19, Dimmable White, 60W Equivalent$24.95This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Philips Hue Lightstrip Plus, 2nd Generation$82.99This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Cree BA19-08050OMF-12CE26-1C100 Connected 60W Equivalent Daylight (5000K) A19 Dimmable LED Light Bulb$14.97See It
Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance Starter Kit, 3 A19 bulbs and a Bridge, 2nd Generation$179.99This Device Works With AlexaSee It
LIFX Smart LED Light Bulb, Wi-Fi, Color 1000 A19, Multicolor, Dimmable$44.99This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Philips 461020 Hue White Ambiance Single A19 Bulb$29.99This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance Light Bulb, A19, Single, 2nd Generation$44.99This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Philips 464495 Hue White and Color Ambiance A19 Starter Kit, 3rd Generation with Richer Colors$199.99This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Philips Hue Bloom$59.99This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Philips 800292 Hue Lightstrip Plus Extension, 2nd Generation$29.99This Device Works With AlexaSee It
LIFX Smart LED Bulb, Wi-Fi, 800-A19, Adjustable Whites, Dimmable$22.49This Device Works With AlexaSee It
MagicLight Pro Bluetooth Smart LED Light Bulb - Smartphone Controlled Sunrise Wake Up LED Lights$35.95This Device Works With AlexaSee It
GE Link Smart LED Light Bulb, A19 Soft White (2700K), 60-Watt Equivalent$13.33This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Philips 432690 Hue 65W Equivalent BR30 Single LED Light Bulb$61.07This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Philips 464800 Hue White Ambiance BR30 LED Bulb$29.99See It
GoControl Z-Wave Dimmable LED Light Bulb, LB60Z-1$26.01See It
Philips Hue Lightstrip$49.99This Device Works With AlexaSee It
SYLVANIA LIGHTIFY by Osram - Smart LED Light Bulb$39.99This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Philips Hue Go Light$66.77This Device Works With AlexaSee It
MagicLight WiFi Smart LED Light Bulb - Smartphone Controlled Sunrise Wake Up Lights$33.95This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Wink Relay - Smart Home Wall Controller$91.98See It
Philips 456681 Hue White and Color Ambiance GU10 Light Bulb, 2nd Generation$49.98This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Insteon LED Light Bulb, 8-watt, Dimmable$21.99This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Philips 460989 Hue White Ambiance Starter Kit (2 A19 Bulbs, 1 Bridge, and 1 Dimmer Switch)$125.47This Device Works With AlexaSee It
LIFX Smart LED Light Bulb, Wi-Fi, Color 1000 BR30, Multicolor, Dimmable$79.99This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Philips 456673 Hue White and Color Ambiance Par16 Light Bulb, 2nd Generation$49.99This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Philips 259531 Hue Bloom Starter Pack, 2 Blooms and 1 Bridge$103.99This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Philips 464792 Hue White Ambiance GU10 LED Bulb$29.99See It
Philips 455295 Hue White A19 Single LED Bulb$18.66This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Philips Hue White and Color Starter Kit (Old Model, 1st Generation), 3 Bulbs and a Bridge$139.95This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Misfit Wearables B00YZ Bolt Wireless Bluetooth LED Smart Light Bulb$28.54See It
MagicLight Bluetooth Smart LED Light Bulb - Smartphone Controlled Sunrise Wake Up Lights$29.95See It
Flux WiFi Smart LED Light Bulb - Smartphone Controlled Dimmable Multicolored Color Changing Lights$35.00This Device Works With AlexaSee It
WeMo Smart LED Light Bulb, Wi-Fi Enabled$23.62See It
Sengled Solo Dimmable LED Light Bulb with Built-In Bluetooth Dual Channel JBL Speakers$42.22See It
Philips 259960 Friends of Hue Personal Wireless Lighting Iris, Single$59.99This Device Works With AlexaSee It
ilumi Bluetooth Smart LED A19 Light Bulb, 2nd Generation$34.99See It
SYLVANIA LIGHTIFY by Osram - Smart Home Connected LED Light Bulb$45.99This Device Works With AlexaSee It
TCP CAS11LC LED Connected A19 - 60 Watt Equivalent (11W) Soft White (2700K) WiFi Enabled Wireless Smart Standard Light Bulb$12.44See It
Feit Electric AOM800/827/LED/HBR 60W Equivalent (2700K) A19 Dimmable Bluetooth Smart HomeBrite LED Light Bulb, Soft White$14.97See It
Philips - Hue White and Color Ambiance A19 Smart LED Light Bulb - Multicolor, 3rd Generation$104.60See It
SYLVANIA LIGHTIFY by Osram - Smart Home LED Landscape Lighting Set - Gardenspots$79.99This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Philips 466516 Hue White Ambiance BR30 LED BulbFrustration Free (2 Pack)$59.99See It
Roybens E27 Based 5W AC 85-265V PIR Infrared Motion Detection Sensor Light Sensor LED Bulb Auto Switch Energy Saving Night Lamp Indoor Lighting Warm White$7.99See It
OSRAM 72933 LIGHTIFY - Smart Home Connected LED Light Bulb 60W - Tunable White A19 E26, 73850$26.59See It
ilumi Outdoor Bluetooth Smart LED BR30 Flood Light Bulb, 2nd Generation$69.99See It
Elgato Avea Bulb, Dynamic Mood Light$39.99See It
Smarson Bluetooth LED App Controlled Smart Light Bulb$24.95See It
Enbrighten Z-Wave Smart LED Bulb, Dimmable$24.99See It
Sengled Boost Dimmable LED Bulb with Integrated Wi-Fi Repeater$49.99See It
GE Lighting 44291 C by GE C-Life/C-Sleep LED Light Bulb Combo$34.24See It
Sengled Pulse Dimmable LED Light Bulb with a Built-In Wireless Bluetooth JBL Speaker, Master + Satellite$129.99See It
Philips 452714 Hue Lux Starter Kit, 2 Bulbs and 1 Bridge with Extensions, 9W (60-Watt) A19, 1st Generation$122.85This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Philips Hue Personal Wireless Lighting Single Bulb$65.50This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Philips 432856 Hue GU10 Light Bulb (Old Model, 1st Generation)$65.29This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Lumen8 Wi-Fi 7W Multi-Colored Smart LED Light Bulb; Smartphone Controlled, Dimmable$31.97See It
SYLVANIA LIGHTIFY by Osram - Smart Home LED Starter Kit - Includes: (1) A19 RGBW 60W, (2) BR30 RGBW 65W, (1) Gateway$119.99This Device Works With AlexaSee It
LIFX Smart LED Light Bulb, Wi-Fi$29.99This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Philips 433706 Hue Lux Starter Kit, 2 Bulbs and 1 Bridge, 60W Equivalent A19 LED, 1st Generation$48.99This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Philips 461012 Hue White Ambiance Starter Kit (2 A19 Bulbs, 1 Bridge, and 1 Dimmer Switch)$129.99This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Philips Hue BR30 Starter Pack, 3 Bulbs and Bridge, 1st Generation$119.99This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Philips Hue LUX LED Smart Light Bulb, Dimmable$44.99This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Philips 461004 Hue White Ambiance Single A19 Bulb$26.77This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Stack Starter Kit, 1 hub and 2 BR30 Downlights$99.00This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Smart Ivy Connected LED Smart Bulb, Matte Black$24.99This Device Works With Apple HomeKitSee It
Veho Kasa Bluetooth Smart LED Light Bulb$33.49See It
ilumi Bluetooth Smart LED BR30 Flood Light Bulb, 2nd Generation$44.99See It
Morjava MJ-BL-05 Bluetooth Bulb Speaker Wireless Smart light bulb$35.99See It
Revogi LTB012 Delite 2 Smart LED Light Bulb with Bluetooth$29.99See It
Nabe starterkit (3 LED bulbs + 1 Genie): 9W Smart LED Light bulb WiFi enabled$109.00See It
Cree Connected 60W Soft White (2700K) Dimmable LED Light Bulb$29.99This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Philips Hue Lightstrips Starter Pack, 1st Generation$159.99This Device Works With AlexaSee It
2.4G Wifi GU10 4W RGBW LED Light Bulb Dimmable Lamp$14.99See It
LOFTEK-SANSI 10W Dual Color Temperature Bulb$27.99See It
Philips 432831 Hue PAR16 Single Bulb (Old Model)$74.71This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Philips 259978 Hue Iris Starter Kit, 1 Iris and 1 Bridge, 1st Generation$124.50This Device Works With AlexaSee It
OSRAM LED Bulb E27 dimmable LIGHTIFY CLASSIC$40.97See It
Philips 259499 Hue Lightstrips Starter Pack (Old Models, 1st Generation)$145.98This Device Works With AlexaSee It
WigWag Home Automation Starter Kit with 4 Smart RGBW LEDs$199.99See It
WiFi LED Light Bulb - Secured Smart Q.Lite™ - Full Color$26.95See It
OORT SmartLED Bluetooth Smart Enabled Smart Bulb$39.99See It
Philips 466540 Hue White Ambiance GU10 LED Bulb$59.99See It
Victorstar @ WiFi Smart LED Bulb RGBW$24.30See It
WYZworks WiFi Smart LED Dimmable Light Bulb$32.99See It
Philips 468058 Hue White A19 Light Bulbs$39.99This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Philips 465443 Hue White A19 Light Bulb$29.99This Device Works With AlexaSee It

Have an addition, subtraction or edit to this list? Please let me know!

Read Next: Don’t Overthink It: How to Install an Automatic Light for Under $20

All Wifi Thermostats – 2017 Edition

All wifi thermostats let you control your home’s heating and cooling system remotely. And while most thermostat manufacturers provide iPhone or Android apps to control the thermostat, some even give you the ability to set schedules and monitor temperature through a web browser.

You can’t go wrong by upgrading your existing thermostat with one from our complete list of wifi thermostats. Below, is the name of every wifi thermostat.

Device NamePriceWorks With AlexaWorks With HomeKitDetails
Honeywell Smart Thermostat, Wi-Fi, Touchscreen$169.41This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Nest Learning Thermostat, 3rd Generation$249.00This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Ecobee3 Thermostat with Sensor, Wi-Fi, 2nd Generation$228.62This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Sensi Smart Thermostat, Wi-Fi, UP500W$112.97This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Sensi Smart Thermostat, Wi-Fi$133.54This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Ecobee3 Lite Thermostat, Wi-Fi$159.12This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Honeywell TH9320WF5003 Wi-Fi 9000 Color Touch Screen Programmable Thermostat$163.87See It
Honeywell RTH6580WF Wi-Fi 7-Day Programmable Thermostat$85.14See It
Honeywell Lyric Thermostat, Wi-Fi, 2nd Generation$148.31This Device Works With Apple HomeKitSee It
Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat with Voice Control$180.24See It
Nest Learning Thermostat, 2nd Generation$219.99See It
Ecobee Smart Thermostat 4 Heat-2 Cool with Full Color Touch Screen$288.08See It
Lyric T5 Wi-Fi Thermostat$148.95This Device Works With Apple HomeKitSee It
Ecobee Smart Si Thermostat 2 Heat-2 Cool with Full Color NON-Touch Screen$144.79See It
iDevices Thermostat, Wi-Fi$105.95This Device Works With AlexaSee It
First Alert THERM-500 Onelink Wi-Fi Touchscreen Smart Thermostat$229.99This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Honeywell Wi-Fi 7-Day Programmable Touchscreen Thermostat$124.99See It
Tado Smart Air Conditioner and Heater Controller, Wi-Fi$129.99This Device Works With AlexaSee It
iDevices Thermostat$303.26This Device Works With Apple HomeKitSee It
Elgato Eve Weather, Wireless Outdoor Sensor$49.95This Device Works With Apple HomeKitSee It
Sensi Smart Thermostat, Wi-Fi$119.05This Device Works With AlexaSee It

Have an addition, subtraction or edit to this list? Please let me know!

Read Next: Ecobee3 Installation (The Easy Way)

Don’t Overthink It: How to Install an Automatic Light for Under $20

I almost wasted $175 installing an automatic light in my closet. Here’s how you can avoid making the same mistake, and get better results for less than $20.

Since buying my house, all I’ve wanted to do was find ways to make it “smarter”. I like being able to control the upstairs thermostat without going upstairs. Or telling Alexa to turn the lights off.

Home automation is sexy. I wanted to continue this trend by adding an automatic light to my closet that turned on and off when I needed it.

However, making your home more convenient doesn’t necessarily mean that everything needs to be connected to the Internet.

The Problem: My Closet Was Dark

I needed light in my closet.

The closet in my master bedroom was dark. There was a light fixture in there, but it had never worked.

Closet With Hanging Clothes

Some testing with a non-contact voltage tester proved that there wasn’t electricity powering the fixture. So the first thing I would need to do is get power to the closet.

There’s an outlet near the closet that I could extend to this light fixture to restore power. This would require cutting fewer holes in the wall. And most of them would be in the closet anyways, so I wouldn’t need to do a great job patching them up.

Making the Light Come On In the Closet When I Open the Door

The closet light fixture didn’t have a switch, so I’d need to add a switch. That meant another hole, more wiring and another patch. Not ideal.

But what if I could make it so that the light came on when I opened the door?

I could hook up some SmartThings sensors to the door so that when it was opened, it sent a signal to the SmartThings hub, which would tell a Hue light to turn on. An automatic light with no wires!

SmartThings Sensor

Medium effort, permanent solution, maximum awesome factor. The hardest part would be patching the holes in the wall.

Solution: Adding SmartThings to Automate My Closet Light

I started making a list of all the things I would need to be able add an automatic light to my closet.

Shopping list for automating a closet with SmartThings:

ItemPrice
New Light Fixture$6.00
Additional Romex$8.00
Hue LED Light Bulb$30.00
SmartThings Motion Sensor$30.00
SmartThings Hub$98.00
Total Cost$172.00
Estimated Time5-6 Hours

I actually cut the first hole when I realized:

Wait. This is Ridiculous.

I just need light in the closet.

And I want the light to come on when I open the door.

People had solved this problem years ago. Miraculously, the idea of an automated light existed before SmartThings did.

Actual Solution: Automating Your Closet in 19 Seconds for $19

A quick Amazon search led me here: Mr. Beams Battery Operated Motion Sensing LED Ceiling Light

It does two things:

  1. When it senses motion, it turns the light on
  2. After 30 seconds, it automatically turns the light off

My new shopping list:

ItemPrice
Mr. Beams LED Light$19.97
Total Cost$19.97
Estimated TimeAbout 19 seconds

Bottom Line: Resist the Urge to Immediately Jump to a Wifi-Connected Solution

A motion-sensing LED light is not fancy. I’m not going to bring my friends upstairs to check out my closet lighting. I can’t turn the light on and off while laying in bed. There’s no way to tell it to automatically turn on at 5:17 when I’m most likely to be ready to use my closet.

Closet With Light

But it got the job done in under a minute for less than $20.

Now I have light in my closet that turns on and off exactly when I need it to.

And that was the point.

Read Next:

Amazon Music Unlimited Review 2017

Amazon Music Unlimited is the Best Value for Streaming Music (But Nobody Knows It)

Amazon Music Unlimited launched in October 2016 as Amazon’s answer to the streaming music trend. Like Apple Music and Spotify, Amazon Music Unlimited allows you to stream millions of songs directly from the Internet.

However, unlike Apple Music or Spotify, Amazon Music Unlimited lets you stream this music through Alexa to your Echo, Echo Dot or Tap for less than $8/month.

The Amazon Music Unlimited Catalog is Just As Full as Spotify or Apple Music

Amazon Music Unlimited

Amazon boasts a vague “tens of millions of songs”, while Apple Music claims to have “30 million” in it’s catalog. On the surface, this seems like Amazon is trying to downplay their catalog size.

However, in my experience, everything I’ve wanted to play through Amazon Music Unlimited has been available.

Literally, everything.

The Amazon Music App is Not iTunes (and That’s a Great Thing)

I have a love/hate relationship with iTunes. I love that it’s where all of my music lives, and it’s already installed on my computer and phone.

But I actually hate iTunes. It’s slow and the user experience is clunky, at best. I hate how iTunes blurs the lines between my personal library and Apple Music, and I constantly find that I’m not able to play certain songs because iTunes logged me out.

Since Amazon Music Unlimited doesn’t intermingle with your personal music library, you will never get the annoying “You don’t have authorization to play this file on your computer” iTunes error. This is reason enough to consider ditching iTunes for Amazon.

What’s the Difference Between Amazon Music Unlimited, Spotify and Apple Music?

 Amazon Music UnlimitedSpotifyApple Music
Catalog Size"Millions of songs"20 million songs30 million songs
Price$7.99/mo for Amazon Prime Members
$9.99/mo for non-Prime Members
$9.99/month$9.99/month
Family Plan$14.99/month$14.99/month$14.99/month
Can Stream to Echo or Echo Dot?YesYesNo
Sound Quality256 Kbps320 Kbps256 Kbps
Playlist and Radio Station QualityGreatDecentLow
Free Option?NoYesYes
Trial Period30 days30 days3 months
Better Than iTunes?Yes!Yes!No 🙁

What’s the difference between Amazon Music Unlimited and Amazon Prime Music?

The difference between Amazon Prime Music and Amazon Music Unlimited is the number of songs.

Amazon Prime Music is included with your Amazon Prime account, and includes about two million songs. Amazon Music Unlimited is an additional $7.99/month and includes “tens of millions” of songs.

Alexa and Amazon Music Unlimited Work Great Together

Alexa makes it really easy to find and play music instantly.

White Amazon Echo

If you want Thunderstruck, you simply say “Alexa, play Thunderstruck”. If you want to hear the entire Bruce Springsteen catalog, say “Alexa, shuffle songs by Bruce Springsteen”. These are only available with Amazon Music Unlimited.

But that’s not even the best part.

Amazon’s staff has categorized the music catalog so well, you can ask Alexa to help you find music.

Let’s say you’re not sure what you want to hear, but you know that it’s something fun from the 90’s.

Simply say “Alexa, play music from the nineties with a beat” and she’ll kick off a personalized playlist for you.

Even that’s not the best part. This is the best part.

Let’s say you’re in the mood for some classic rock, but you can’t quite remember the name of the song. It’s been stuck in your head for days, though.

Say “Alexa, play the song that goes ‘is this the real life is this just fantasy'” and she will start playing Bohemian Rhapsody.

That’s magic.

Playing Amazon Music Unlimited on Your Laptop or Phone

Amazon Music on Phone

You can listen to any of the songs, playlists or radio stations in the Amazon Music Unlimited catalog your computer by installing the Amazon Music app directly from Amazon.

The Amazon Music app is a great way to listen on your phone. You can install the app by visiting the iOS App Store, Google Play or the Amazon App Store.

Streaming Your Own Music on Echo

Alexa powers the Amazon Echo Dot

Amazon Music Unlimited gives you the ability to stream Amazon’s library of music. Included in that membership is the ability to upload 250 songs from your own library. Those songs are then available for streaming through Alexa or the Amazon Music app.

If you want to upload more than 250 songs, you’ll need to subscribe to an Amazon Music Subscription for $24.99.

Bottom Line: Do it.

Amazon Music Unlimited is just as good as Spotify or Apple Music, but at a lower cost. It’s app is polished, it works really well with Alexa, and it’s not iTunes.

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