openHAB project - considerations and questions of a newbe

Hello everybody,

openHAB seems to be right what I am searching for – a powerful solution for building automatization and integration which is independent from specific protocols or vendors.
Totally new to openHAB I have been reading many threads in the Forum as well as the beginner tutorial and several others including third party sources about iot. I am struggling a bit at the widths of the system and the many options to get the same problems solved. In other means I am a bit lost and need advice for best practices and choice of hardware and software to use. For sure you have to be a bit tech affine for openHAB even the graphic interface is more powerfull in 2.x.

Would be really nice if you could comment on below.

So far there is a test Intel NUC Linux environment running (Z-Stick Gen5) with a few z-Wave things to test. Open HAB 2.2

The plan is to create home automation for a larger building with different use zones such as:
• Typical living area (living, room, kitchen, bath room, bed rooms, child rooms etc)
• Offices
• Storage rooms
• General rooms like stair case etc.

Given structure and surroundings
• The building is equipped with LAN in most rooms (1GB in most cases PoE).
• Network hardware Ubiquity Unifi only
• WLAN is available in the whole building via several Unifi AC-Pro
• Many rooms 4 wire cables unused left over from previous telephone system
• Cable channels available in many rooms> relatively easy option to install additional cables
• 3cx phone system fully SIP based, telephones mainly Snom D345
• Virtualized powerful server system
• All rooms radiators with thermostatic heads

• Integrated system > room temperature, light, IT, sound and tv system, presence, system health…
• No cloud server!
• Stable solution
• Basic functions must work even the Server would fail

  • switch on and off main lights
  • set temperatures at radiators
  • open and close window blinds
  • switch off hull protection or at least intrusion signalling (siren i. e.)
    • In normal use functions etc. to be controlled mainly via HTML5 web page and apps as smart phones, tablets and PC are widely available
    • Track power consumption, temperatures etc.
    • Being able to control out of the internet > VPN already available
    • Different few on the system:
  • by floor and room
  • by type of thing > heating, lights, …
  • alarm panel
  • statistics

What I have found so far
• Z-Wave thermostatic radiator heads seem to be a nice solution because of Z-Wave mesh technology and low power consumption compared to i. e. Wifi. Prices in the meantime at or below Homematic (IP) so mesh technology, nicer look, more options across different vendors makes me opt Z-Wave at priority 1
• 220 V based Z-Wave things needed in order to create stable mesh
• Z-Wave switches used for main lights will provide control via existing light switches even the openHAB server would fail
• Several other standards for lights available at lower cost

  • Sonoff > Wifi based does not work if IT fails MQTT broker needed
  • Mi-light > 2,4 GHz proprietary, no back channel, API available direct Binding available
    • Cable based systems are probably most fail save and stable
  • KNX seems to be widely supported and the general choice of the professional electricians. Quite expensive
  • 1-Wire seems to be an interesting solution > no further investigation at my end so far

Additional questions:

• Best practice to set up system > seems text based is still most powerfull while the journey seems to go toward graphic interfaces > what is the difference in the outcome? i. e. where is the settings stored? Pros and Cons? Have theVisual Studio Code set up already but have nod deeper understanding of coding even the basic functions seem to be quite logic.
• Best visualization > HabPanel?

A long list sorry about this it would be very nice if the many experts in this forum could give advice and comment on above. Thank you very much for your kind assistance

You had the right thoughts! :wink:
Judging from the last ones, I guess you’re not talking about an existinge home automation, but you plan for your new home, right?

So, my (subjective!) advice: stick to cable solutions, if possible. I heard nothing negative on ZWave, but I’m old-fashioned and lazy for changing batteries. But that’s just me.
That being said, you have told us, basic functions should work, even if Server/Network is down. That’s a big plus for KNX, this is of course down, if your power is out - but it is not dependend on a central logic as all other mentioned systems are.

For your best practise question:

  • if you’re into text files - go ahead with it (I don’t know, if ZWave can be 100% text based, as I don’t use and know it), you avoid some trouble in my eyes, as you can rebuild your installation from one central point on. (I know, PaperUI database can be backuped also - but there’s two points then and I read today of one PaperUI dependend installation which couldn’t be restored)
  • HabPanel is a pretty good visualisation - presently you can’t access it easily from outside your home Network (the App uses openHAB cloud and this one depends on BasicUI - I know, you can log in in openHAB Cloud and access your Dashboard - but mobile HabPanel is somehow always different/bigger than Desktop HABPanel.)

your Long lists makes it a bit difficult to answer - also as you don’t have that much specific questions.
OpenHAB is the ideal tool for you, as you get bindings to all your devices/applicances and much more - and oyu also have this fine Forum, which is full of nice People helping each other.

My advice: just go ahead and try it out! :wink:
But one room at a time. Try to understand one room, one technology at a time. Don’t try to understand everything from day zhero - won’t work. openHAB Needs a bit more time - but it’s a Framework for your thoughts and you can do pretty much anything you wish for.

My two cents. I use Z-wave extensively (although not exclusively).

If at all possible use mains-powered z-wave devices. Battery-powered are OK when there is no alternative BUT I find the “battery-level percentage” reporting to be highly suspect. Quality level seems to vary by device though – I have some devices reporting battery-level of 100 after 3 years of same battery. Others seem (at-least) reasonable depletion.

I pair my Aeon Gen 5 controller with a new zwave device and let OH discover it. This makes it a THING in OH-world. (You can write a manual THINGS file, but it is pretty arcane.) HOWEVER, I configure my ITEMS in text files. (You need the result of OH discovery to get the specific binding info for that text file, BUT I find it easier to maintain labels etc in text files, as well as referencing the text files when writing rules. e.g…

Switch	SW_u_01_LIGHT_Bath1	"FX Master Bathroom Light"	<light>	(  gSwitch, gSwitch_u_01,gBath_u_01)			{ channel="zwave:device:8426aca6:node19:switch_binary" }

For a text-based items file you need the channel info in the code slice above – you get that from the Paper UI interface to the discovery process. BUT with a text-based items file, you can change the various labels easily in “your basic editor” without having to go thru Paper UI.

I think you know this, but for safety’s sake — zwave (mains-powered or NOT) is independent of both your Wi-Fi and non-mains-cabling situation.

I like HabPanel. Accessing it from outside your home (without using openHAB cloud-which does seem to have ongoing stability problems (nevermind the privacy aspects)) requires that you have a strongly-controlled VPN access to your home network. Definitely doable, but also falls into the realm of the “dark arts”. “First you crawl, then you walk, then you run–but don’t ever try to FLY”. Highly-dependent on your router and your ISP. Getting a stable VPN into your home network is one of the few things for which you might consider paying an expert.

As for your general “wish-list” — aside from external access, your main vulnerability is power-failure, either generally to the “mains” or to the OH server specifically. The latter could (and SHOULD) be addressed with a UPS. As for general power failure, you have to decide whether you want to be generally impervious to power-loss of length T – OR — have UPS support for your OH server AND some failure recovery logic for the situation when mains-powered devices go OFFLINE and then come back ONLINE after a period of time.

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Thomas, thank you very much for your help. We are talking a ready building out of 1994. This means we have some options to wire but will not reach all spots on cable. This is why I was considering in parts Z-Wave components. In example I bought 12 smoke detectors Popp 004001 already. For thermostatic radiator heads I am thinking about Eurotronic Spirit Z-Wave Plus. As this is all battery powered devices. I may need cabled devices in order to create a sufficient Z-Wave Mesh. I was thinking about switches (Fibaro FGS-213) for the main lights.

Anyhow you seem to be very experienced with cabled devices. What options do I have here? You are mentioning KNX which seem to be somehow the common standard but quite expensive as well.
What source do you recommend to check for KNX?
What about 1-Wire
Do I need for all the wired systems a gateway? If yes which ones are recommended?

ok, talking about existing buildings. And I guess, you don’t restructure the whole thing for new installations and stuff…
Unless you have some empty pipes (Leerrohre in german) leading to each room, I guess, this rules KNX out. KNX is depending on each actuator having seperate cables (mainly 240V) - e.g. if you’d like to have lights ON/OFF, you have a seperate phase at least for each light or outlet you want to control to your switchboard - in there are all actuators like dimmer or switches or stuff. So KNX is most powerful, if you can plan it from scratch in a greenfield approach. For more information on KNX you should ask an electrician.
1-wire is cabled and connects your devices via one wire (in fact it’s two :wink: ). For that you’ll need some kind of “gateway”: either an USB-Host and a RPi (what I have) or a fullblown wiregate. With that you can have some kind of sensors (temperature are the most common), which can be polled and e.g. put into items in openHAB. You can also have iButtons, but normally they’re not used for switches, but for security at entrances.
Then there’s Z-Wave and as you already have Z-Wave devices, I’ll recommend, you’ll have a look at the Z-Wave universe. I don’t know much about it, but there are buttons/dimmers for lighting, sensors for all kinds of stuff and actuators for blinds, heating, …

So, as you don’t seem to want to renovate your whole house, go with Z-Wave (and keep in mind the mesh, but you have already :wink: )

Bob, thank you very much for your insight into Z-Wave.
Of course I will use cabled devices where possible but will have to use others battery powered such as smoke detectors and thermostatic heads for radiators.
Are there cabled multi sensors available? What brands are you using? Experiences and observations on things? Is it a must that the Z-Stick is connected direct to the machine OH is installed on?

To create a stable solution I have for now chosen an Intel NUC with a SSD. Eventually I will create a virtual Linux machine for OH later on our vmWare host. This would ease back up in example as I could include it in our Veeam backup solution. This would probably mean that the Z-Stick would ideally move to another machine as radio in our server room to outside is not nice. Of course we are using strong overvoltage protection, a powerful UPS, highly redundant server hardware… Probably way higher level than you would see it in most set ups as we are using it mainly for busines purpose.

I have absolutely no problem if higher automation stuff does not work anymore at a server failure as the chance to see this is small. Anyhow I am a fan to keep basic functionality bullet proof. EQ3 had problems with their cloud solution at least in fall 17 it seems. Funny stories about people not being able to switch off their hull protection in a Homematic IP setup…

Wow you are fast…No chance to reach every single light with bus wires. As I have stated at least in the offices we do have wide cable channels (Brüstungskanäle) with separate sections for high and low voltage. Many others are equipped with channels around the rooms just under the ceiling. As mentioned as well there is a lot of an 4 wire telephone cabling eco system left over in the channels. So what I was thinking about one wire for sensor stuff and other purpose as it seems to be reasonable priced and more fail save than Z-Wave and other non-wired components.
What prices do I look into for USB-Host and a RPi or a fullblown wiregate? Recomendations?

Thank you again for your kind assistance and insight.

  • the USB-Host costs 25€ alone ( - aaaand lots of hours getting behind onewire Server and that stuff on the Pi
  • wiregate ( comes with 500€ - but has a out-of-the-box setup, is german based near Munich and doesn’t add something proprierty except the Server, which not only eases the pain of setting up your devices, but also comes with a whole bunch of rules and a framework for your installation - if I understand it correctly. As I only have 1-wire sensors attached, I felt I don’t need it as I just Import the 1-wire sensor’s information in openHAB (temperature, S0-interface, …). If you like to have some more advanced interaction with 1-wire devices it makes more sense.

I strongly suggest to use files for as much as possible. I have a fairly large system with around 120 devices, mostly homematic (about 60, no HmIP, Homegear as a base), hue, lightify and several multimedia brands. All basic functions (heating, lighting) work without openHAB or Internet access. I don’t think i am running something cloud based, but am not sure. From my mind, the hue is local gateway based, the lightify binding uses also local access. Homegear as well.

With almost all data in files, i can easily start from scratch, disable a bunch of devices etc. I also can work with the powerful Search & Replace functions of VS Code. Additionally, i put all my files into Subversion, to have a proper history.

If i knew beforehand, i would not use any devices which are impossible to use with files. (Lightify Binding :()

So, @cl-oh, since your project is far larger than mine, i strongly suggest paying attention to the possibility of file usage. (I use Auto-Discovery to identify devices, then i translate the information into files.)

Thank you very much Joachim,
I had already the strong impression this is what I have to do. For a beginer not easy but I think with the help of this great forum I will manage to dive into it.

The zwave controller does need to be on the machine running OH2. (It looks like a serial port to the underlying OS.) Posssibly you could set up a RPi with the zstick for zwave radio coverage, place it outside your server room connect it to wired Ethernet and use MQTT to put the the main automation automation logic on your NUC or vmWare host.

You will need some mains-powered zwave switches to get a stable mesh. Battery-powered devices generally cannot act as relays in the mesh (because the are not always “awake” – to conserve power). Light switches are a good choice. I don’t have any experience with cabled multisensors.

Another option is Share Z-wave dongle over IP (USB over IP using ser2net / socat ) guide which would provide a little more direct connectivity between the controller on the remote machine and theOH server.

Hello gentlemen,
thank you very much for your assistance. In the meantime I found some posts about the same issue – openHAB on virtual machine and Z-Wave stick on another machine – i. e. Seems not to be very easy to set up but should work well.

Which solution would you prefer and why?

I’d choose the ser2net/socat approach myself if only to not have to run two copies of OH and set up a bunch of MQTT topics to bridge between the two. With ser2net/socat the USB dongle will appear to OH as if it were connected to your VM directly.

But there is nothing wrong with the MQTT approach either. It might be more work overall but might be easier to set up and it might be a little more resilient.

will post another thred in Hardware and list what I have found in means of radio controled eco systems. I did not find a general listing talking pros and cons in the forum. Of course there is discussions about speciffic stuff but not something liek an overfew which should be helpfull.

Sounds like a plan Rich. Could simply put it to a Raspi which is located at a central position in the building. Still possible to remoove the stick and pair it with new Z-Wave devices when they are cable based and cannot be brought to the computer hosting the Z-Stick. Could the Raspi be used for other purpose at the same time?

Or if you use one of those power bricks used to charge phones you could take the whole dongle and RPi to the device.


Or use a compatible industrial grade, dedicated hardware with most of the needed interfaces on board

I’m also new to openHAB 2. Many years ago I used to be a programmer. using C and Visual C and a few other languages.
My experience with OpenHAB has also been poor. It seems to lack an intuitive approach. I think they should be going more in the direction of Node-Red which has a more sophisticated interface altogether. At the moment it seems to be a mish-mash of both GUI and text files which is actually a bit of a nightmare to understand at first with combinations of translations JSON and all sorts of rubbish mixed in. If I had written such a messy thing as this when I was programing, I would have got fired. The writers say they have some sort of altruistic vision or something. c’mon guys it’s only for home automation when all said and done. You’re not supposed to be re-inventing the wheel.
the 3 main rules of good software are Elegance Elegance and Elegance. You have missed out on all 3.
Scrap what you’ve done so far and start again. Maybe throw in some auto discovery and have all network devices appear automatically on a Node-Red type interface. Now that would be useful and visionary.

think this has to do somehow with the history of openHAB. The started of text based for somehow themselves - kind of a framework. Step by step people like me are comming aboard - some technical understanding but no real coding skills.For people like me they are just working on nice graphical interfaces - just try habmin i. e.
As in many open source solutions people simple decide something would be cool and the just do it. This ends in several options to solve the same problem. Maybe somehow a comparisan would be helpfull in order to udnerstand how a goal can be reached. Anyhow lot of nice options in opnHAB and assistance of people with real know how. I did not find anything better so far. Thanks to people like @rlkoshak, @bob_dickenson