Absolute Beginner - an almost clean sheet, lets build

Hi All, please be patient and I’ll try to be quick :smile:

I’m a complete beginner in the UK, just ordered a couple of TP-Link HS100 smart plugs and an Amazon Echo (I dont have any kind of HA hub currently). I just found OpenHab which sounds like a great way to have lots of flexibility/scope for the future. I have a Cat5 network to most rooms in the house as well as a wifi network capable of both 2.4 & 5Ghz. I want to start building a wireless automation system but I also want to explore some stuff leveraging the wired ethernet network too (assuming this will be faster more reliable, certainly to reach stuff in my shed/office, 50metres down the garden and maybe cheaper too?).
I’ve got a mac mini thats not doing much work so thought about running OpenHab on there. I assume I will need something to talk zigbee/zwave etc (& noticed there are USB devices for this)

  • I have no idea whether the TP-Link plugs use Zigbee/Zwave, I do know they dont need a hub and are configured using their own Kasa app, I figured these were a real easy way for a first experiment.

So my goal is to be able to build and expand a system economically and securely, the more I can do within my own network the better, though I’m not too paranoid about leveraging services like IFTT, Alexa etc. The people who will share the system with me have no interest in building this and just want to bark commands and see things happen :wink:

So I have a clean sheet (pretty much) and would really welcome some advice from those of you who have tried all kind of tings and learnt lessons along the way.

thanks - David.

The TP-Link HS100 plugs are WiFi, not zwave or zigbee. See

Maybe, maybe not. One of the great advantages will be you can take advantage of PoE devices, but that requires a special router to supply the P part of PoE (Power of Ethernet) which could wipe out the cost savings.

Actually not really easy (exec binding is hard to get working for neophytes to OH) but not beyond reason if you have the perseverance and willingness to learn and ask for help.

This is very reasonable. Many if not most of the users on this forum try to avoid cloud services as well, though realize with the Echo you will be relying on Amazon. I don’t think there is any way around that.

Be very careful in what and how you implement the automation. Do not disable the ability of your other users from being able to use the traditional non-automated way of turning things on and off. Any automation you do implement should be no more difficult to use, easier to use, or do something that couldn’t be achieved otherwise. If you can’t implement it that way, don’t do it. Hint: if you have to use your phone or shout at Amazon as the only way to control it it is not easier.

Just because you can do something, no matter how cool it may seem, doesn’t mean you should if it doesn’t make the other users of the house’s life easier.

I’ve found the biggest success by making everything I can completely automated (i.e. there is no user interface, it just does it). Your biggest successes will be if no one notices the automation until it doesn’t work (e.g. hey! why didn’t that light come on? its dark!).

Start small. Get your two outlets working to control a couple of lamps or something.

  1. have them come on a little before sunset and turn off before bed
  2. have them come on when the weather says it’s cloudy
  3. have them only come on in the above two cases when someone is home
  4. keep track of and chart when they are ON verses OFF
  5. set them up so users can override the automation when they just don’t want the light on right now darn it!

With just these two outlets you can pretty much learn just about the full stack of OH by trying to do all of the above. In fact, this is exactly how I learned it myself. :slight_smile: 1 will get you familiar with the Astro binding and working with Time. 2 will get you familiar with the Weather binding. 3 will get you working with presence detection which is a key need for most home automation. 4 will get you introduced to data logging and persistence. And 5 will start you down the path of figuring out how to design your interfaces to the house.

Once you have the above figured out there is probably nothing you can’t do. And you can figure out all of the above with no additional investment in devices.

Once you do start looking into adding new devices what you choose and your approach will largely depend on what is available and how much work you want to put into it. Zwave is a great choice if you are willing to spend a little money to save some time and work. KNX is very popular but I get the impression it is a little expensive. But it is wired I think so you might be able to take advantage of your wires. If you are willing to really dive in to automation, and you will be, some DIY devices using Raspberry Pis and/or Arduinos will be in order I’m sure.

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Thanks to Rick for the very comprehensive reply, all great advice.