Home Assistant, Part 1: Yet Another Home Assistant Convert

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Welcome to yet another article about Home Assistant.

First, what is Home Assistant? Second, why do we need yet another series of articles about it?

What is Home Assistant?

Home Assistant is an open source home automation that puts local control and privacy first. It’s developed by the combined talent of a worldwide community of tinkerers and DIY enthusiasts. What’s more, it’s light-weight enough to run on a Raspberry Pi 3 (or higher), or a local server of your choosing.

Home Assistant is like OpenHab, Samsung Smarthings, Securify Almond, Apple Homekit, or the Amazon Alexa, or the Google Home (etc.) ecosystems: it’s a central location through which you can connect, control, monitor, and automate various devices. However, unlike most of those, Home Assistant can run locally on your home network (but still connect via the Internet), and focuses on the fact that you own your data, and if you don’t want to share your use and demographic data with our corporate overseers, you shouldn’t have to.

You may be interested in why I opted for Home Assistant over everything else.

A Hideous Mess

Here’s my current situation:

  • I have LED Lights from Lifx and TP-Link
  • I have LED Strips from Lifx and DIY strips powered by WLED
  • I have Light Switches by Wemo, GE (Z-Wave), and TP-Link
  • I have Plugs by TP-Link
  • I have Android-powered cell phones
  • I have Google Home Mini’s and a Google Home Hub
  • I have Tile trackers
  • My wife and I are HAM Radio operators (with APRS location tracking)
  • I have a Samsung Smartthings Hub and various sensors
  • I have a Liftmaster Garage Door opener and a Chamberlain Garage Door opener
  • I have various Smart TVs and an nVidia Shield
  • … and more that I’m probably forgetting about.

I started out with a Securify Almond setup, and it served me well for quite a while, but I quickly outgrew its abilities. From there I switched to IFTTT and the apps for the various devices. I started to get frustrated when I’d have to open 3 apps just to turn off the lights at bedtime. Yes, I did have each app set to turn its respective lights, lamps, switches, and/or plugs off at a particular time — but if I wanted to go to bed early (i.e., before the various automations were set to run), I’d have to open each app and turn off the devices. What a pain.

What’s more, not every app had the features of every other app — for example, turn lights on at dusk and off at dawn wasn’t something I could do with lamps, curios, switches, lights, LED strips, etc.

What I needed was a central location that supported a whole bunch of my devices, and let everything talk to everything else. The solution? Home Assistant.

So that’s my situation. There are a lot of user videos, articles, and a ton of documentation on the Home Assistant website; so why do we need more articles from some other guy?

Frankly, there are a ton of ways to do any and everything — and some of the documentation is incomplete or hasn’t been updated with the changes that have been introduced in more recent versions of Home Assistant.

So, this is a chronicle of where I am, how I got here, and advice on some pitfalls to avoid. It’s not a “best-practices”, “official” documentation, or even instructions on what to do — rather, it’s documentation of what I did, not necessarily what you should do. But, hopefully you’ll learn something along the way.

As I get more articles written, they’ll be available here -> https://www.joelevi.com/tag/home-assistant/

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