2022: Good hardware for HA?

Hi. I’m a “Newbie” with no Home Assistant experience yet beyond reading the HA web pages and some relevant Community topics. However, I’d like to try HA out. Currently I have various Z-Wave modules running and a Fibaro HC2 that I’ve given up on.
Re technical ability, I’ve 40+ years in IT, mostly on analysis/design/databases/process design and some coding in various ‘older’ languages.

Q1. Hardware for HA (and available in UK)?
I’ve read Best hardware combination for HA? - #73 by Hert
but it’s a bit outdated apart from the last 2 replies.
Given that RPi’s are either unavailable or absurdly expensive at present, what’s the best hardware to use?
I have a Synology NAS that is Docker and VM capable, but I get the impression that Synology DSM 7 limits it’s suitability for HA use, particularly with a Z-Wave USB stick.
If an Intel NUC then which variant? What are the key “must haves”? (eg. RAM, CPU, etc…)
Needs to be power efficient, low wattage, low heat output but fairly future-proof as I don’t want to have to upgrade it in a year or two.

Q2. Do people tend to find Z-Wave or Zigbee based modules work best with HA?

Q3. Any other good “HA start up” guidance that’s not on the HA web pages?

Thanks all…

Q1 I’ve run HA on a Pi4 but upgraded to a Dell OptiPlex 3040. Apart from a slightly higher power draw i’d recommend a thin client PC every time. To ensure long term headroom i’d go for i3 8GB RAM and at least 128 GB HD. On eBay you can get this for about £80 - £100. I’m sure many will say this is overkill but it gives me much greater piece of mind.

Q2 I’ve got a Conbee 2 for ZHA and a Sonoff ZigBee 3 plus for Z2M. I recommend the Sonoff. Not the E version. £20 on AliExpress if you can wait.

Q3 When making your home smart try to augment what you have. Don’t remove any existing controls. So, don’t remove a light switch and use Alexa instead.

I did run HA on a Synology in a VM for quite a while. It worked fine. Having some extra memory in the Synology would be great though. HA runs fine, but it slows the other things the Synology is doing. I did put a €50 SSD (smallest and cheapest I could get) in the Synology to speed up DB operations.

From the Synology I switched to an Odroid (Home Assistant Blue; I no longer run the Synology full time). The Odroid is even better than the synology performance wise.

an i3 or better is plenty until you start using it to record cameras and do object detection as well. I ran an old Celeron NUC for a couple of years, now an i7. I think my old NUC had 8Gb RAM, not sure. New one has 16Gb but it barely uses any of that.

I don’t think you can beat the Aeotec Z-Wave stick and the Conbee 2 ZigBee stick. Mine both work great.

The community guides on this forum are quite good to get you started on whatever hardware you choose, but the official HA site is best.

Q1:
Honestly, most things more powerful than an RPi4 will be good enough for quite some time. I started on RPi2 and have used every subsequent RPi version before upgrading to a i5 NUC (8GB RAM), then an IBM X series server w. 128 GB RAM and dual Xeon processors.

The only difference I’ve really noticed was restart time, which was MUCH faster on the “real” computers. But nowadays, you can just reload many things from the UI without even restarting, so it might be less important. Though keep in mind I ditched the RPis back in 2017, and have only used the RPi4s as “remotes” to have Bluetooth radios around the house (read: almost nothing running on them), so performance might be different today.

Q2:
I’ve had issues with both Zigbee and Z-wave, but after a lot of optimization, such as making sure the radios are on an extension, making sure they’re not close to any powerful APs (I had some Ubiquiti APs in the same room, and that messed everything up for ZigBee), they both seem to work quite well.

ZigBee
One thing I’ll say is that for ZigBee, I used to use deCONZ, and moved to ZHA. I would not recommend this! I’m too lazy to go back, but there are some major drawbacks. I wrote about some of my experience here. I’m leaning more and more towards that I probably wouldn’t make the change, knowing what I do now. But certainly look at that post before choosing.

Make sure you get a Zigbee stick with enough RAM (and Zigbee 3.0), see this post for a few recommendations. Also keep in mind that you might want to think about Matter (well, Thread) compatibility! I’m on a ConBee II, but that is old now, and I’m pushing the limit of network size (60+ devices atm), so might need to upgrade soon. I’d recommend that you future-proof!

Z-wave
In my experience, the Zwavejs2MQTT and Zwavejs works quite well. A lot better than what I was using a few years ago. Again, make sure you get a newer coordinator (I have an Aeotec Gen5, and it works fine, but no reason to get old tech when starting).

One thing here is to maybe avoid the cheapest of devices. Most things work well for me, but a lot of us a complaining about the Neo CoolCam plugs (see this, and many other posts).

Q3:
I certainly will echo @templeton_nash’s advice here! Never remove functionality. I made that mistake early on (well, choice, as I back then didn’t have the option to install smart switches for lights). I’ve circumvented this by adding Philips Hue Dimmer switches/remotes on the walls, but if doing over, I would probably only use smart bulbs where I need color change or couldn’t replace the wall switch.

I’d recommend that you hard-wire as much as possible in place of either ZigBee or Zwave. I know it’s not feasible for most lights, but if you get into ESPHome, you can get PoE devices, the same for cameras, etc. So wired when you can, wireless to fill in the holes.

HACS is your friend, but anything you can do without is probably better, since occasionally you will have issues (developers might, justifiably, have other things to do than keeping an obscure HACS integration up to date). So I’d say that if you can, only rely on it for non-essentials, i.e., “nice-to-have” things.

Make sure you set up people first, then add to users by Allow person to log in. This is a small thing, but in my HA instance, ever family member has a person, which is not (and now cannot become, for some reason) associated with the user they need to log in with. I don’t think it’s relevant for the first user you set up, but for all subsequent ones.

If you’re up for writing some Python, I’d recommend taking a look at AppDaemon if you find any functionality in Home Assistant lacking (mostly automation-wise). The UI automations, scripts, templating, etc. are getting infinitely better and more comprehensive than a few years ago, but there are still quite a lot of things you simply cannot do. I’m not personally familiar with Node-RED, but I see a lot of people loving it, so maybe check out if that’s something for you as well.

I did the same thing and would absolutely NOT go back to deCONZ. Each to their own I guess.

Definitely, and I certainly also think there were upsides of the switch. But for me, there were more downsides. Or at least the downsides were quite disruptive for me.

E.g., I can’t use any of my Hue Tap, since ZHA doesn’t support Zigbee Green Power. They are all just paperweights now (and since they don’t use batteries, not even heavy enough for that :slight_smile: ).

I can no longer turn on lights at 1% via automations (90+% of my lights are automated, and at night they used to turn on at 1%). So now we’re blinded if going to the bathroom at night.

And a few other annoyances described in my “switch” post. So this was more of a “look at the two and see what you think works for you” suggestion.

Have you checked this? This guy repurposed the HC2 into a HA server…
My road trip from Fibaro to Home Assistant - Hardware - Home Assistant Community (home-assistant.io)

@templeton_nash @lancer73 @sparkydave @Aephir @k8gg

Many thanks all for your replies. Most interesting and many helpful thoughts. I need to read and digest them more fully + the links you refer to.

Re “Don’t remove any existing controls.” and “Never remove functionality.”, I heartily agree. Thus far I’ve added some (Fibaro) Z-Wave dimmers and switch modules into the wiring circuits, but kept the wall switches as active controls. Definitely see myself keeping the basic house wiring intact and working and then adding functionality on top.

ESPHome : Looks interesting - I’d not come across it before… Will check it out.

Aepher : Interesting comment you make about Zigbee radios and Ubiquiti APs. I’ll watch out for that if I use Zigbee. Had planned on USB cabling between the controller to radio(s) anyway so that I can locate them sensibly and away from metal and IT hardware.

k8gg : Re converting the HC2 to a HA device, yes I’d seen that post. Interesting, but a) I’d like to stay safe with at least one Z-Wave controller available to me until HA implemented; and b) somewhere I think I’ve read that RH_Dreambox ended up upgrading anyway to a more powerful device.

Again, my thanks all.

This is one of the best things you can have to complement Home Assistant in my opinion. It opens up a huge variety of fully local device options.

A1. I personally like to install Home Assistant OS on a VM in Synology NAS or other virtualisation hypervisors on any other dedicated server, but you then need to buy a powered USB 2.0 hub to connect radio adapters due to USB 3.0 interference (and use very long USB extension cables to the USB 2.0 hub for the radio USB adapters). However, it might also be nicer to just buy the new “Home Assistant Yellow” → https://www.home-assistant.io/blog/2021/09/13/home-assistant-yellow/ or the older “Home Assistant Blue” (based on ODROID-N2+/N2plus single-board-computer from Hardkernel) if you can still find it.

A2. I find Z-Wave devices to be a lot less hassle than maintaining a stable Zigbee network with cheap devices from China, however, I think Zigbee still work good enough to make it worth maintaining both, though they are different ways to implement either.

A2a. Z-Wave: Tip is to buy either “Aeotec Z-Stick 7” or “Aeotec Z-Stick Gen5” USB radio adapter, then you have the choice to do a basic Z-Wave installation just do a ‘next-next-finish’ install of Home Assistant’s native Z-Wave integration which deals with all dependencies for you and is very easy to maintain, for optional advanced Z-Wave installation you first install ZwaveJS2Mqtt server on another computer (or virtual machine) then connect the integration to it.

A2b. Zigbee: Tip is today to buy ITead’s CC2652P based “Sonoff Zigbee 3.0 USB Dongle Plus” model ZBDongle-P, then you basically got the choice of either just doing a ‘next-next-finish’ install of Home Assistant’s native ZHA (Zigbee Home Automation) integration for a little more basic but extremely easy to maintain fully embedded implementation or go with a Zigbee2MQTT (a.k.a. Z2M) installation on another computer (or virtual machine) for a little more advanced and cutting-edge installation that will be maintained separately and connected to Home Assistant via MQTT (Zigbee2MQTT will as such work kind-of similar to dedicated Zigbee hub/bridge/gateway applicance).

A3. Really for all radio adapters, but especially Zigbee, regardless of Zigbee implementation, follow this generic best practice tips on improving Zigbee network range and general stability → Generic best practice tips on improving Zigbee network range and general stability · zigpy/zigpy Wiki · GitHub

Bonus: Home Assistant recently got a much better (“first-class”) native Bluetooth integration that while still early in development is still worth keeping an eye on and maybe buy some known working Bluetooth USB adapters in order to test with some popular BLE devices for example the “Xiaomi Mi Flora” → https://www.home-assistant.io/blog/2022/08/03/release-20228/#first-class-bluetooth-support

Hi Hedda, and many thanks for your reply. Many interesting thoughts in that and useful advice.

May give the Synology NAS VM route a trial. Are there any “bewares” about that route? I’ve not used VMs before (or done an HA install as yet - total HA newbie!). Have seen the HA main installation pages.

Re the Home Assistant Yellow, availability is the key problem + the standard RAM is rather low. Also, in UK RPi4 Compute modules are as rare as new RPi4’s are (i.e. none till mid 2023!!). Think I’d rather go Intel NUC route. Perhaps not a wise HA ploy to be developing HA hardware when there’s plenty of standard commercial kit around.

Interesting comments on radios and USB hub. Coincidentally I got a new powered hub recently to power some sensors from.
I’ve already got an Aeotec Z-stick Gen 5 in anticipation.

Thanks again.

Ideally the hub being for USB 2.0 (more difficult to find), not USB 3.0. The reason being the implementation of USB 3.0 would interfere with wireless frequency around 2.4GHz… so bluetooth, wifi, and zigbee. Wifi is relatively OK since it is (relatively) higher powered, but zigbee or bluetooth could easily be overpowered by USB 3.0 interference. (You could google search the keywords “usb 3.0 interference”.)

Hi K8gg. Re repurposing the HC2 into a HA server, I remembered last night - the main reason I decided against trying this is that the HC2 runs hot, which suggests it’s a hardware issue (inefficient processor, etc.). I really don’t want to run an electric fire in my IT cabinet or waste electricity and money doing so, and then more electricity+money running a cooling fan etc.
Best wishes, Ian

Not sure but I believe HAOS/HASS VM only work on Synology models with Intel x86-64 CPU hardware so not the models based on ARM (I think), otherwise it is the powered USB 2.0 you need to be aware of as many newer Synology only feature USB 3.0 ports so connecting any Zigbee/Thread/Bluetooth radio dongles via an externally powered USB 2.0 hub will absolutely be required for any low-powered radios operating on the 2.4GHz freqency range, and as mentioned you should not use internal USB 3.0 ports or a USB 3.0 hub. It needs to be a USB 2.0 hub + it should bo be powered by an external power-supply. Check these for reference → https://www.usb.org/sites/default/files/327216.pdf and https://www.unit3compliance.co.uk/2-4ghz-intra-system-or-self-platform-interference-demonstration/

By the way, check out the official analytics for ideas on “Board types” to see most popular hardware:

https://analytics.home-assistant.io/#installs

Currently:

image

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Q1: I have finally outgrown a Pi3, and expect delivery of a Dell Wyse 5060 thin client tomorrow. I will run HAOS on it.

It’s a small x86 computer, with an SSD (no more crashed SC cards) and a bunch of USB3 ports (no external USB hub) and a beefy power supply (no more “undervoltage detected” messages). I can bump the RAM up to 8GB or higher, which is awesome.

There are a lot of more powerful thin client or small form-factor (SFF) PCs out there to choose from, butI am cheap! Also, I already have a 5060 handling my RTL radio dongles and some other software, and I will dedicate this second 5060 just to HA.

Hi Hedda.
My NAS is a DS1019+ so has an Intel Celeron J3455 quad-core 1.5GHz CPU and VM support.
Many thanks for the HA statistics and link. Interesting results. I wonder what the 33.2% VMs are running on? Slightly mixed analysis going on here, since its a mix of hardware .v. “installation base (VM or not)” .v. CPU type. Quite heavily RPi based overall. Encouraging though to see so high a VM percentage. Clearly it works well. Given that RPi’s are basically unavailable at present, I clearly need to go down the VM route. T’will be interesting as a new avenue for me.

Best wishes, Ian

Again, you always do want a USB 2.0 hub for Zigbee/Thread/Bluetooth radio dongles if your computer does not have any USB 2.0 ports, because USB 3.0 ports and USB 3.0 peripherals (as well as even cables to USB 3.0 peripherals) for a fact cause serious EMF/EMI/RMI interference around the 2.4GHz frequency range. Really recommend checking these for references → https://www.usb.org/sites/default/files/327216.pdf and 2.4GHz Intra-System (or Self/Platform) Interference Demonstration - Unit 3 Compliance as well as follow → [Generic best practice tips on improving Zigbee network range and general stability · zigpy/zigpy Wiki · GitHub]Generic best practice tips on improving Zigbee network range and general stability · zigpy/zigpy Wiki · GitHub)

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