Where to start?

Hi, I’m new to this forum and community and I’m looking for some tips to begin with.
I wish to build my own home automation system bit by bit.
I’m currently in the research process for now and would like to have some insights about the decisions that I could make.

To begin with my project, I have the intention to use an open-source platform, I’m not sure yet which one, it’s for that I’m here. Along the platform I wish to use the control center to also plug some external HDD that are not currently in use (USB but I could see if I can plug them other way).
I had in the idea of setting up a Linux to be able to run in virtual environments on one hand a server (kind of a NAS) for the HDDs and in another one the smart home platform.
Does it seem a good solution to you ? Or is there another set up that could be better ? According to the solution that come up, what would be the minimal/optimal hardware software configuration? I know that we are in Home Assistant forum but I’m also looking into Domoticz or Openhab, would you say that it could be a solution?

To direct the choice, I have the intention of doing myself the sensors : mysensors.org seems a good place to learn and start the deployment of the sensors. It seems that the integration with Home assistant is not a problem after setting up a gateway (I’m still open for other solutions for the sensors)

For the actuators, in the future, I will see if I do it myself or I buy off-the-shelf, according to that, I would like the platform to be compatible with the products on the market also.

Thank you in advance for all the advices that you could give me.

Bonus : I was offered for Christmas a Google Home, and I have a TV LG “55SJ850V Nano-Cell”, if the platform could be compatible, that would be great.

You are in the right place.

I suggest you get a small low power pc. A lot of people use an Intel NUC, but they are at the expensive end of the scale. There are plenty of choices on the Chinese web sites like aliexpress.

Then install linux (ubuntu server is a favourite, debian server another) and you can run everything you want in docker.

File serving is not computationally intensive, nor is home assistant.

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Another choice for sensors (and IMHO a better one): https://esphome.io/index.html

It supports a wide range of sensors, all configured by a simple YAML file. It has over the air updates, home assistant discovery (your sensors show up automatically - no config required), and you can connect using mqtt or an API interface to home assistant.

I was where you were a couple of months ago. Maybe I’m looking for slightly more “out of the box” solutions. I went with a Raspberry Pi 3+ B, mostly because I’ve wanted an excuse to play with one anyway. I looked at OpenHAB, (still haven’t ruled it out) Wink, VeraPlus and a bunch of others. My biggest requirement was fully local control (no cloud) so SmartThings, the apparent industry leader, was a non-starter.

HA gave me an idiot-proof install process, which allowed me to focus more on learning the home automation environment and (the hardest part) jargon.

Big picture, there are three primary, largely open ways that smart sensors and actuators communicate; Z-Wave, Zigbee and (of course) WiFi. Since the Pi comes with wired Ethernet and WiFi anyway, I bought a HUSBZB-1 Z-Wave and Zigbee USB stick. Now I can communicate with almost anything out there.

I’ve tried a few Zigbee devices and it’s been pretty good. By the way, nobody tells you that Zigbee and ZHA are synonymous. You need to know that when devices start showing up and you can’t find the word “Zigbee” anywhere. There’s lots of stuff like that they don’t tell you. Apparently the documentation here (and over at OpenHAB) is written by people who just assume everyone knows all these little details. But I’m persistent and learn better if I have to figure things out myself anyway.

Thank you very much with all your replies. It´s conforting me in my choice.
I´m afraid that a RPI3 is not enough to provide for the OS and the VMs of HA and some that could come later (I want to keep some resources for other services later : media services, VNC…)
What are the minimal specifications (CPU, RAM…) that you would recommend for this?

XCY, Mini
Is it adapted or/and expensive for what I want to build?

For the sensors, I had the idea of using BLE (+ energy for battery), or Zigbee (+ range), which one is the most adapted for simple remote sensors (temperature, light, moisture, gas…)

Have a look at unRAID.
It is essentially a NAS that works with all combinations of disks. Could be a way to put your disks to a good use. But it also comes with great support for vms and docker.
I don’t use the VM as I get everything via dockers.
HA, mqtt, let’s encrypt, influx, grafana, plex, node red,…

If you are willing to set up a Linux machine as you mentioned, and also taking the disks out of the external case and make them internal, then this could be an option for you.

After having worked with OpenHAB for a few months I can safely say that Home Assistant is largely easier to setup, use and highly configurable. I would only recommend OpenHAB if you don’t want the newest technologies and/or do not have the newest devices (as many devices are not supported especially the newer ones). However OpenHAB is much more stable (because updates come around twice a year, whereas HA gets updated every 2 weeks with all the problems that come with it).

To see what HA can do for example you can check my github page:


Be sure to check the screenshots section :stuck_out_tongue:

My code is free to use (just don’t copy and paste it without knowing what you are doing as it will certainly not work or look broken as your entities will not be the same as mine).

Just to clarify, in this case there is not much need of using the VM due to the fact that HA is not using that much and doesn’t need to have allocated resources, so to use docker seems easier to set up.
If I sum up for the machine : the focus is not on the CPU but more on the RAM for the hardware.
Thank you very much for all your advices.

I have 8G in my NUC, although I suspect 4G would be enough.

nick@nuccy:~$ free
          total        used        free      shared  buff/cache   available
Mem:        8051408      827644     4051016        3200     3172748     6916728
Swap:       4194300           0     4194300

Ok I´m still a bit in the process of choosing. and I´m still trying to figure out which setup would be better :

  • Using a unit, type NUC, virtual segmentation (VM or docker) on a Linux OS
  • Using several RPi or other to segment physically every tasks.

Because the tasks are separable, easier managed separably :

  • The central control : Home Assistant
  • Managing the HDD
  • Radio transmission gateway for the sensors if not included in the microcomputer
  • Media Center (maybe later)

For the radio transmission technology of the sensors, I was going with BLE or ZigBee. The RPi3 seems to have BLE integrated.

From your experience, what is the most interesting in between centralizing; harder in software management (to configurate), or separating physically; but harder in hardware management?

Hi, I think that to begin, I´ll use a RPi and then I´ll maybe transfer to a NUC.
Does HA is easily portable? Transfer the configuration and all from one machine to another?

Yep. It’s that simple.