A newbie's HA system proposal

Hello all,

I’m new to this forum and relatively new to home automation. I’m now interested in building a dedicated Home Assistant system. I’ve talked with a few people, watched a lot of YouTube videos on the subject, and read much of the HA documentation, including this forum. I now have a plan I’d like to run by this group for opinions and suggestions.

Thanks in advance for your insight and help,

An Asus U52F laptop will be dedicated for the HA system. It has a 2.5GHz single core i3 Intel processor and 4GB RAM. I am planning on replacing the existing HDD with a new 240GB Crucial SSD. (I thought this hardware would provide plenty of power and storage, as well as providing a display, keyboard and built-in UPS.)

The SSD would be flashed with the HA operating system using Balena Etcher. (Since I’m dedicating the laptop to HA, this is a recommended, well supported install.)

I expect to have both wifi and ZigBee devices in my system eventually, so I was going to install the ZHA zigbee translator. It seems to be a well-supported, standard add-on. (Since I’m not a power user, I will not select ZigBee2MQTT.) For similar reasons, I was planning on using the Mosquitto ZigBee broker. For the ZigBee coordinator, I chose a Sonoff 3.0 ZigBee dongle w/ CC2652 chipset.

I eventually will want remote access to the system. After lots of reading, I decided to initially take the easy route with Home Assistant Cloud. I’ll pay the monthly service fee to Nabu Casa until I’m confident to take the leap to a DIY method utilizing DuckDNS, or something similar.



I’ve been “Assisting my Home” for about 4-5 months now, and what you list is almost exactly what I have done:

Raspberry Pi (because I had one)
HA OS on an SD Card (but likely moving to SSD this weekend)
ZHA running on the Sonoff 3.0 ZigBee Dongle
Home Assistant Cloud (because I also want to support the endeavor)

I had about 30 or so WiFi devices, but got involved in ZigBee due to the low cost Aqara devices.
A few Amazon Echo devices and some old routines in that ecosystem.
I’m now dabbling in Automation within HA and finding it very fun.

15 Cameras (Mostly Amcrest) running a custom Blue Iris / Plex server that I built years ago. Both now integrated into HA.

It sounds to me like you’ve chosen a good entry path.


If you use ZHA, you don’t need an MQTT broker at all for zigbee.

That said, I suggest trying both ZHA and Z2M before making a final decision.

ZHA is easier to install, but for now at least, Z2M is the easier for day to day use, IMO.

Z2M supports more devices, exposes more functionality with point and click ease to automations, and generally exposes more options and settings as easily accessible HA entities.

Ultimately, there is little or nothing you can’t get done with ZHA + ZHA Toolkit, but you’re much more likely be parsing events and mucking around with not-obvious options hidden under the “Manage Clusters” dialog.

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Sounds like a very good plan.

I have been on HA for about 1 year, moving over from Smarthings (My Smartthings Divorce). I started on a Pi 4 8G with an SSD but have since moved to an x86 system (NUC equivalent).

I use ZHA for all my ZigBee devices as well as Zwave JS for my one Zwave device. I also have a bunch of WiFi devices (TPlink lights and switches, August Door Lock and 8 Smart Life sockets). I thought about going the laptop route but will be adding a UPS for my NUC.

I do all my automations in Node-Red - everything. For me it is easier to have everything in one tool, even if it is a simple automation.

I think the plan you have will serve you well. Don’t be afraid to try different integrations and add-ons as you go. HA is very powerful and can be intimidating but it really is worth the investment in time and energy.

The only comment I will make is that yes, you will get a screen with the laptop. However with HA OS you won’t get the HA UI. HAOS does not have a graphical system, only commandline.

It is good to have a screen for using the HA CLI, but as long as you don’t think you’re getting a system that doubles as a frontend.

Also, if you already have the lappie, it is a great system. But if you are still to buy one, get at least 2 cores and 8G RAM.

HAOS on x86_64, 2 cores, 4GB RAM and 256GB SSD is supercharged. My only suggestion is even if you go the DIY route to Internet connectivity you keep the Nabu Casa subscription active as this is a small contribution each one of us should be making to keep HA viable as a project, if you can afford it, which it seems you can.

I will also provide a different perspective. If your system has 2-cores/4-threads, you can go with Proxmox, HAOS and Pi-hole.

That is a great idea, BUT he says he only has one core. Does this affect your advice?

1 core = HAOS only

Moving my HA to a dedicated Intel NUC i3 was the best hardware decision I made. Your laptop is very similar in the setup.

Do not use WiFi to connect to your Home Assistant. It would be the choke point for your whole system. My HA NUC is in the basement and if I need to get to the command line, I SSL into the NUC.

I have a second NUC that I use as an NAS and my Home Assistant does a nightly backup to the NAS. That has saved my bacon more than once. Or twice. …(or?).


I don’t think Intel ever made a single core i3

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You are correct! After a bit more digging, I find the processor is a Core i3-380M, dual core 2.53GHz.

Thanks for all the comments and insight into my HA system plan. Just a few comments/ideas that stuck with me …

nickrout … you warned about getting no GUI on the laptop when I first booted. Thought I screwed up until I read that post.

tteck … I was wrong in my processor description. It is a dual core i3-380M, which opens up more system options.

jerrm … will look at Z2M as well as ZHA for a zigbee translator

stanman1958 … will look at Node-Red for automations. Had considered it too advanced for me.

JmartinHA … will follow-up with you at a later date re: security camera integration into HA

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Rather than installing HAOS directly on the laptop, you might want to consider using virtualisation instead. So either keep your current OS (assuming Windows), or install a Linux distro like Ubuntu. Then install virtualisation software like VirtualBox, and create a virtual machine in which to install HAOS. This gives you the benefit of being able to use the laptop for other things, rather than exclusively HA. It also means the laptop will still have a browser, which can be used as a UI for HA.

The main downside for your specific case is that your laptop only has 4GB RAM, so you might want to upgrade the memory at the same time as the storage, assuming it’s not soldered on.

If you are going that way, install proxmox as the base system. But never windows.

I would use proxmox (though I’ve never used it) or a lightweight Linux os and then virtualise on top of that. The number of times I’ve recovered by going back to a snapshot… I’d imagine you can stick another 4gb in the laptop very cheaply, which will give the headroom you need.

One of my goals going with the HA OS install on a dedicated machine was to minimize the number of new technologies I was taking on at once. The more variables I introduce, the more likely I will get something incorrectly set up. Trying to troubleshoot, as a newbie, also gets more difficult.

That being said … after reading up on virtual machines, that does seem like a pretty desirable solution. Can I set up HA OS on my dedicated laptop initially, then migrate it a VM configuration later after I’m up and running successfully?


There are a handful of guides on YouTube (JuanMTech, Mark Watt, TinkerDad and others) that show how to setup a fresh install of ProxMox and HA VM. I just went thru this process last week on a HP EliteDesk and system (knock on wood) has been working well.

Here’s the video I used: Home Assistant PROXMOX Install and Setup (With NUC Alternative) - YouTube (Worth noting a few things are slightly out of date, I posted a comment on that video of what I missed).

There are then other vids to explain how to get Samba, DuckDNS, etc. setup. Lastly, I use HA Automations for EVERYTHING and haven’t found a scenario where NodeRED would be necessary (just my experience, not bashing).

Hope this helps, good luck, and welcome to HA!

I’d install Proxmox, then https://tteck.github.io/Proxmox/


You probably haven’t seen how complex some of my automations are…:grinning:. I couldn’t imagine doing them in HA native, but then it’s probably because I like the nice pictures NodeRed draws :smiling_imp:

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Yes you can, to answer the question you asked. Do a backup, then build the new environment and restore the backup. HA is all about the configuration and persistent data, which is what you backup and restore. You don’t backup the running containers, so the backups are quite small.

Edit: but, bear in mind you can’t migrate in place. You will need to wipe the machine to install proxmox (or whatever), before creating a vm to run HA in.