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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.

See Nest Thermostat at Amazon

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.

See ecobee at Amazon

Pretty simple for both devices. For more (and because things change), be sure to check out the individual skills at the links below.