Hardware recommendations

Dear Community!

I’m so excited when thinking about openHAB at my home, so I decided to join the forum and ask for some guidance. As far as I can check this is “yet another hardware recommendation” thread, but I’ve got different circumstances which I’ll try to describe below.
I’m building a totally new house, this is my first one and I’m researching hard every topic. This is how I’ve got here :slight_smile:. I have several years of experience with electronics elements (passive and active), embedded development, Linux and programming in most modern languages. I have no experience in home automation. I want to implement openHab 2 in my home. There are bare walls for the moment and I’m starting with some electricity (230V). I’ll be doing it all the way alone and this is the point where I want to ask you for help:

  • I want to control light with openHAB, preferably with dimming capabilities, so when I turn it on or off it slowly fades in or out. I want to use bi-stable wall switches just like in the “old days”.
  • I want to control the gate for the garage and for the entrance to my lot, preferably opened by GPS coordinates of my car, WIFI connectivity, license plate numbers analysis,
  • I want to control alarm system: motion, fire and flood detection. Alarm will be based on Satel platform (Integra/Versa). I want to arm/disarm the alarm with a schedule, using RF pilots, use motion sensors to detect motion and basing on it turn off and on lights.
  • I want to control shades/blinds for the windows.
  • I want to control CCTV system (motion detection/recording control).
  • I want to control heating system (heat pump with floor heating, separate temperature for each room, cooling system - dew point).
  • I want to control outside temperature and turn on/off ground heating for the road to the garage.

There’s plenty of things on my wishlist, I know, and the budget is also a limitation, so this should be kept in mind. I would need an advice what platform should I use for openHAB hosting. Raspberry Pi does not seem to be the best choice for a complete home automation system used heavily each day. I thought of some industrial computer with Slackware Linux installed and openHAB on top of it. I will need to control things via RS-232, RS-485, KNX or Modbus and LAN. This will be needed for heat pump control, CCTV, alarm system. I don’t know what else would I need depending on other “things” I should use.

I’ve got following questions:

  1. Do you think that Slackware Linux on industrial computer with SSD drive would be good option for such system?
  2. What electronics do you suggest for controlling the things I mentioned above keeping in mind budget constraint?
  3. Do you think that it is a good idea to base whole home automation on an open-source system like openHAB or I should go for something like VisionBMS?

I would highly appreciate all information in this topic.

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So now I guess, you’ll get everything you wanted - and much more from here.

As usual, my caveat: every home automation is just that: Home and Automation.
So, you should choose those appliances and devices which would also run without any automation. See openHAB as an addon to you daily life: It does for you, what you would do manually otherwise.

So for that in my opinion, you should never directly adress vital systems with openHAB (or any other home automation) like:

  • security
  • heating
  • lighting to some degree

So my 2 Cents are:

  • use KNX for your electronic appliances like shutters, lights and alike (perhaps also motion sensors/presence detectors)
  • use certified KNX sensors for fire (smoke, CO and perhaps other gas detection?) and flood -> no DIY or other non-certified devices here!
  • use a dedicated certified heating controller for your heating (no openHAB controlling your valves directly!)
  • chose a alarm system, which you can address for arming/unarming (like you said Satel)

for the rest, you can also easily use “home made” devices:

  • CCTV (if that’s only for observing, not for alarming purposes): perhaps Synology NAS?
  • perhaps the synology in conjunction with your license plate analysis ?
  • Garage Control with some simple binary Input to drive it UP and DOWN
  • your regulation of your ground heating.

last not least:

  • I (and many more) on this forum run OH perfectly stable on a Raspberry PI. I’ve got plenty of items (>1000) and about 15 bindings running with loads of rules - stable, responsive and without a Problem (even still on a SD-Card)
  • of course a industrial Linux with SSD would top that from stability and performance point of view and won’t do harm. If budget is a point: start with a pi - you can easily move platforms later.

I don’t know VisionBMS, I used some python-based Home Automation and I’m more than happy with openHAB. It brings hundreds of ready-to-use bindings, a decent rule-engine and is quite stable.
But - my caveat at the end also - if you accidentially write a rule, which breaks your whole system and you won’t notice it, until you left the house: if you don’t do as above you could end up in a cold, frozen home or otherwise damaged home. Don’t rely on openHAB as a central logic - use openHAB as a intelligent means of autmoation - That is, what openHAB is all about.


That’s exactly what I thought of from the very begining: to build a system that will benefit from being centrally managed by tools like openHAB, but capable of working even if malfunction occurs. This is so far the hardest point I’ve came to. Could you point me to such appliances that would satisfy this requirement? I don’t want to reinvent the wheel.

I don’t know if I understood this right: should I have totally separate system for controlling the valves and never connect it to openHAB, or the approach would be to have a system between valves and openHAB that will only receive information from OH and adjust the valves taking care of temperature limits on the ground heating etc.?

What then to choose as a central logic? I know this is actually not the kind of question to be asked in this place, but maybe let’s ask it differently: what central logic system is known to be well handled by OH? On what should I focus when selecting such system?

The point is, not to rely on openHAB for vital stuff. The system should still work without openHAB. openHAB brings comfort and ease of use, but not basic functions.

OpenHAB lets you trigger several functions with a single click, but you should also be able to start the functions without it.

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This is hard, as we only know your short abstract, but let me put it this way: openHAB is meant as a bridge between systems - not the central point.
Best advice is to search for special hardware and rule those appliances out, which don’t offer at least some kind of interface. So: I wouldn’t use wall switches, but KNX dimming actuators. You can easily adress them via the KNX bus - and they also work without a central logic. on the other Hand: Three years ago, I bought a IP doorbell (ring.com) - at the promise, they would provide an API. They didn’t provide it yet (and unfortunately never will!). So I basically have an “smart doorbell” - but it is only accessible via a proprietary App (no API, only IFTTT - but that’s WAAAAY to slow).
So, long story short: try devices which provide good Service in their respective field AND are easy accessible.

Yes - as written above: OH has no place in controlling your heating in the first place. It can of course have some influence on your set points or can provide temperatures or whatever - but I would never let anything other than certified heating controllers touch my valves.
So, as a expansion of the above rule: My heating is kind of special: I have solar heating, a fireplace boiler and a gas boiler, which all are connected via some “magic” to my storage tank. The controller was programmed by my technician - and provides only a RS232 interface. I had to dig through binary hexcode and stuff, but finally can read all sensors (68) and can do, what the “knob and switch” interface would do manually: set the heating to vacation mode and other commands, which don’t interfere with the controller’s main purpose: making and keeping my house warm!
on the other hand, I have RTRs in each room, which are KNX-bound and they control the floor heating valves. openHAB has influence via rules and stuff to control set point temperature based on presence (including homeoffice, early school endings, …). Even if openHAB won’t work or misses some homeoffice or presence - I can always manually set my room temperature in each room using the RTRs (and my heating controller makes sure, the house never cools under my “night”-temperature - whatever happens.
so, long story short: if you find a heating controller, which lets you read out its sensors and send some commands for vacation, set points and stuff - and let the dedicated, certified hardware do the “real” stuff and you’re good to go. but never let OH (or any other home automation) control your heating directly.

as I wrote in the first paragraph: openHAB never intends to be THE central logic. It is ONE central logic, which can bridge the gaps between systems. In my case for example between my KNX bus and my heating controller. Never ever would it be possible to send commands from my KNX bus directly to the heating controller. openHAB recognizes information in KNX telegrams and can based on motion sensors or vacation statusses tell the heating controller to go in vacation mode.

So, long story short: Search for systems, which meet your Needs and be sure, they offer either an API (easiest) can be polled via some kind of interface or offer other means, which can be integrated in openHAB.
Hint: have a look on the binding-list of openHAB (be sure to also activate “legacy” (and perhaps manual)bindings - they were meant for openHAB 1.x, but work in openHAB2 also):

Why do you say that? Many on this forum run massive HA systems on a RPi3 quite happily. For the most part HA is pretty light in the resources it requires of the OH server.

Way overkill in my opinion. Personally, I would recommend a commodity server running a Type 1 Hypervisor (ESXi or Xen) with OH and your other servers (there will be others) running on VMs. I personally go one step further and deploy my apps in Docker containers.

I wouldn’t recommend Slackware unless you have a really strong preference for it. I’d recommend a Debian (Raspbian, Debian, Ubuntu Server, other apt-get based distros) or Red Hat based (RHEL, CentOS, Fedora, other yum based distros) distro so you can take advantage of tools like openHABian. Or if you run in Docker then it doesn’t really matter what the host OS is in which case as long as there is recent support for Docker on Slackware go for it.

Often you will end up not having an easy way to run a cable from your device to the OH server, particularly if your server is located in a closet in the basement or the like. In these cases, a common approach is to host a small SBC (e.g. RPi 0W) close to the RS-232 device with a simple script or program to publish/subscribe for sensor readings/commands and OH will communicate with the script over IP, often using MQTT.

OH really doesn’t have a lot of great support for CCTV. You will be running something else (ZoneMinder, EyeSpy, or the relatively new commer Shinobi) and configure these to publish motion events etc to OH. You can put the feeds on your OH UIs as well.

I think it is way overkill. And if you are going to just install OH I would not recommend Slackware and would choose an apt or yum based distro.

Slow down and start slow. If you try to do ALL of this at once you will get discouraged. Start with some lights or start to build your home automation logic without actually connecting to any devices and get a feel for how OH works and what it can do. Buy a few devices before committing to a technology and work with them. There are always compromises and little edge cases that popup.

I’m not sure what response you expect to this question asked on an open-source system like openHAB. Most of us here HAVE based our whole home automation on OH.

I think Thomas’s main point is that much of the controller logic and “smarts” of your home automation should be diffused throughout your home. For example, OH should say “This room should be 19.5 degrees c” and there should be a thermostat that implements the PID algorithms and opens/closes the valves as appropriate. This thermostat should also be manually controllable and when manually controlled publish to OH that a new target temp was set. This is particulary true of critical functions like heating, alarm, emergency lighting, and irrigation. Don’t depend on OH solely to implement these functions. Instead, let OH coordinate between them.

An example for illustration. I have my garage door openers hooked up to OH. But OH doesn’t talk directly to the garage door openers (i.e. I don’t have wires run from my opener motor to my OH server). Instead I have a RPi wired to a relay wired to the opener’s button. The RPi simulates a button press to trigger the garage. The existing remote and wall button continues to work. If I need to I can communicate with the RPi separately (I use MQTT) to trigger the garage outside of OH.

The openers still can be controlled manually (i.e. wall button and remotes).
The openers still can operate on their own (i.e. built in logic like the obstical detection and pressure sensors).
OH behaves like the person, communicating intent (trigger the opener) but does not implement all the details itself (e.g. flip the relay on, wait 500 msec, flip it back off, check the obsticle beam for obstructions, etc).

Since you have bare walls right now, I suggest wiring entire house with at least CAT5. I did mine with a pair. Yes 2 cat5e in all rooms. This gives me the ability to run two independent wired networks. Also, if you wired it this way, you can easily run POE on one line and the other would still be gigabit.

Have a dedicated panel for your network wiring (din rail, etc) and all your wires to this. Have your switches and routers placed in this panel and keep them labeled and organized. When something goes wrong, you’ll have one spot to check first instead of checking everywhere the house.

Plan to have 5V in your outlets. This will make it easy to source 5v when you need to without messing with transformers and converters. Line your ceiling with CAT5 also to make it ready for wired network camera system. I have CAT5 on all 4 corners on my exterior where my cams are installed. I use Blue Iris as the server.

There are users here with thousands of items and lines of rules using RPI3, including me.

For alarm system, I suggest a Honeywell Vista based panel, then use a 5800 keypad to integrate it with their 5800+ wireless system. All my doors, windows, garage, and few motion detectors are using 5800series wireless sensors. Theyare tied to my Vista 20p panel, which is hooked up to OH via AlarmDecoder and monitored by eyezOn.

While you’re at it, install a solar panel.

Contrary to mentioned above, I control my HVAC with OH but mine is all electric. My diy stuff even turns off my stove when I arm the alarm.

Hello everyone. Just 2 cents to follow…

Concerning heating, I guess it would depend on what you’re planning, both in terms of insulation and of system. Since you’re building, it’s your call. If you’re planning to have e.g. floor heating and high-grade thermal insulation, the thermal inertia of the system will be so high that there is no need for any control beyond what the heating system already provides. Once adjusted, you would ideally touch it twice a year, to turn it on in fall and off in spring. And maybe to freeze protection if you go on holiday, but that would be it. You’ll probably want telemetry, but a control channel is only useful if you really want/need to use it. If, however, you go with bad insulation, cheap windows and radiators, you will certainly want to have a versatile control for those.

Security, at this point: Throw all the money you have for this item in the hardware, meaning higher graded doors and windows. This will prevent intrusion, an alarm system only tells you it already happened. Plan ahead to have the cabling to be able to install, but, at least for me, the actual alarm system would be an investment for later. If you want an alarm from day zero, what is your goal here? Insurance grade alarm system? Needs to be standalone, anti-sabotage, and certified. Or just being able to check on the situation, trying to scare intruders away with blinking lights/some sound and then to decide whether to call the police in case you’re not home? For that I’d say OH would do.

Lights: Well, although I generally agree with the de-centralised KNX suggestion, here KNX seems not quite up to date, considering what has recently become available in terms of RGBWW LEDs. Consider something like Philips Hue here, in my opinion. Is has an open API and is not likely to vanish anytime soon. Hardware from many other vendors (IKEA, innr, just to name two) will work on the Hue system. You can control it through OH and leave control via the Hue app&bridge as a fallback solution to control the lights when OH goes down.

By the way, while true that the Rpi isn’t industry grade hardware, it will allow you to implement industry grade protocol easier than the more expensive stuff: Have an identical, fully functional spare sitting on the shelf. Ok, since we’re talking Rpis, make that two, with power supply and SD cards.

Also, no computer runs forever in one go without hiccups. Implement a preventive reboot/restart schedule, but do not allow the system to reboot itself unsupervised. Just let the server remind you when its uptime is larger than n days. Then do it at earliest convenience. Observe the system to adapt the frequency.

Actually, there are quite a few RGBW actuators on the market. As Hue is great for a later installation, you always throw away both the electronics and the bulb, if only the bulb is defect. Hence, the higher price for “smart bulbs”.

@binderth @Rivi @luckymallari @rlkoshak Thank you Guys so much for all this priceless knowledge! Initially I thought that I’ll build a single, homogeneous automation system and my understanding was that it will consist of all electricity/automation stuff in my home, but it is not. Still I will have electricty, LAN, and different devices from different vendors installed, configured and used separately, but I can have OH on top of it to do the manual stuff automatically. You have cleared my vision in this term. Thank you for that.

There are so many important information here, so I don’t know from what to begin. Please bare with me while I review them all:
@rlkoshak @luckymallari

I know, I know, OH can be hosted on RPi with ease, it will be cheap and reliable, while having a dedicated industrial PC for that is just a huge overkill.

I just love this approach! Both in terms of Xen and Docker, but don’t you suffer from limited communication capabilities of such solutions? I never experimented with Docker USB redirection (does it even exist?), while in Xen the options are limited: you have USB redirection, but it happens that it’s not working properly, you have PCI redirection, but also not all PCI boards work correctly that way. What are your experiences?

My preference comes from the fact that I’m a huge security and privacy freak. Slackware allows me to rule it all without struggling with apt-based package management which in terms of privacy and security is - in my opinion - quite problematic: with one apt-get upgrade you download thousands of MB of packages without verifying what’s really going on in the system. With Slackware I have a total control of that. Of course this is a point for a wider discussion and not the purpose of this forum, but this is why I prefer Slack over other distros. It is also rock-solid meaning that it can literally work years without reboot, and this is what I like in Linux systems :slight_smile:.

Simply genius! Having serial connection far from basement, where indeed I will host all the stuff would result in significant voltage drops on the lines and may make the serial dead at the end of the wire. Thanks for bringing my attention to this!

I want to start with a plan. I have my home designed in SketchUp, I want to draw every single communication and electricity line before I even touch the drill, but before I will be able to draw any line I need to know exactly what electronics, hardware and automation parts I’m going to use, so the first point would be to prepare my wish-list (already in the first message), then the bill-of-materials needed for this stuff, later on focusing on the plan, a then finally some tests with small portions of electronics. Of course if I would buy a ton of parts I’d be doomed.

This is enough for an explanation :slight_smile:.

Now I fully get the idea!

Do you have such solution at your home? It’s a really cool idea, but the voltage drop on the lines with 5VDC would make it unusable in my opinion if the voltage would be served from a single point power source.

Thanks for that suggestion! I was installing Satel’s for 6 years and have better understanding of their technology, but will review Honeywell as well!

I would need similar stuff to turn off water valve when I leave home or in case of anti-flood sensor execution.


I will have 25cm of graphite polysterene foam with floor heating on two floors. Windows will be as close to passive as possible in relation to costs.

Prevention: to scare people away.

Are you refering to KNX only in terms of light control? And what has recently become available in terms of RGBWW LEDs? I’m sorry, but I’m quite new to the topic :slight_smile:.

Be careful with DIY stuff concerning heating and security. not only do you rely your health and your house on that - there could be some regulations on that in Poland…

Basically, there are two main “worlds” in lights:

  • just bulbs turning ON/OFF and dimming them
  • using the LED technology to also change Colors

There are of course loads of actuators, which do the first Job (on/off, dimming), but there are also actuators, which can handle RGBW(W) LEDs, meaning they can also change colors.

So, in my opinion the sole bulbs turning ON/OFF with dimming cabapilities seems to be cheaper than RGBW(W) LEDs. If I would be interrested in the first solution, should I look for KNX bulb controllers?

You should at first make yourself familiar with KNX itself! :wink:
no offense, but KNX is even for technically minded people not self-explaining at first.

Try: https://www.knx.org/knx-en/Landing-Pages/development/how-to-start/index.php or a good book on home automation and KNX. I don’t know any in polnish, I’m afraid.

tl:dr> for KNX to work, you Need:

  • your bulb connected via a seperate Phase to
  • your dimming/Switch actuator
  • KNX bus cable to every actuator/sensor

So in that simple case:

  • your bulb is connnected to your central control box (cellar?) so you can connect the Phase
  • your actuator is situated in the same central control box (they’re typically DIN rail). The actuator Switches/dimms/changes color of your bulb according to the used technique (dimming LEDs is different to dimming edison lamps - but most KNX actuators either recognize dimming types or a programmable for the kind of dimming)
  • the KNX bus cable runs through your whole house (could be any topology, but no loop is allowed) and connects your light switches/sensors and other KNX stuff with the dimming actuator.

That way it’s irrelevant, whether you touch your switch in the room or you send a KNX telegram via OH2 or manually - the actuator which listens to the so-called GA (group address) will react and do as told (in our case switch on/off or dimm). You can easily reprogramm your switches without the need to change any wiring.

downside: if you want to alter your configuration (adding new KNX devices, changing programmed commands within KNX devices) you need a software called “ETS”, which isn’t free, but costs a few 100€.
upside: you can control every aspect of your KNX installation yourself and you’re absolutely free on how and when to expose KNX to e.g. openHAB.

OK, so how is it different to Philips Hue light bulbs? Also: what are other options than KNX, that I could go for? I know about Modbus-based systems, but I don’t know what is the modern approach. I know that my heating system (heat pump) will only have a Modbus control exposed to building management system and thus I’m thinking if it would be worth trying to go for Modbus for a complete building.

simply Philips Hue light bulbs have all the logic within the bulb.
with KNX and other systems you have that seperated:

  • the lamp - it just lights, dimms or changes Color
  • and the controlling unit - it controls how the lamp works

so, if your lamp is defect - you just change it with a new one, the logic stays in the actuator. the Hue bulb is changed with its logic. Then you have the hue bridge, which is like the KNX bus and provides the API and the communication protocol.

I know nothing on Modbus, so I’m not the best to answer this. But I can imagine, using modbus for getting information from your heating and send some commands to it. And you have detached from it some kind of system for your lights.
Best of breed means, you’re using dedicated (the best suited!) systems for different aspects (in our case: heating, light/electric, security, …) - you can always connect the gaps between that systems via openHAB.
My advice is, use one dedicated system for lights and the rest for your electric (outlets, blinds, …) this one saves you much hair, as you only have to adress one system per usecases and not many. You could easily lose track on which device is controlled by which system… If you have e.g. KNX for all your electrical devices - you can stay within the boundaries of KNX and have a basic setup for all actions (switches for light, blinds, …, temparature and motion sensors, …). That way not only the WAF is higher, but you can also use the Basic functions in your house even if openHAB or some other logic modules are offline.

And what is WAF :smiley:? Sorry for being such a noob!

W ife
A cceptance
F actor

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Yep, here I meant KNX only in terms of lighting. RGBWW refers to a technology where each lamp has five LEDs, RGB plus warm white and cold white. This enables a much more nuanced color display than just RGB, additionally it gives a smooth control over color temperature for pure white, ranging from about 2000 to 6000K. It is in my opinion perfect for creating/supporting moods and scenes with light.

The KNX solutions for this I am aware of provide the five output voltages for the LED, meaning they are suitable to control LED strips, but not bulbs. There is currently no way to encode this kind of information in the mains. Since there is no other cabling to a light than that, any RGB(WW) capable bulb needs an additional channel of communication.

To decide whether this is something you or anyone else in the house will want, maybe just buy a starter kit and play with it. You could sell it if you decide to go to a switch&dimmer only solution. It can also be fitted later, but considering the cost of a first KNX and then Hue installation, you should carefully think if you really need the former, in case you already decided you’ll want the latter on the long run.

Thanks for a great answer!

Is it a crazy idea to do with it an ambient light for home cinema :slight_smile:? Something like Philips Ambilight?