Where to start?

Hi, I’m new to this forum and community and I’m looking for some tips to begin with.
I wish to build my own home automation system bit by bit.
I’m currently in the research process for now and would like to have some insights about the decisions that I could make.

To begin with my project, I have the intention to use an open-source platform, I’m not sure yet which one, it’s for that I’m here. Along the platform I wish to use the control center to also plug some external HDD that are not currently in use (USB but I could see if I can plug them other way).
I had in the idea of setting up a Linux to be able to run in virtual environments on one hand a server (kind of a NAS) for the HDDs and in another one the smart home platform.
Does it seem a good solution to you ? Or is there another set up that could be better ? According to the solution that come up, what would be the minimal/optimal hardware software configuration? I know that we are in Openhab forum but I’m also looking into Home Assistant or Domoticz, would you say that it could be a solution?

To direct the choice, I have the intention of doing myself the sensors : mysensors.org seems a good place to learn and start the deployment of the sensors. It seems that the integration with Openhab is not a problem after setting up a gateway (I’m still open for other solutions for the sensors)

For the actuators, in the future, I will see if I do it myself or I buy off-the-shelf, according to that, I would like the platform to be compatible with the products on the market also.

Thank you in advance for all the advices that you could give me.

Bonus : I was offered for Christmas a Google Home, and I have a TV LG “55SJ850V Nano-Cell”, if the platform could be compatible, that would be great.


Good idea, don’t bite more than you can chew

This one

Yes, there are many different set-up. This one would work
What hardware?

Raspberry PI 2

Good idea, choose the Ethernet to MQTT bridge
Very reliable for me

Via the MQTT binding

That’s the best approach in my opinion.

It’s good but nothing can compare to actually getting started and building. Don’t end up in analysis paralysis. :wink:

It depends on the hardware really. But it’s a common approach. I myself host my NAS (OpenMEdiaVault) in one VM and my home automation services on another VM on the same hardware. I’ve also a few other VMs (one for media services, another for Nightscout, and a third Ubuntu Desktop with VNC).

It really depends on what hardware you have, what hardware you want to/willing to purchase, and how much room you want to grow into.

If you are looking at VMs, probably a NUC of some sort would be the minimum. OH itself can run on an RPi 2B or better quite well so it’s needs are pretty modest.

Do you really expect any other answer besides “of course you should choose openHAB” on this forum?

Mysensors is popular but I think the most common approach is ESP8266’s running Tasmota or ESPEasy and using MQTT for integration with OH. They ESPs are cheap and they come with WiFi built in so you don’t need a gateway.

I don’t know about the TV but there is good integration between OH and Google Home and Lucky has posted some code and tutorial in the forum to make that integration even stronger.

Search the forum for “Orange Assistant”.

Welcome and good luck. We are hear to help if you run into trouble. Good luck!

I know from my work that a project that we directly invest ourselves in the doing without planning it or at least thinking before about it, will be aborted due to non-realization , or with the realization of the work needed.
Your comments confort me in the direction I’m taking, though for the hardware, which minimal specification to run :

  • one Linux server
  • VM for OpenHab (by the way is there a version for VM or just Docker?)
  • and have around 40% left of resources in case I want to expand or other services like rikoshak mentionned.

Does those could make the work fine ? XCY, Mini…Is it adapted or/and expensive for what I want to build?

For the sensors, I had the idea of using BLE (+ energy for battery), or Zigbee (+ range), which one is the most adapted for simple remote sensors (temperature, light, moisture, gas…) or am I going in the wrong direction with this choice?

Seems to be plenty horsepower (personally I run two Virtualbox VMs on a NUC5i3, one for OH and another one as a media server with plenty of capacity left), but you may want to pay attention that you can get all the Linux drivers for the machine you will choose. RAM is maybe the most critical issue for VMs, you will need lots of it (2GB for OH at minimum) and each additional VM will eat more of your RAM.

You would just install standard OH or even easier openHABian, works just like on any other machine, once you got the VM configured correctly that is; I am not aware that anyone hosts VM images.

configuring USB devices on a VM can be tricky (and you will need drivers)

My vote for ubuntu (I am using the server version as I only have headless access), but other options exist and seem to work well; I wanted to have a full linux host system for my education (hence ubuntu server and virtualbox, others use ESX, VMware or similar)

There is no prebuilt VM. But it’s really easy to install. I recommend either running the Docker container on your VM, or since you are just starting a better choice might be to follow the manual instructions to install openHABian on your Linux VM. openHABian is really just a bunch of configuration scripts that can work on Linux distro that uses apt.

I use Docker containers for everything though that is primarily because I built my system that way before there was an openHABian. I would probably go the openHABian route were I to do it all over again.

It’s hard to answer. Like mentioned, OH itself only need as much power as an RPi2. That’s not much. For just OH those machines would be way overkill. But it you want to expand they might be adequate. You will need to do some research on the other services you want to run to make sure that you have enough room, plus add in maybe 10-20% overhead for running VMs instead of on the hardware directly (especially for the RAM).

There isn’t great support for BTLE in OH yet. There are some bindings written I think but they have not been approved/merged into the baseline yet

Zigbee or Zwave are good choices. Zwave has a little better support in OH right now but lots of people are running Zigbee Xiaomi sensors. Gotta be careful with Xioami though as sometimes they add things that make them not fully compatible with standard Zigbee, forcing you to need to use their hub.

Though for most sensor stuff like that, I think most of us go DIY with ESP8266 (NodeMCU is popular) because they are easy to set up, very well supported, and dirt cheap.

Oh, good point. If you plan on running a Type 1 Hypervisor like ESXi or Xen you really need to make sure the hardware is supported by that. If you will be running Type 2 Hypervisors like VirtualBox, then the Linux drivers become important.

It was talked about but abandonded as too much work and requiring too much space to keep them up to date. That’s why the openHABian scripts install everything on demand instead of providing a preconfigured SD image. It makes sure you get the latest and greatest versions of everything without requiring the maintainers to build a new image every week.

To clarify: there are SD card images for rapsberry pi and pine64, just not for generic Linux installations:

Ok I´m still a bit in the process of choosing. and I´m still trying to figure out which setup would be better :

  • Using a unit, type NUC, virtual segmentation (VM or docker) on a Linux OS
  • Using several RPi or other to segment physically every tasks.

Because the tasks are separable, easier managed separably :

  • The central control : Openhab
  • Managing the HDD
  • Radio transmission gateway for the sensors if not included in the microcomputer
  • Media Center (maybe later)

For the radio transmission technology of the sensors, I was going with BLE or ZigBee. The RPi3 seems to have BLE integrated.

From your experience, what is the most interesting in between centralizing; harder in software management (to configurate), or separating physically; but harder in hardware management?

Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages. It largely depends on a lot of factors that are specific to your planed system. Do you need UPS for all these machines? Will the machines be physically located in an ideal location for the radios or will they be in the basement? Do they have dependencies on each other? Do you have enough power plugs? Does the NUC have enough power?

As a for instance, I have a relatively inexpensive full desktop sized server machine (server motherboard in a desktop case with VERY quiet fans). I deploy all my different services split between 5 VMs, segregated by function (e.g. all the media services on one VM, all the home automation on another, NAS on a third, and so on).

BUT, I have one of those micro form factor machines running pfSense for my firewall (I ran it as a VM for awhile but there were interdependences that makes doing it this way not ideal). And I have RPis scattered through the house to access wires for sensors and report back to OH wirelessly.

It’s not an either/or situation. You can do both, if that makes sense for you.

Ok so I think it could be good to use a RPi at first just to run the home platform and then to expand bit by bit to a NUC. The RPi can be the test platform for services or application before being deployed on the central machine next.
Is it possible to easily transfer the configuration from a RPi to an other machine?
Plugs, environment, distance… are not a problem, I live in an appartment where even ethernet plugs are in every room.

Yes. Use openhab-cli backup on one machine, copy the zip file to the proper location on the other machine and run openhab-cli restore.