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How to get started with a Google-powered smart home

The Google Home smart speaker can be a convenient centerpiece in your connected setup.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

You might already use Gmail, Google Maps and Google Calendar. You might be reading this in Chrome on an Android phone, after searching the topic on Google. Fun fact: You can also use Google to control your home. As scary as that might sound, it's also quite convenient.

If you're an Android person, or you just bought a Google Home and want to get started with home automation, here are seven simple steps to help you get rolling.

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Step 1: Get a Google Home

The $130 Google Home is an always-listening smart speaker similar to the Amazon Echo. Say the wake words "Hey, Google" or "OK, Google" and you can command the Home to play music, set a timer or ask it to do any number of tasks including controlling your smart home.

This step is somewhat optional for a Google-powered smart home. A conversational virtual assistant aptly called the Google Assistant powers the Google Home. The same assistant is built into a number of Android phones with similar capabilities. The Google Assistant is even available to download to your Apple iPhone. Still, I recommend getting a Google Home, especially if you have multiple family members.

The Google Home will let any family member within shouting range control your smart lights and switches. Otherwise, you'd have to mess with sharing access via a bunch of different apps just to offer convenient control to your spouse and kids.

Step 2: Introduce Google to your family

A Google Home will make it easy for any family member to take advantage of the convenience of a smart home. You can also train the Google Home to recognize the voices of your family and customize responses accordingly.

Each family member will need to set up a Google account, or sync their existing account with the Google Home app. At the end of the process, they can train Google by saying the wake words a few times each. You should do the same. Then, when you ask about your calendar or traffic on your way to work, the answer will be specific to you. The Home will be able to manage everybody's calendars and individualized playlists separately.

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Anyone can still control Google Home without doing this -- so don't worry if someone doesn't want to sync their account -- but I enjoy the extra personalization and convenience.

Step 3: Find the right location

The perfect spot for a Home speaker is a central gathering place in your house -- the living room or the kitchen perhaps. To get the most use out of it, you'll want it to be within hearing range of your family when they are hanging out at home.

If you have a large house, you might need multiple Home units to cover everything, but start small. Get used to using one Google Home in your most populated spot before you start putting them in every room where you might need one.

Once you do expand, you don't have to worry about overlap. If you have a loud voice and multiple Homes hear your command, only the closest one will respond.

Putting your Google Home in your bedroom is another strong option, but remember the Assistant on your phone can serve most of the same purposes, and the bedroom is a better spot for giving a command to an individual device.

Step 4: Pick what you want to control

Once you have your Google Home up and running, you're ready to start building a voice-controlled smart home. Start small. Don't buy a whole bunch of gear that you're not sure you'll like or use. Pick one or two things you'd most like to control with your voice, and start there.

I'd recommend a Nest Learning Thermostat, a Belkin Switch or color-changing bulbs from either Philips Hue or Lifx as your first purchase. All of them work well on their own and in tandem with Google Home. Head here for a full list of compatible products. Check that list when getting started and expanding your smart home to make sure everything will work with your Google-powered setup.

Step 5: Sync your Google Home to your smart home

For each of your smart home devices, you'll need to do an initial setup process using their respective first-party apps -- so the Philips Hue app for Philips bulbs and the Nest app for the Nest Thermostat. You'll need to create an account for yourself for each, but the Google Home will save you the work of doing this for each of your family members.

Once your devices are set up and connected to the internet (the first-party apps will walk you through that process) open the Google Home app. Click on the hamburger icon in the upper left hand corner, then Home Control. Hit the plus button in the lower right corner, and you'll sync your Google account with your Philips or Nest account and import your devices.

Make sure to name each device something you'll remember. A goofy name like Lampanelli might be great for a laugh, but the more devices you add, the harder it becomes to remember everything. Instead, brief descriptors like table lamp or corner lamp will work perfectly.

Step 6: Set up rooms

Now, you might protest that you have more than one table lamp. Use the Room tab in the Home Control setup menu to help further differentiate your gadgets. That way, if your table lamp and corner lamp are in the living room, you can turn them both off at once by asking Google to turn off the living room lights.

Rooms will also help your family members command your gear without having to remember a bunch of specific names. Put the "Table Lamp" in the family room, and the Google Home will respond to a command whether you tell it to turn off the table lamp, the table light, or the family room light.

Step 7: Command and conquer

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Once you've synced your devices to your Google Home account and added a couple of rooms, you're done. Your Google smart home is up and running. You don't have to train the Google Home to recognize different commands -- it's programmed to respond to natural language. Expand gradually as you get comfortable with the connected gear you have, and go forth issuing your voice commands as ruler of your castle.