Advice needed for clean slate startup of home automation

So I’m new to home automation and the only device I have so far is an Ecobee thermostat. I have successfully set up openHAB on a Linux box (ubuntu 14.04) and have managed to figure out how to control it via openHAB. So now I am somewhat hooked on home automation and want to start adding hardware. So my question is what hardware platform should I go with? I see that zWave seems very popular and there are multiple manufacturers, so there appears to be some slight price competition. What are my other options and what would be the advantages and disadvantages of them. I am interested in voice control so have looked at the Amazon Echo to openHAB bridge, that looks interesting. I have also done some electronics stuff with arduino’s in the past so that is an option. My main hesitation of going the arduino route is the amount of work involved and my desire to get things going faster with out of the box solutions. I do realize that building my own, on an arduino platform, may be a less expensive option, but that is not necessarily an issue for me. It’s not that cost is no issue, it’s just that I feel my time would be better spent working on software automation programming than building hardware.

So before I start investing in hardware I’d like some opinions on which way to go.

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I use Z-Wave for thermostats and door locks, Insteon for lighting control, and MODBUS for I/O via Pokeys57E. I am also in the process of adding two BrulTech GEMs for circuit monitoring and hired a developer to write a iPhone location binding and a MOJIO binding to connect my cars to the system.

I think you will find that few end up with a single approach in their system. I have some z-wave devices, a Nest, a couple of Raspberry Pis hooked to sensors and actuators, and am in the process of building some Arduino based sensors. And I use a combination of Network Health and Bluetooth for presence detection. The beauty of openHAB is we don’t have to limit ourselves to any one technology or vendor.


I have been doing a lot of searching myself and it does seem as Rich says most use multiple technologies. So far I’m pretty sure I’ll start with a few z-wave devices. I was thinking about getting this Aeon Labs dongle for my Linux box and a few receptacles and or wall switches to start with. Is there a better receiver out there than this one?

That is exactly how I started. We had two lamps we wanted to put on a timer but we couldn’t find a timer that would fit in the baby proofing box we have around the outlet. I’ve expanded from there.

I have a previous generation of that dongle and it works great. But I think I’ve seen some postings here and at that old Google Groups forum complaining about issues with the 5th gen dongle. You might search to see what it was and if the problems were resolved.


I’m with @rlkoshak on the Aeon dongles. I have 3 of the gen 2’s and gen 5.

The big problem with the gen 2’s is if you want to reset the dongle, you need to go scouring the net for tools. Danfoss works on a Win7 box. Not sure on Ubuntu. (I have some Ubuntu boxes but have not use OH with them).

The gen 5’s have a pinhole (ie paperclip-sized) on the back to do the reset operation. Handier for your “crash and burn testing”.

Don’t go too far though, if you are doing z-wave, you will want Habmin, and it’s ability to reset the z-sticks works great.

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That is interesting. I do have Habmin and have not seen this “reset” capability. “heal”/“include”/“exclude” yes, although it is a bit difficult to tell if they work. Where is “reset” in the Habmin command structure ?

Perhaps it is only a Habmin2 feature, but it is under the network tools, reset controller to defaults.

Not there in Habmin1.

Have you actually used this in Habmin2 to reset your z-stick controller successfully ?

yes, have used it more than once on both S2 and gen5 sticks