Installing a few smart plugs, switches, or light bulbs and controlling them through your smartphone does not make your home smart. A smart home should be smart enough to make decisions, automate your devices, and send notifications and alerts based on events, time, or information from various sensors.
Although some manufacturers provide a few basic options in their apps to automate their smart devices, they are connected to the cloud servers and fail to work if the network or internet is down, making them unreliable. Besides, they may also log or collect your activity data on their cloud servers, such as when, where, or how you use your smart devices.
What Is Home Assistant, and Why Would You Want to Use It?
Home Assistant (HA) is a free, open-source home automation software that helps you build a localized smart home with complete privacy. It’s a flexible, reliable, and more secure solution than its cloud-based alternatives, such as Homebridge, SmartThings, or Alexa Routines.
HA lets you control and access your smart home devices on the local network. Thus, your smart home is not dependent on the cloud servers or internet connection and will continue to work irrespective of internet availability. Since it’s local, it is also faster and more consistent.
You can integrate all your compatible smart devices, such as plugs, switches, lights, and sensors, with Home Assistant, control them individually or in a group, and create automation.
You can also build DIY smart switches, lights, and sensors for Home Assistant and use them to automate your home with complete privacy.
However, if you are already using smart devices at your home or office, there are good chances that they may work with Home Assistant as it supports 1900+ devices and services. If the devices are connected to your network, the Home Assistant will automatically scan and detect known devices, which you can set up and control through Home Assistant web or app UI.
What Can Home Assistant Do?
Home Assistant is like a smart hub that you can use to add all your smart devices, integrate them as entities, and control them from a single web interface or HA app on a smartphone or tablet. It can also enhance the functionality of smart devices and provide more features.
Home Assistant also allows you to control your devices through Alexa or Google Home Assistant smart speakers, although it requires a Nabu Casa subscription.
If you have smart devices installed in your home or office that you currently control through different mobile apps, you can integrate them into Home Assistant to control them individually or in a group.
You can add rule-based automation where you can create routines or trigger devices based on time, event, conditions, and actions. You can also add automation scripts to define or specify a sequence of actions that Home Assistant will execute when the script is turned on.
For example, you can build a smart water/salt level sensor using an ultrasonic sensor and an ESP8266 board to measure the tank volume and send notifications to your smartphone and voice alerts via Alexa smart speaker when the tank level reaches a certain depth.
Similarly, you may also build a DIY smart household energy monitoring device that reports real-time power usage to the Home Assistant interface. It records all logs and tracks daily energy monitoring on an hourly basis. You can also add the cost per KWh of energy to see your electricity bills.
If you have a traditional air conditioner or HVAC unit, you can use Home Assistant to add Wi-Fi control and make your air conditioner smart without touching the unit.
We have already covered several guides on building DIY smart devices for Home Assistant to automate your home. You can check out our DIY section to learn more.
We highly recommend you build DIY smart devices as they don’t require internet or third-party servers to work and integrate with Home Assistant natively. Using ESPhome and Tasmota firmware, you can quickly build and deploy smart switches, lights, and sensors in 3D printed cases for a neat look.
What Do You Need for a Home Assistant Installation?
You can install Home Assistant on the following devices:
- Intel NUC-based systems (old laptops)
- ASUS Tinkerboard
- Raspberry Pi 3 or 4
To access the Home Assistant dashboard for controlling devices, you can use the Home Assistant app available for iOS, iPadOS, and Android smartphones or use a web browser on any compatible device.