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How to achieve Smart Home nirvana (or home automation without a subscription)

What comes to mind when you think of a smart home? Wi-Fi-enabled light bulbs, video doorbells, cloud-connected robotic vacuum cleaners or smart refrigerators perhaps? Brands like Google / Nest or everything enabled with Amazon’s Alexa? Although they often provide real convenience, these devices are usually designed to invite and lock users into the manufacturer’s ecosystems. Make a cool piece of hardware, you make a sale. Create a cool piece of hardware that pulls out repeated monthly service charges for cloud storage or to unlock extra functionality, and you̵

7;ll get sales for life.

These ecosystems are often incompatible with each other and require several different control apps. Not only are subscriptions and sales part of the game, the underlying business models for these products are built around planned obsolescence and recovery of user data.

Fortunately, in 2021, ambitious smart homeowners have at least one viable alternative: Home Assistant. This open source software is the proverbial ring “that binds them in the dark.” It’s the glue for smart home equipment that spans all kinds of manufacturers, from behemoths like Google to minnows like Shelly. It is a project that aims to change all the smart home mines listed above by putting local control, privacy and interoperability first.

An example of a home assistant dashboard used to monitor a RV.
Enlarge / An example of a home assistant dashboard used to monitor a RV.

By acting as a single configuration point for multiple ecosystems, Home Assistant is a uniquely powerful place in the modern Smart Home. It is aware of the condition of each unit in your home and can therefore do useful things such as closing the garage door if you left it open when you went to bed or left your defined home zone. I never get tired of making the lights fade automatically an hour before sunset either.

If this sounds too good to be true – all the benefits of a smart home without the hassle of shelving – today is the day for you. Let’s go through the building blocks required to put together your own, self-service, subscription-free home automation system. Using the Home Assistant project as a basis, we will cover some ways to have for new technology, highlight some of our favorite open source home automation projects and give you a quick primer on how to put it all together.

Home assistant, the basics

Considering the title of this article, this note is a bit difficult. But when you first choose to expand your smart home with the Home Assistant project, there is one optional $ 5 per month subscription. This is managed by the company behind the project, Nabu Casa, which was founded in 2018 to ensure that the Home Assistant project remained sustainable. For the company, these fees allow Nabu Casa to pay a small number of employees. For you, the $ 5 per month fee makes your local Home Assistant instance easy to work with popular cloud services like Google Home or Amazon Alexa, and it also provides access to Home Assistant anywhere with minimal setup. That said, it is definitely possible to mirror both of these features without the subscription by using a reverse proxy even if you want to.

While there are other choices in this room such as Domoticz, OpenHAB or Gladys, Home Assistant will be our focus today because it is free, open and has a * large * community behind it. At the time of writing, it has over 1700 integrations with all kinds of devices, services and hardware supported. In addition, there is also a common feature on Github’s trend page.

Versatility is the true magic of the home assistant. In fact, it speaks 1,700 different languages ​​and brings them all in one place. Build a Smart Home ecosystem with Home Assistant at its core, and devices from completely different ecosystems can finally talk to each other. Do you want the lights to turn off automatically when you turn on the kettle? With Home Assistant you can do it!

Let us look at a more realistic example of a useful automation based on this principle. Say you have two sets of lights on completely different circuits that you will always be in sync, maybe down and upstairs aisle lighting. With Home Assistant that monitors the condition of these devices, it can respond and do things automatically. In other words, if light1 is on, then turn on light2.

Time for some key terminology: Home Assistant performs such actions when it is safe relationship being met or triggers happen. This allows the construction of complicated logic such as “turn down the thermostat, make sure the doors are locked and all the lights are off when the sun is below the horizon and no movement is detected for an hour, otherwise guest mode is not activated. Think about how many apps you have to open to do it all yourself: an app for the thermostat, a smart lock and motion detection via a camera or a sensor at least.

Without some home assistant glue in the middle, most home devices are not really “smart” or “connected”. They can be controlled remotely, which is an important prerequisite for being automated, but it should not be combined with automation.

Automation is your house that responds to the time of day, the weather, your presence and so on without must manually activate the devices each time. With Home Assistant that bends all the muscles, it is in theory possible to build a home where you do not have to touch a light switch or a thermostat because your automations are created with enough care and thought.

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