Solved

Home Assistant - Is this open source software generally recommended by makers of smart home products like smart thermostats?


Userlevel 7

I’ve got some basic questions about Home Assistant (HA).

 

Is this open source software generally recommended by makers of smart home products like smart thermostats? Or is this a clever way to use the devices, the networks connecting them, and computer programming/coding to enhance the customizability and control? Would the device makers generally recommend using the interface they build?

 

The concept of some computer code, voluntarily made and shared, to help optimise everyone’s smart home systems like heating: I think it’s just another example of the reason for this online community existing. It’s collective knowledge sharing to provide climate solutions in action, and the best part is, it doesn’t require the motivation to be a climate activist. Having efficient heating systems saves that person money. It’s the kind of win/win that is very valuable….

icon

Best answer by knight 7 June 2021, 22:45

Is this open source software generally recommended by makers of smart home products like smart thermostats?

HA is certainly recommended by a lot of people in the maker, IoT and home automation world. I wouldn’t necessarily say that vendors particularly recommend it though - they seem to continue to prefer to create their own (often half-baked) cloud software, presumably to try and lock people into their products.

So it is more for people who want to avoid that lock-in but want to get a lot of flexibility and creativity without it costing the earth.

Or is this a clever way to use the devices, the networks connecting them, and computer programming/coding to enhance the customizability and control?

More this I would say. HA doesn’t require you to be a coder though, it is aimed at people with the skills to be able to do DIY but maybe not write HAL. :nerd: HA also integrates to Node-RED which might be the next stepping stone for people who want to create some automated logic but without necessarily the skills to write complex web apps. Of course, HA also lets you write code as well if you want to.

Personally, I’ve always found that I quickly fell off a cliff when it comes to using tools like HA and I get annoyed that it won’t let me do something I consider obvious but others may not. :sunglasses: Which is why I started using Node-RED and building my own home automation system using it, Node-RED users are often made up from that strange band of brothers.

Would the device makers generally recommend using the interface they build?

As mentioned manufacturers will mostly prefer their own interfaces in order to try and lock you in. Or if not their own, something like Tuya which is a commercial cloud offering that a lot of the Chinese manufacturers use. The result is similar and Tuya have, for example recently started making changes to their device firmware to try and prevent other makers from replacing it with custom firmware such as Tasmota and ESPhome.

Those of us in the know do everything we can to avoid being locked into commercial cloud tools because we know that they typically end up in an expensive dead-end. With hardware being bricked and having to be thrown away while it is still perfectly usable. Typically, with open source, this doesn’t happen and even if someone abandons some open source application there are usually others who will pick it up and carry on.

help optimise everyone’s smart home systems like heating

Lets be realistic here for a second though. Optimising a building heating system is very much non-trivial. Most home automation is still at the stage of controlling lighting and sending warnings.

Open Source home automation has a way to go before it can match the machine learning of something like the Nest or EVOHOME systems. Mainly because those open systems are not generally able (or willing) to collect and process the vast amounts of data required to make it useful. Things are changing but we aren’t there yet.

So best to focus on more achievable goals. For example adding some basic controls to a “dumb” system that you can’t afford to replace right now. And filling in some gaps in the systems that the vendors provide that they haven’t thought about or can’t be bothered to implement. Such as being able to switch the schedules for a whole house based on the time of year.

be willing to introduce Home Assistant in the form of a basic topic guide

Unfortunately, as I say, I don’t use HA so I couldn’t speak to that. However, I’ve already agreed to put together an article on home automation in general. So at least that should be a start.

You might want to push this forum a bit more with your customers in order to get in more people with experiences in home automation in general and HA specifically.

View original

6 replies

Userlevel 7
Badge +4

Hehehe. Maybe I might give a quick explainer.

Well, probably the easiest way to explain what Home Assistant is/does is to have you think of it as being kinda like Google Home or Amazon Echo (or even that old X11 home automation thing from years ago!), but fully open-source and with the ability to self-host your own instance on your own hardware if you’d rather not host it in the cloud.

The closest thing that explains that kind of setup would be how I self host my network controller locally on Exploud rather than paying a certain giant well known networking company with a name that starts with “C” loads of money every month for their cloud based one. It’s another reason why I went with the kit that I chose (and also because the vendor I went with makes stuff that actually looks a lot nicer too!).

It primarily allows you to integrate different stuff together a bit like how Zapier or IFTTT works, but is designed for use cases that don’t suit most other stuff. The best way to create new integrations would definitely be making use of proper options that exist - such as if OVO ever releases a Public API then it’d definitely be a good idea to have the existing OVO Energy integration migrate over to that rather than continuing to use the internal Private API which isn’t really intended for this stuff.

The snag is that you do need to have a bit more tech skill to get it all set up and get it running, especially if you’re self-hosting your own Home Assistant instance. If you’re using one of those cheapo “freebie” ISP Routers, you may also have to upgrade to something more capable in order to have enough control over your router too.

But at least Home Assistant is easy to install on Linux. So easy in fact, that if your distro supports the Snap Store (such as Ubuntu, Debian, Raspbian, Manjaro and a few others!), you can install the Home Assistant Snap straight from the Snap Store (or Ubuntu Software if you’re on Ubuntu) or even via Terminal with sudo snap install home-assistant-snap. But you’ll wanna read the documentation first!

So yeah, if the Tado has a suitable API, it can definitely integrate with Home Assistant - all it takes is for someone in the community to create one. :)

And as luck would have it, someone already has! XD

I still think it needs a REX 11 integration though. No security alarm to date can beat that old barking dog alarm…

However, I’m not a user of this stuff myself, so I’m not the best person to create such a guide. If you fancy giving it a go, please feel free to go for it!

Userlevel 4
Badge

Is this open source software generally recommended by makers of smart home products like smart thermostats?

HA is certainly recommended by a lot of people in the maker, IoT and home automation world. I wouldn’t necessarily say that vendors particularly recommend it though - they seem to continue to prefer to create their own (often half-baked) cloud software, presumably to try and lock people into their products.

So it is more for people who want to avoid that lock-in but want to get a lot of flexibility and creativity without it costing the earth.

Or is this a clever way to use the devices, the networks connecting them, and computer programming/coding to enhance the customizability and control?

More this I would say. HA doesn’t require you to be a coder though, it is aimed at people with the skills to be able to do DIY but maybe not write HAL. :nerd: HA also integrates to Node-RED which might be the next stepping stone for people who want to create some automated logic but without necessarily the skills to write complex web apps. Of course, HA also lets you write code as well if you want to.

Personally, I’ve always found that I quickly fell off a cliff when it comes to using tools like HA and I get annoyed that it won’t let me do something I consider obvious but others may not. :sunglasses: Which is why I started using Node-RED and building my own home automation system using it, Node-RED users are often made up from that strange band of brothers.

Would the device makers generally recommend using the interface they build?

As mentioned manufacturers will mostly prefer their own interfaces in order to try and lock you in. Or if not their own, something like Tuya which is a commercial cloud offering that a lot of the Chinese manufacturers use. The result is similar and Tuya have, for example recently started making changes to their device firmware to try and prevent other makers from replacing it with custom firmware such as Tasmota and ESPhome.

Those of us in the know do everything we can to avoid being locked into commercial cloud tools because we know that they typically end up in an expensive dead-end. With hardware being bricked and having to be thrown away while it is still perfectly usable. Typically, with open source, this doesn’t happen and even if someone abandons some open source application there are usually others who will pick it up and carry on.

help optimise everyone’s smart home systems like heating

Lets be realistic here for a second though. Optimising a building heating system is very much non-trivial. Most home automation is still at the stage of controlling lighting and sending warnings.

Open Source home automation has a way to go before it can match the machine learning of something like the Nest or EVOHOME systems. Mainly because those open systems are not generally able (or willing) to collect and process the vast amounts of data required to make it useful. Things are changing but we aren’t there yet.

So best to focus on more achievable goals. For example adding some basic controls to a “dumb” system that you can’t afford to replace right now. And filling in some gaps in the systems that the vendors provide that they haven’t thought about or can’t be bothered to implement. Such as being able to switch the schedules for a whole house based on the time of year.

be willing to introduce Home Assistant in the form of a basic topic guide

Unfortunately, as I say, I don’t use HA so I couldn’t speak to that. However, I’ve already agreed to put together an article on home automation in general. So at least that should be a start.

You might want to push this forum a bit more with your customers in order to get in more people with experiences in home automation in general and HA specifically.

Userlevel 7

Thanks both, some great answers here. 

 

 

help optimise everyone’s smart home systems like heating

 

Lets be realistic here for a second though. Optimising a building heating system is very much non-trivial. Most home automation is still at the stage of controlling lighting and sending warnings.

Open Source home automation has a way to go before it can match the machine learning of something like the Nest or EVOHOME systems. Mainly because those open systems are not generally able (or willing) to collect and process the vast amounts of data required to make it useful. Things are changing but we aren’t there yet.

 

Now this is interesting, so in your opinion some in house smart thermostat systems are simply better then the current iteration and application of HA... Is it that HA allows smart thermostats to sit alongside other systems?

 

 Unfortunately, as I say, I don’t use HA so I couldn’t speak to that. However, I’ve already agreed to put together an article on home automation in general. So at least that should be a start.

 

 

Looking forward to this one, @knight - I’d love to get more clarity on what makes Home Assistant, and Node_RED different, and if this means anything for what you recommend for the average person.

 

You might want to push this forum a bit more with your customers in order to get in more people with experiences in home automation in general and HA specifically.

 

Good shout on this as well, I’m working on it! :wink:

Userlevel 5
Badge +2

Home Assistant is not generally mentioned by makers of smart devices but where the makers provide access (through API or local network data) the clever people of the HA community generally make use of it in the form of integrations,  which are then available for the rest of the HA community to use. 
 

The whole thing with smart homes and any software platform is being able to use it with what systems you might have. In my opinion Home Assistance provides the best coverage for the least cost. 
 

The successful integration of any system (Tado, Sonoff, Hue, Hive, Sonos, Alexa, etc) is dependent on the makers providing reliable access and documentation to data. 
 

Unfortunately Ovo and Kaluza don’t provide such data for anything which is very frustrating.

If for example Kaluza provided API or SSH access to their smart and V2G chargers I could prevent the Smart charger using the power supplied by the V2G (which is bonkers) as well as allowing solar matching etc all from what I already have within Home Assistant.  I already do something similar with Solar for the dishwasher 😉.

One of the other great benefits of Home Assistant is the ability to talk to Apple HomeKit which allows simplification for the user for regular tasks. For example the Nissan app for the Leaf is pretty rubbish but my wife can start her AC precooling or preheating from her phone using Apple Home, or I can open the garage door using Siri as I reverse onto the drive. Tasks that would not be possible without using several apps and not nearly as easily or quickly.

 

Home Assistant is definitely not for the feint  hearted. It is most definitely not a consumer grade product and can swallow many hours getting it to work as you want but once done it works well.

 

 


 

Userlevel 4
Badge

Now this is interesting, so in your opinion some in house smart thermostat systems are simply better then the current iteration and application of HA... Is it that HA allows smart thermostats to sit alongside other systems?

Home automation in general (whether using HA, Node-RED or something else) provide a glue that allows different systems to be pieced together in ways that the individual vendors haven’t thought of, have no vision of (because they are focused on their own product) or feel they cannot afford to deal with because some bean-counter thinks it will lose them customers.

So I can turn our lights on early if it is raining or indeed turn up the heating. This doesn’t save money or the planet but it makes life more comfortable.

On the other hand, with smart dimmers or dimmable bulbs, I can turn down the convenience lamps in the house if the sun is out or in the late evening. Similarly, I can turn down the heat in a room normally heated if we are all out of the house (automatically - the heating app lets me do it manually).  Those kinds of things can certainly save money.

But a good commercial smart heating system will typically save a lot more since they have links to local weather and machine learning algorithms that learn a households usage over time. These are things that are hard to do in open source hobbyist systems as they take a lot of skill, knowledge and vast amounts of data.

So there is certainly room for both. But if vendors won’t make API’s available, that kind of innovation cannot happen. Then they lose the smartest of their customers to other vendors who are more open. That loses them the expert feedback and that is a vicious circle.

Experience has shown time and again that vendors who are more open, encourage innovation from customers and are responsive will build a more loyal customer base and be able to innovate faster and smarter.

 

I’d love to get more clarity on what makes Home Assistant, and Node_RED different, and if this means anything for what you recommend for the average person.

This isn’t really a black and white choice. People will more likely fall into using something like HA because it is easier to get into. A percentage of those people will hit the limits of what HA can do natively and will go on to use the Node-RED integration.

On the other hand, people with some skills in logic and a margin of exposure to computer development (e.g. through writing a Word or Excel macro or 2) - and particularly people like me who just want to be in control! - might want to jump into Node-RED which lets you focus on getting logic working fast while taking care of a lot of the difficult bits of setting up servers and integration. Node-RED is a fantastic prototyping tool for example. It is also increasingly being embedded into other services. Siemens for example embed Node-RED into some of their smart IoT systems, something that many hardware manufacturers are doing because they recognise that they can add a lot of features and flexibility for very little effort. But without a doubt, a little technical knowledge is helpful.

 

In my experience, the “average” person is better off sticking with traditional switches and commercial systems. Once you go down the home automation rabbit-hole, you quickly get sucked in and lost in the fun things you can do :grin: And it gets expensive if you back the wrong horses. A deep pocket can be needed but then you really lose some of the benefits - you’ll never get a payback if you buy all Phillips Hue devices for example, they are simply too expensive. Depends on what you are looking for of course.

But the kind of person who is prepared to have a go at DIY stuff may well find that something like HA is a good place to start taking control back from the Tuya and other apps that are dependent on both a working Internet and a supplier prepared to keep supporting something. A good place to start linking different systems together.

 

Userlevel 5
Badge +2

Node Red can be used within Home Assistant, I use Node Red with Home Assistant API to integrate systems. In my case it was easier to use Node Red to ‘convert’ the data stream from Hildebrand smart meter data to separate meter values to be used within HA. 
 

There is a Node Red add on for Home Assistant that simplifies the installation and integration. 

Reply