Home automation has been an interest of mine for a while. Here, I collect notes on what worked for me. Both as a reminder for myself and in the hopes that it is useful to others dabbling in the space. This is not a tutorial for any of the devices mentioned. There are plenty of those available on the internet.

The core: Home Assistant on a RaspBerry Pi

Home Assistant is a piece of software which serves as the controller of my home. There are many reasons why it is great (OSS, easy to use, supports anything under the sun, …), but one blew me away as soon as I started using it: Home Assistant bridges the various IoT ecosystems. Within minutes of installing it, I had my Hue light switch switch of the lights (duh!) but also switch off the music on my Sonos players. That is the sort of thing we expect home automation to do. But without a connector between the various vendor ecosystems, it is plain impossible.

I run Home Assistant on a Raspberry Pi 4 (8 GB). This is way too much hardware for my use case. But for others, it may be way too little as Home Assistant can also integrate surveillance cameras and do computer vision on those feeds. My RaspBerry Pi is in a flirc case and boots off of a MicroSD card. For larger installations, it is probably better to use a USB SSD in e.g. the Argone 40 One case. I use that case for another Pi and can recommend it. It is powered by the USB port of a APC backup battery and connected via ethernet to my home network to maximize reliability.

Stuff I already had

Home Assistant found a bunch of devices and Services in my home that it automatically integrated with:

  • Hue Lights
  • Sonos Speakers
  • Xbox
  • Synology NAS
  • pfSense router

The magic: Zigbee or Z-Wave devices

Home assistant can not only control devices on the local network, but also via the common home automation mesh networks Zigbee and Z-Wave. I picked Zigbee, mostly because I have the Hue bulbs already. They are Zigbee devices and provide a strong backbone for the mesh network. Starting fresh, there are good reasons for Z-Wave as well.

To connect to these mesh networks, I use the well named GoControl CECOMINOD016164 HUSBZB-1 USB Hub. I found this product mentioned in one of the Home Assistant forums. It supports both Zigbee and Z-Wave. I use only the Zigbee part of it. I haven’t done enough research to judge whether this is the best or even good device. But it works for me.

With this device setup, I can connect sensors directly to Home Assistant without using the vendor gateway. While this should work with the Hue lights, I have yet to try it. Here are devices I was able to just use:

(This list was last updated on 2022-01-11)