Let's build a smart home
New year is always a good excuse to start something new. This post starts a series on building a smart home. It’s not going to be a tutorial written by an expert, quite the opposite, I want to share my thoughts and experiences while learning.
At this point I want to give credit to Kinga and Mikołaj - friends of my who inspired me with their smart home setup and guidance through first steps.
What is smart home anyway? I think of it as an automation system that allows you to monitor and control stuff in your home. It usually means controlling your lights, TV or temperature, measuring power usage, humidity and so on.
There seem to be many options, some of which will require hardware integration. We require a platform for a task that complex.
You may recall that I support self hosting from my recent post on selecting a blogging platform. Not only it’s free but it helps you learn, and perhaps most importantly in this case - you have full control of your data. Sounds important when it comes to managing your home right?
Choosing a platform
Choosing the platform is the first challenge. As previously stated, I am by no means an expert. I did a quick search on open home automation platforms a while ago, and there are a few to choose from including openHAB, domoticz and Home Assistant. I chose the last one based primarily recommendations. Few people I know run their own instances and are happy with that, and having a community is always beneficial.
Let’s think about the installation now that I decided about the platform. HA (Home Assistant) is usually installed on microcomputers like a raspberry pi. This is a reasonable choice considering it’s popularity and low energy consumption, but I’ve decided to go in a different direction.
Having no spare pi at home I decided to look for an alternative. In this case, the DELL Optiplex 7050 Tiny MFF is my preferred model, owing to its increased compute power, SSD drive, and expandable RAM. I have some more plans regarding that device so having some spare resources doesn’t hurt.
Given you don’t need extra resources, you might consider going with something like Dell Wyse 5060 as a less expensive alternative.
The manual describes a few installation methods. If you are a beginner I recommend starting with docker-compose. However if you are more experienced with them, install a dedicated operating system in a virtual machine.
Docker containers are meant to be immutable. To update a containerized application typically means replacing existing container instance with a new one deployed from the newer version. VM is meant to be mutable so it appears to be a better solution for the long run.
After installing Home Assistant is ready to go, by default hosted on port
8123 on your VM/container. Now you are ready to set up an account, the onboarding section has got you covered.
This is all for the introductory post. In the next one I write about connecting devices over Zigbee and setting up some basic automation.