New to Openhab - looking for a starting point

Hi Everybody,

I’m looking to do some home automation using a raspberry pi and and looking for a place to start. I came across a product called Sarah and downloaded and installed it. I’m going to give it a try but was looking to see if anyone else has downloaded and tried it out. Does anyone else have any other suggestions for a place to start?


Have you tried the official documentation?

I’ve glanced at it but haven’t had time to get any depth. But its a good point and I will dig deeper. Were you referring to the section on openhabian?

Sarah is new so not many here would be familiar with t, I was referring to the concepts & tutorial.
Sarah likely conflicts with an replaces Openhabian.
OpenHABian is an pfficial easy way to install all the needed parts of OpenHAB… I do not know why Sarah exists.

Hi Guys, I think there’s a bit of a misunderstanding about Sarah. Sarah is a web app that allows you to manage itself and openHAB and to generate the openHAB config files. It actually relies on openHABian. So it in no way conflicts nor replaces it. It allows you to get up and running on openHAB quickly, but in no way competes with it. And, it does not break the upgrade path. You only need to do the normal openHABian upgrade process. It is designed to be a companion to openHAB not a replacement. Does that help?

That is exactly contrary to the bolded statement on your website.

If you already run openHAB on a Raspberry Pi, you only need a spare micro sd card to see what S.A.R.A.H. can do for you!

If it does not conflict, why insist on a fresh install? A powerful, flexible system takes some work to setup & customize. Other “easy” products, like Home Assistant soon show their obvious limitations.

I believe Sarah is a solution looking for a problem to solve.

Anybody using Sarah needs to find support on your forum , not here IMHO.It is difficult ehjough helping people through the supported UIs.

Primarily, because I would never suggest that anyone install anything on top of their existing install that they have taken so much time to perfect before testing it out. And secondly, because I couldn’t find a viable way yet to do all the RPi, openHAB configuration, installing of MariaDB, mosquitto, etc. along with Sarah. So, I prebuilt the image. It’s equivalent to any fresh install really, so there’s no difference other than Sarah’s is preconfigured. It’s just the image you start with. And, there are ways to integrate the parts of an existing install. But, like everything, it’s not for everyone.

To your point on support, I’m not asking anyone else to support it. I’ll provide that. Also, because it is an openHAB dependent product, I am merely introducing it to the openHAB community. My goal is to enhance the user experience and help openHAB gain acceptance in the less technical community which I feel is under served currently.

I agree, that’s why I do so much configuration up front. Instead of facing an ‘empty’ system, the user gets a fully working system and a mechanism to generate code ongoing. Then, they are free to customize it further if they wish.

I’m not sure about Home Assistant, but agree that simplifying functionality can lead to reduced functionality. Although, certainly not all automation has that effect. The question becomes, is the trade-off worth it. For some, it will be and for some it won’t. Again, not everything is for everyone.

And, please don’t get me wrong, I think openHAB is an amazing product. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t even be pursing this.

@rfrechet, what are you looking to automate? While there are some things that don’t require hardware (media servers like Kodi/Plex, Pandora/Spotify, etc) if you are wanting automation for hardware in a home, we need to have a little more information on what you are attempting to achieve with automation.


I have a couple of areas I want to cover with home automation. First I would like to handle overall security through door and window sensors, motion detectors, lights, cameras (inside and outside), etc. I would like to be able to capture video footage and be notified when sensors are tripped and set vacation mode when away so that it appears that someone is home when I’m not there.

Secondly I would like to tackle some of the environmental things such as controlling/monitoring the HVAC system in my house, notify me of water leaks, fire, etc. so I can respond quickly when I am not home or on vacation.

Thirdly I would like to do some cool and futuristic stuff like control the entertainment system, lighting when entering/leaving rooms, mood lighting, facial recognition, etc.

So I have a target goal of what I want to do but realize I have to start slow, small, and easy to get going. It is finding that starting point to begin without having to understand how all the puzzle pieces fit together before I can do anything.

Thanks for any help you can provide.


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Hey Rich, That’s a great list. So, Sarah will definititely be a good starting place for you. You will get the sensor capabilities, alarm system and vacation mode among the other features. From there, you can add the other new features like the cameras, and HVAC controls. We can work on the details once the other openHAB guys start discussing the specifics of the other features you’re looking for.

Z-Wave is a good system for many of those things but They have divided the world up into different regions. What country are you living in?

Wow those are some goals! :wink:

From my own experience with OH, I started with lights (owned a Nest at the time, but had control over that via the phone app; I had a desire to have lights turn off if nobody is around). With lights being the first step in your automation you only need to be concerned with a value of ON or OFF and this also provides motivation to work on a control point interface (BasicUI, Classic, Habpanel, etc); which makes testing of the automation/rules much nicer…unless you enjoy walking to the light switch if the testing doesn’t have the outcome you want. :smiley:

I then started adding a couple of door sensors (this was also a 1 - 2 yr process for me, as I would buy 1 thing on a payday week so as not to impact the household budgets); now I had to trigger automation based on the state of a door. While not overly difficult (after spending some frustrating nights learning rules), a door sensor on the door to my garage will turn on my garage lights…which is great unless its daytime and the garage door is open, in which case I don’t need to have the light turn on.

As you continue to expand the data being sent in to OH via sensors/device states the automation will grow, but it was at my own pace based on hardware I was adding and I’m the type of mind that likes to test ideas on how I like my home to behave (like all lights in the basement and first floor to turn off if my spouse and I have both plugged our phones in for the night [tasker sends a HTTP POST command to OH]).

I also opt’ed to go with Zwave devices, which not a financially easy decision my thoughts were the following:

  • I’m having to pull the light switches out of the wall to begin with
  • I’ve come to enjoy paddle switches vs the toggle switches so dumping what came installed with my house
  • I have screwless face plates due to the paddle switches none of the old plates would fit as they were for toggle, they are easy to pop off and clean
  • I just wanted a switch to turn on/off and report its status on its own

I also enjoy how I can customize things on how I like, when I first started I thought PaperUI was the GUI control point (at the time it was a transition of OH 1.8 to 2.0), so I tried BasicUI/ClassicUI and determined they just weren’t for me (not bashing on either of them, they are great UIs), used a dashboard based on dashly that someone fork’ed from some other automation suite, switched last year to Habpanel. So you have options to create things how you want/like/enjoy.

Hi! and welcome!

A good tutorial to start, for example:

Yes, I know, there’s not much of the “physical” world in this tutorial, but it helps to get to know the system.

Please feel free to ask your questions about any control in particular

Yes, definitely for this you have to use rules, at the beginning it costs interpretation but you will learn (in my case I had no idea since I am an engineer but of a different specialty (chemical) haha).

I’m not so experienced but don’t be afraid to ask.
Good luck From your switch description you must be in North America. Check out Zooz switches.

I also decided to do Z-Wave. I started with some switched wall outlets, a Z-Wave LED bulb and a motion sensor. I was unsure about diving into unknown electrical switches to start.
The PIR sensor detects motion through our outside basement door to control the outside light. I have rules set up to only turn the light on with motion after sunset. That starts or resets a 5 minute timer which then turns off the light,
I have added a Zooz wall switch & 2 more motion sensors. The Zooz switch replaces the one at the top of our basement stairs.The switch downstairs can still control the lights through the Zooz switch. No “slave switch” needed. The Motion sensors turn on the light and starts a timer that turns it back off.

You might look at how openHABian does it. openHABian starts with a basic Raspbian and then installs and configures everything on the first boot.

@rfrechet, my first recommendation is start small. Home automation is a really big topic and there is a whole lot to learn. And because you are just starting, you are not in the best position to make the best choices in technology and devices to purchase yet. If you start small and build gradually, if you find you made a bad choice you can more easily and cheaply pivot.

Camera integration with OH is a bit limited. You will probably want to investigate ZoneMinder, Shinobi, or BlueIris to manage the cameras and then integrate OH with that. Though if you get IP cameras, there is an IP camera binding, but I don’t think that binding manages stuff like recordings and stuff like that, though I could be wrong.

Controlling of entertainment systems is also somewhat limited. OH really isn’t designed for that so it takes more work to get that working than other approaches. This is another case where some other system integrated with OH might be a better choice. Note I’m not saying this is impossible, and stuff like “turn on the TV, turn off the lights, change the input on the TV” are very easy in OH. But “play bach” or “watch Star Wars” is much more challenging.

Lights are often where people start. Personally, I started with my garage door controllers. I recommend finding one problem you want to solve and make that your first automation. For me it was that I had a really old garage door opener and the remote no longer worked and replacement remotes were not available (too old). Automating the opener let me get by a little longer before I had to replace it.

Anyway, once you get one physical automation under your belt, start to play with some of the bindings that don’t require hardware. Play with the Network binding to see if you can determine when you are home or not. Play with one of the weather bindings to see if you can incorporate some of that into your automations.


Thanks @rlkoshak, I appreciate the recommendation. I will look into that. Are there docs?

The docs probably won’t talk about that. But the scripts that actually do the work are in the repo.

I installed Raspbian Lite & used the Linux install instructions

Thanks, guys.

Kudos @Bruce_Osborne, however I have replaced all of my light switches, went with a GE model, and while two of them have had their blue lights below the paddle fail everything else has been rock solid with them. For my outlets I went with a Leviton model as it provides a push button and an active light if the top outlet has power, also has been rock solid. :wink: