It’s a trick question! If there’s a Skill, there’s a way. But it’s still worth knowing what you can (and can’t) say to Alexa to control your thermostat.
One of the things you need to know about Amazon Echo — actually, I’m talking about Alexa here — is that in a good many ways, it’s hardware agnostic. You can hook all sorts of things into Alexa via Amazon’s "Skills," and, for the most part, it shouldn’t really matter what sort of hardware it’s hooking into.
A thermostat is a thermostat. You turn it up and down. Lights are lights. On, off, color, whatever. Sprinklers turn on and off and run on schedules. The brand and exact hardware really shouldn’t matter — you build in functionality through the API, or Application Programming Interface, which we all know and love here as a "Skill." (Google has "Actions," Nest has "Works with Nest," etc., etc.)
Exactly what you can say to a particular device may vary a little bit, but by and large Alexa is going to be smart enough to figure out what it is you’re trying to do without requiring too many specific keywords. (That gets us into the whole natural language processing thing, which is another post for another time.)
So what’s the best thermostat to use with Amazon Echo? Whatcha got? I’ve used a Nest ($248 on Amazon) in my home and an ecobee ($249 on Amazon) in the office. Those are the two more popular smart thermostats, and each has its merits. There’s the design of the actual thermostat itself. (I tend to prefer Nest there for its simplicity and the dial over a touchscreen.) There’s the design and usability of the app that goes along with it. (Again, Nest wins out here for me because ecobee seems like it’s trying a little too hard.)
But those are personal things. The good news here is that if you like ecobee more than Nest and want to use it with Alexa, it’ll work just fine. One really doesn’t work any better for me than the other when it comes to using your voice to control them.
One major caveat here, though, is that the ecobee 4 has a really neat feature in that Alexa is already built in. The thermostat has microphones that are waiting (and willing) for you to use your voice to control it. So you don’t even need an Amazon Echo to control it — the thermostat takes care of everything. That’s pretty cool.
All that said, let’s take a look at what you can actually say to each thermostat through Alexa.
What you can tell Alexa to do with Nest
First, Nest says to make sure you know the name of your Nest. If you’ve named it "Living room," you’ll tell Alexa to "change the living room to 72 degrees." You won’t say "Set the thermostat to 72 degrees." And that’s fine. "Thermostat" is a silly name.
And with that, here’s what you can actually say to it.
- Ask what the temperature is at the thermostat?
- Ask what the thermostat is set to.
- Set the Nest to a specific temperature.
- Increase or decrease by a specific number of degrees. (You can say "warmer" or "colder," too.
There are third-party skills, too, that let you add even more functionality. Check out Voice Thermostat Controller for even more.
Nest E lets you talk to Alexa even cheaper
There’s nothing quite like a full-blown Nest Thermostat, of course. But the Nest E is really close. It’s got a different sort of look to it, but it’s 90 percent the same, as far as the tech goes. (And I’d argue that you probably won’t miss the difference anyway.
The display is more muted, so it’s not going to call quite as much attention to itself as its big brother. But you get the same smarts — the ability to learn how you like things — and the exact same integration with Amazon Alexa.
The really important part? The $169 price tag.
What you can tell Alexa to do with ecobee
Like you’ve probably guessed by now, using ecobee with Alexa is pretty much the same as using it with Nest. Here’s what’s available via your voice:
- Ask for the current temperature at the ecobee.
- Ask what the ecobee is currently set to.
- Set the ecobee to a specific temperature.
- Increase or decrease the temperature by a specific amount.
- Or just say "increase (or decrease) the temperature" to move it by 2 degrees.
Honeywell T6 — a basic (and cheaper) alternative
If you’re looking for a digital thermostat that also has access to Amazon Alexa and that also doesn’t cost closer to $200 than not, check out the Honeywell T6.
It’s programmable, and like other thermostats of this ilk it can use your smartphone to tell when you’re home, and when you’re not home. And, yes, it has access to Amazon Alexa, so you can use your voice to control the temperature.
This isn’t quite the looker that other competitors might be, but it’s also just $115. And it’ll get the job done.
Pretty simple for all the devices. For more (and because things change), be sure to check out the individual skills at the links below.
Updated August 2018: Updated with the Honeywell T6.
August 21, 2018 at 06:05AM