Is OpenHAB the Home Automation system for me?

Like a lot of newcomers to home automation I have a mix of devices and systems. The only commonality is Amazon Echo and Alexa. I have a range of devices including Sonnoff switches/relays, Tuya Smart, Teckin smart plugs, Aurora One Zigbee LED dimmers and controllers and Broadlink RF and Infrared to control TVs etc. All work most of the time some really well and some better than others. Ironically the Aurora One is the most temperamental to power cuts!!
The one weakness however is that most if not all rely on web services to link accounts outside of the property and mostly outside the UK. That means if the broadband goes down or if there is a localised power cut everything stops working (even when I use a generator to maintain essential systems)
Ideally I would like to use a localised Smart Home server with less reliance on overseas web services. Will OpenHAB provide this by allowing interaction with switches relays and devices locally without reliance on an internet connection?
I have looked at Home Assistant but although I am fairly competent with IT it appears you need to almost be a programmer to keep it running. So many of the posts are about updates that have broken routines and overwritten configurations.
I love to tinker and happy tweaking stuff but don’t want to be troubleshooting things when they stop working regularly.
Is OpenHAB easy to set up and maintain or should I expect to roll my sleeves up regularly to fix things. Am I being too picky and expecting too much?
Fozzie

Yes, openHAB definitely does.

Most of the openHAB community traffic is about troubleshooting also - from my point of view. On the other hands there are very good examples etc.
Quite every release of openHAB brings up something which doesn’t work as expected. The core seems to be quite stable. But if you look at the countless addons/bindings, you will realize that one of them surely poses new questions to one or more of its users right after beeing a released.
Most of the times your system will not be affected, though (hopefully :wink: ).
Besides the large number of addons, there are some that cause problems that are not caused by errors in openHAB. Best (or maybe worst) example from my point of view is the Amazon Echo integration. Amazon does some changes (for what ever reason) and … wait a minute for the first “problem with alexa” post (it would be great to get some Amazonis who make “speak” on board here).

I’m running openHAB since two years now (staring on Windows, tried synology ended up on RasbPi ATM), mainly using z-wave, zigbee and rfxcom/433mHz devices. I never really tried other systems. I’ve some IT knowhow, but i’m not a coder. I’m quite happy with openHAB up to now.

Me too (no #). This resulted in a second instance / an other RasPi where i try to understand new things i’m interested in (which resulted in a buch of stuff/devices still to be integrat4d in “production” - but that’s an toher story).

I’d take a look at the docs to find out, if the devices i want or need are supported. If so: give openHAB a try. Setup is quickly done.

Have fun and good luck!

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I guess the answer to your question is “yes” and “yes”…

… you can very easily create a simple set up using the standard default web based user interface …

… but you can also get sucked in (like me) and end up programming amazing things …

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Thank you both for the replies. Ive already got a raspberry Pi 4 which I was going to use with Home Assistant so I have nothing to lose. My main lack up understanding was Alexa voice control. Do voice commands still work in an OpenHAB setup with no internet connection to the Amazon servers? I will read the documents but are there good videos which show the interface and setup?
Thanks again for the replies
Fozzie

Alexa commands cannot work without, for the obvious reason that any audio is processed on Amaz*n servers, not in your local Echo device.
But OH is modular. There’s alternatives to Alexa and G**gle Home, some also to work without inet, but most important OH does not need Inet connectivity, everything’s computed in your local server. So if you loose internet you loose speech input capabilities and maybe some lesser services like weather forecast but nothing more. So what? There’s many more ways to control all of your home that will remain.

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Thank you mstormi I appreciate the clarification. I assume what you mean by

many more ways to control all of your home

is the use of OH Apps on a mobile device or from a PC to turn off lights only controlled by voice command or the accompanying app?
Fozzie

yes or alternative voice processors like Mycroft, or by traditionally using devices, either ‘classic’ ones like light switches or ‘new’ ones like scene controller switches or keyfobs.
And of course a well built smart home does not require any of these as it’ll have most of the stuff automated.

Yes, openHAB can be set up to still control you devices when the internet is down for you, but only for those devices that support such interaction. In answer to you question about Alexa, no, Alexa will not work with the internet is down. Any device you have that does not support direct interaction and can only be controlled through a cloud service (e.g. Nest) is not going to work when the internet is down. There is nothing that openHAB nor any other home automation system can do about that.

In some cases, it’s possible to replace the firmware on devices that will allow local access and control. I think Tuya bulbs are among those. Zigbee is absolutely locally controllable so long as you have a supported coordinator. I don’t know anything about Teckin and Broadlink RF. Some devices come with local control out of the box (e.g. Shelly, Zigbee, Zwave).

To have wholly local control, you need to research the devices before you get them to make sure that:

  1. they are compatible with openHAB
  2. they natively support local control or can be modified to support local control

As for stability, I think openHAB is slightly more stable than Home Assistant. The core definitely is. At least that is what people who migrate from there say. But it’s a very large open source project with a huge st of possible configurations. Any given update runs the risk of breaking something. And remote services can also change which will break things on our end even if you don’t update or change anything.

Is openHAB easy to set up? The truthful answer is no, it’s not easy. You need to be at least a little knowledgeable about the technologies you are wanting to integrate. You have to often fiddle with things, look at logs for errors, create configurations using text files, etc. We’ve tried to make it as easy as possible, but defining the behaviors of your system (rules) is programming. You will have to learn at least the basics of writing code and debugging problems.

Having said all that, many non-technical users have not only become successful with openHAB but active contributors to the community. It can be done but it takes work, attention to detail, and careful reading of the docs.

I’m not sure I fully understand the question but voice commands are an addon, just like Zwave or Zigbee or OpenWeatherMap. There are several web based UIs and apps for Android and iOS to interact with openHAB to control devices. Voice control is an option, not a requirement nor the only way to interact with devices through openHAB. The expectation is most users will create a custom UI configuration (Sitemaps of HABPanel) to monitor and control their home automation.

From my experience with Home Assistant ( I moved to OH a year ago) it is easier to set up but frequently breaks due to updates.

Easy to setup? Not really. Due to the flexibility of the system it can get quite complex.

Maintenance? That depends on your choice of addons . I moved here a year ago primarily doe to the stability of the Z-Wave & Zigbee bindings and the diligence & skill of their main developer.

I feel there are some missunderstandings reading the answers. I’ll try another one, looking at a specific part of your question only. Maybe i got this wrong also. :wink:

Definitely not. What you get after installation is a web interface, URL something like http://<your_local_openhab_ip_or_name>:8080/
As Rich mentioned above, there is more than one webinterface and you have to select on or more.

You are going to configure some things via a browser/webinterface after that. No need to be on the “internet” but on your local network.

Let’s say first device you like to configure is a ziggbee switch. So you might want to install the zigbee binding. Not looking into more detail now, let’s think everything works as desired at the end. Means: you are able to switch the device on/off via web interface.

If you decide you want to use voice control and have an Amazon Echo (or …, see above) available … search the docs + addons for Amazon. Afterwards you may want to install and configure the Amazon Echo Control binding (and possibly the openHAB Alexa Skill). After some more work you than have the option to use voice control.

DoItYourself!

To add in and embellish what others have said already:

Won’t work without access to internet:

  • Amazon Echo & Alexa

Might work without access to internet:

  • Teckin smart plugs
    • Depends when you bought them. Earlier versions where based on esp8266 chips, which can be flashed with firmware such as Tasmota, which provides total local-only control.
  • Broadlink devices
    • Depends when you bought them, and what you have but many people are using Broadlink devices local-only. A good check is to see whether the python-broadlink project on GitHub has support for the device.

Can usually work without access to internet

  • Sonoff devices
  • Tuya devices

Both of these are usually based on esp8266 chips, which can be flashed with firmware such as Tasmota, which provides total local-only control.

Will be fine without access to internet

  • Zigbee devices
    • Presumably you have a Zigbee hub?
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Wow Firstly thank you all for such helpful and comprehensive replies. I can see this is a very active and welcoming forum.
To put it in a nutshell my primary goal is to use voice commands for simple tasks for example:-

  • Turning Kitchen TV on and off, changing channel and volume (Handy for my wife when cooking with wet or dirty hands)

  • Control of groups of lights e.g. fixed lights and plug in lights with single voice command (I’m not interested in colour changing but on off control and possibly dimming)

  • Controlling seasonal lights remotely e.g Christmas lights and garden lighting where there is no internal switch)

  • Control of music playback from local audio sources and Amazon Music.(I am currently looking at voice controlled speaker selector switch using a Sonoff four way relay to select different rooms)

  • Control of video and other media playback via Plex Media Server (I have had limited success with this so far with the Plex Alexa skill but need to persevere. The biggest stumbling block is selecting the correct Plex playback device as I currently have one in every room either Roku devices or TV Apps. I would dearly love to get this working for my wife to dispense with numerous remote controls)

  • Finally, where I think OpenHAB might really come in to its own l is granular control of my Underfloor Heating system with replacement of old analogue wireless thermostats and the inclusion of an external thermostat which makes the system more responsive to temperature changes.

I appreciate that Alexa will not work without an internet connection and assume that Speech recognition and AI is only suitable for powerful servers and cannot run on a Raspberry Pi :sweat_smile:
When I asked about OpenHAB apps it was for a method of locally controlling Wi-Fi switches/relays like Sonoff or Tuya where there is no other physical wall switch as a fallback. Unless I am mistaken even the apps which come with these devices rely on a remote web services (unless flashed with Tasmota as others have stated).
To be fair I have 50Mb FTTP internet connection which rarely goes down but do have a lot of short power cuts which means everything stops working particularly the AuroraOne (Zigbee) Gatway hub which takes ages to re-sync with the cloud service.
If a system is not reliable users lose confidence in it and start to complain when they cant turn a light on or off.

Many thanks
Fozzie

If you use the openHAB app (Android or iPhone), you can control openHAB (and devices connected to it) without requiring remote web services. I followed these instructions, which I think are a simple configuration selection (or even default) if you use openhabian. I can control openHAB, and the devices connected to it, anywhere in the world, and I’m not using any remote web services (not strictly true: I am using a dynamic DNS service, for convenience as I do not have a static IP).

Whether your devices themselves require remote web services for openHAB to communicate with them has been answered above.

Thank you hafniumzinc for that clarification. That was the confirmation I was seeking.
Looks like I will soon be joining the OpenHAB user community :+1:
Fozzie

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Welcome to openhab.

Devices that require the cloud may still need the cloud (alexa needs the cloud for any automation system you use)

Most Tuya devices requre cloud or hack to work. I use Tasmota and the MQTT Binding for that.

I use VS Code remote development with the openhab extention to edit config files to add things and items into openhab. I find that work flow is faster for me to add and edit.

I have rules and items that have not changed at all since setting it up over a year ago. I can control everything locally using a sitemap on phone or pc. You can still operate everything with light button(switch) or remote control if the internet is down.