Amazon says putting Alexa to work in your smart home’s easy. Here’s exactly what you need

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LOS ANGELES—The poster at one of the flashy new Amazon Books stores was inviting.

“Smart Home Made Easy — want to get started but don’t know where to start?”

I think most customers there would raise their hands and say, “That’s me.”

Amazon’s list put hard-to-understand tech geekdom into words we all get. What it didn’t do was spell out the dollars that would be needed to be invested or how some of this stuff might work. Sowe’re going to decode that for you.

Let’s start with money. If you bought everything listed — and were handy at home enough to handle installation — you’re looking at just over $1,000 to buy the smart outlet, lights, Fire TV Stick, doorbell, thermostat, lock, security cameras and a device to interact with all this good stuff, which, in Amazon’s case, is the $220 Echo Show, which brings video to Alexa.

Smart Outlet

This is the simplest of the smart home accessories. The Amazon Smart Plug ($24.99) or the WeMo Switch Smart Plug ($34.99). You plug this into wall power and then put your pre-existing products (lamps, TV, radio, you name it) into the Smart Plug. From there, you can use an app, or voice assistant like Alexa, to command the product to be turned on and off. Amazon suggests using it with a coffee pot to start it in the morning from bed, but our coffee pot needs a filter, coffee, fresh water and a button that requires a physical turn on to get it going. But hey, no dispute about the lamp, right?

Lighting

“Set your mood using colored smart bulbs, dimmers and light strips.” That sounds cool, but the bulbs are pricey (around $50 each) and to get the colors Amazon mentions, you’ll need to also buy and plug in a hub that speaks to the bulbs. Luckily, many newer plain bulbs are Bluetooth-enabled and don’t require the extra set up of the hub. Once plugged into the socket, you can now say, “Alexa, turn on the lights” and get it done.

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