My experience with OH after 3 months (for those who still hesitate and don't know where to start from)

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Hi,

I’m a recent Openhab adopter and I though that my feedback would be useful for anyone who is willing to start with OH.

I’ve started to use Openhab during Covid-19 and I must admit that this took me sometimes to get familiar with the solution.

The following text describes all PRO & CONS I’ve encountered since the first day.

Usage

I’m leaving in a house in south France and I’m lucky enough to have a garden slat (gates), garage door & swimming pool.

The first usage was to open gates & garage door automatically thanks to our iPhone presence detection.

Second use case was optimise pool pump electric consumption with my solar plant installation (12 solar panel + 1 SMA 3Kw Inverter).

Lastly I was looking for a unique place to manage my house components.

First Feedback

I can’t really compare with competitor but after few weeks of usage I’m 100% happy & satisfied with this service.

Very reliable despite the large customisation implemented.

Even if the exercise was interesting & fun I realise I’ve spent a lot of time debugging my devices.

I guess this is normal as I didn’t know anything about home automation, Zwave, Raspberry & Openhab before starting.

Why Openhab ?

Probably thanks to recommandation from a friend and online benchmark.

This solution is fully customisable with a large English community (English is important if you want to start on Openhab)

Regarding the flexibility - I’m not a developer but I can code with basic scripting.

Hardware

I have first tested Openhab on my Mac - then quickly reinstall OH on a newly acquired Raspberry pi 4 (around 100$)

Devices : I decided to go for Qubino relay - 4 in total :

  • 1 for Garage power (with Dry connection - Connection SEC) 50$

  • 1 for Slat power (with Dry connection - Connection SEC) 50$

  • 1 for pump pool 50$

  • 1 for electric consumption 50$

  • Finally a USB Dongle for Zwave as everything is Zwave Plus compliant. 50$

Total : Around 300-400$

Main difficulties

OH 2.5 is pretty stable but I’ve faced few issues during the setup:

Homekit - I’ve lost lot of time trying to setup Homekit add ons in OH. It has been somehow very complicated to sync accessories at the beginning. I finally decided to use Homebridge with the combination of Locative.

I’ve then move to Geofency (4$) and OH REST APIs to get a more stable et robust configuration.

Missing / Not up-to-date plugins : I was looking for an add-on for my Internet box (live box) + add ons for my SMA inverter / Sadly it was not existing or not adapted for my needs.

Hopefully I manage to use exec bindings instead with some python & bash script. Technical but great capacities.

My alarm system (cheap one) was not available in the add-ons list so I had to screen-scrap the alarm back office system connected with a ethernet cable. It works but took my few hours to setup it perfectly.

Items - It took me something to understand the notion of things, items despite the fact that the documentation is pretty good. Maybe I missed some good hints at the beginning.

Rules - I had something to customised rules extensively - I love that but this is time consuming.

Zwave & Qubino - Few issues related to the USB dongle not compatible with my Raspberry pi 4 (I had to connected to useless keyboard in between to make it works with keyboard usb hub)

But the main issue I faced was related to the poor Zwave things settings interface - somehow buggy and hard to understand. I’ve lost hours due to that.

Old material - None of my slat, garage, pool & aircon are connected to web - as a result I had to use Zwave relays & lots of custom (lot …)

Airconditionning - I didn’t manage to configure my airco Daikin split with OH - the split is not wifi compatible and there is not web server associated as far as I know (+ it is not recommended to turn on & off via electric wave)

I will probably have to setup an infrared setup if I really need this to be connected to OH.

Results

The result is amazing : My pool pump is connected to my solar inverter and only runs when sun is producing enough energy (with the exception of bad weather conditions)

My garage & slat are opening automatically when I’m 100 meters close from my house - this is so cool when I’m on my bike without any keys handy … btw I’m not taking my keys anymore with me :slight_smile:

I can use my iPhone & Siri to open gates & garage door easily - this is so cool knowing that you can also create Shortcuts & automation script on your phone.

Lastly no need to activate alarm manually - it turns on & off automatically when leaving & coming back to my place.

Heating was already pretty automatic thanks to Netatmo but I manage to connect it easily to OH thanks to bindings.

I can now close & open doors when I’m not at home - check if pool pump is still working fine … very useful

Concerns

What if is I decide to move house - I don’t think most of people will be able to understand the overall setup - too technical & too customised I’m afraid and I should remove all of that before selling the house.

I understand this is a comment that fits to most of House IT stuffs but I’m sure that some All-in Box solution can be easier.

What if I need to reinstall OH due to an new issue on my raspberry (I had one after installing apache & php on it) - I realised that some setup as not associated to my config files (rules, items , things) and I can hardly have a ghost image in case something goes wrong (I might be wrong on this)

What about my Qubino lifetime ? Nothing related to OH but still important.

I had to open few external ports on my router to make it works (especially for Geofency presence config) - I know this is not good but I didn’t find a better solution.

What’s next

Just some fine tuning now as customisation is somehow not perfectly.

I guess I should document things & answer Q&A if you have some.

Thanks Openhab team & contributor - very useful feedback from @rlkoshak and the rest of the team !

Ben

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Don’t you use openHABian ? It has all the backup capabilities you need built in.

PaperUI or habmin ? Both to be replaced in OH3.

You can use backup solutions in openhabian. I run off ssd and copy my drive using a hard drive copier from time to time. Saying there are many options for a ghost type copy. You can find one that works for you.

This shouldn’t have been required. If you use the GPS Tracker add-on with myopenhab.org, That’'s what i use and it woks very well.

As for backups, openHABian, as mentioned, comes with Amanda fo backups. sudo openhab-cli backup will backup all the OH configs.And an image of the whole sd card makes a good bakup as well.

Thanks for the reply. I’ve preferred to install myself in order to understand the way it works. Maybe not the right choice indeed.

I’m using PaperUI - I’m glad improvements are coming.

Thanks - Ideally I would like to create a backup easily without touching the raspberry (using ssh only for instance) - I will have to give another try.

Thanks Rich - I think I didn’t land on the right article when searching for a GPS tracker solution. Might be the way I’m using the community via Google that not already provided the best-in-class config. I will give a try to the integration with Owntracks - sounds promising to me.

https://www.linux-tips-and-tricks.de/en/backup/

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You can still migrate to openHABian Just use openhab-cli backup/restore to save/restore later your openHAB config.
If you want to know what openHABian does just read the code in /opt/openhabian. It’s just all scripts.

habmin works better for ZWave (it has less bugs) and it is available today.

2 Likes

If you want to look at another great rule engine I’d recommend HABApp.
With it you can create rules in pure python (3) and it has some nice features built in like parameter files, triggering when an item is constant for some time and of course the great MultiModeItem.

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What do you mean under “online benchmark”?

Sorry I should have say “home automation solutions reviews accessible online”
Below an example : https://www.smarthomeblog.net/openhab-home-assistant-domoticz/

I’ve noted many new users seem to struggle with this. I guess it’s one of those things where the docs make sense only after you’ve grasped the idea.

I also have a view that the tempting “Simple Mode” makes matters worse, in attempting to hide the complexity it just leaves the new user with no clue about what is going on.

I think we need to look at this area.

4 Likes

I fear this suggestion may bring down the wrath of !@#$%^ on me but I have long felt that a lot of newbie confusion could be eliminated by a through end to end example.
A step-by-step procedure with an explanation at each step for what will be done, why doing it, what the results should be, what files will be modified and what the modifications will be.

I know it seems everyone has their own step-by-step procedure(s) and this suggestion would seem to elevate one to be superior to the rest but that doesn’t have to be. If someone has what they believe to be a viable alternative then they can post their step-by-step procedure.

My $0.02

That only works for predefined starting and end points.

Java is flexible enough to run on a wide variety of hardware as a starting point. OpenHAB is a very flexible framework with a multitude of addons. OpenHAB itself without any addons is useless.People buy hardware supporting a wide variety of protocols, each with its particular steps.

There are too many permutations & combinations to have something workable for a step by step process.

At least a ‘Hello World’ example would be ok :wink:

I started with openHAB1.0 :slight_smile: and got openHAB up and running in about 5 Minutes(!) and the steps were

  1. download zip for runtime, addons and demo.
  2. unpack runtime
  3. unpack demo and place the files in conf directory
  4. call start.bat (yes, I started with Windows as a first test)
  5. call 127.0.0.1:8080/openhab.app?sitemap=demo in a browser (only chrome at this time)

openHAB2 is even easier to startup, as only one file needs to be unpacked. But from that point it’s far more complex. Even using the demo does not help, as the demo is text only configuration.

Maybe some short(! - about 1 Minute each) video tutorials would help (how to install openHAB, how to install a binding, how to create an item, hot to create a thing, how to create a simple rule and so on)
I’m not a video blogger, so I’m out for this :slight_smile:

2 Likes

Well this request keeps being raised often but it is something extraordinarily hard you request, which in turn most new users do not understand.
Any end-to-end example would need on the one hand side to be about hands-on hardware you try to get to control and about hardware the user to view that tutorial also possesses to reproduce the steps.
The bottom line is that openHAB is incredibly flexible und supports hundreds of technologies and there is very little of such common ground to everybody.
As a result, openHAB manuals/demos/tutorials can NEVER become that concrete as new users would love it to see because the tutorial uses the same hardware they own, they MUST remain a little abstract as they need to apply to various technologies and devices. I understand that that ‘tone’ is always leaving a bad feeling to newbies. But that’s boon and bane of openHAB’s flexibility.
It’s way simpler on less flexible systems simply because they support far less HW.

Did you see the New User tutorial ? The demo setup on your box ?

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I think the tutorial needs to be rewritten without simple mode to better give a sense of how the concepts connect together.

I know there are many permutations and combinations. I’m asking, “just pick one”, anyone. I feel that if I saw how an expert added something…say a light bulb (or what ever) then I would have an idea what to do for my device, even if it is very different. Something end-to-end from opening the box to a few rules.
I started with OpenHAB over a year and a half ago and have my system up and running. I took over the security system that was installed in this house. It has four door sensors, Five window sensors, two smoke and heat sensors, and a glass break sensor. It also has z-wave door locks and a z-wave thermostat. It should also have two First Alert z-wave CO detectors but I haven’t been able to get them working. If any sensor(s) trip I get a text message and an email.
In spite of that success I still cringe at the thought of adding another device. In fact I just added the second door lock a few weeks ago and it was a PITA. It was a long time since I added to OH and, frankly at 72 years of age, I don’t remember like I used to. So I kept a log file from when I started. The file is now nine pages long so it was a chore to ferret out the steps. As for the new lock, I can’t interpret the garbage it sends but I can tell which garbage means closed and which means open. Good enough for now, someday I’ll get back to it.
I have a few other devices that by rights should be within OH (five or six wi-fi outlets, another thermostat, a doorbell camera, a temperature/humidity sensor) but it looks like a lot of effort so I stick with the individual phone apps.

Markus, I used what ever User Tutorial was in place when I started and have been back to it many times so unless this is very new I have used it.

As for Java, I have no idea what to do with OH and Java. I have seen mention of it sprinkled through posts here but haven’t seen a need to learn how to apply it. I have experience writing Java code but that was a few years ago.

Sorry this got so long but I thought I needed to establish where I am in the OH process.
Thanks for your time.

Owntracks is very good bot not on Iphone. It always turns off GPS always on back to on demand and tracking stops. If you find a solution, pls tell me. It works like a charm on Android phones.