Best Hardware for Home Assistant

Home Assistant, one of the best open source smart home hubs, can integrate devices from almost any brand across many protocols. The abundance of the choice is, however, makes it difficult to find the best one for your needs. This article gives a simple direction of the best products across the main smart home categories that will not only be a practical choice but also work well with the Home Assistant.

This list might be useful for you even if you do not have Home Assistant. Our recommended devices are not only the best in the respective categories but also have a great price.

You might also interested in my own setup. See my favourite 16 must-have automations I run on my $2,000 smart home based on Home Assistant.

Best Server for Home Assistant: Raspberry Pi 3b+

To start using Home Assistant to make your home smart you need a server. A server is a computer that is constantly running Home Assistant application and connects all your smart devices to a single hub.

The best option when choosing a server for Home Assistant is Raspberry Pi. It is a small factor, powerful but cheap mini-computer. The main advantage of using it is having a dedicated computer meaning a minimum impact on the other systems if Home Assistant breaks.

With New 3B+ Raspberry Pi a significantly more computing power is available at the same price. This in addition enables you to run other services like CCTV server Shinobi and maybe even PlexTV for your media. Home Assistant developers also recently developed a dedicated operating system (HassOs) which has improved the capability of the system.

The installation process is simple, with the only complication can arise when setting a wifi password or a static IP for your server. It explained well in the installation guide so please make sure you follow each step carefully.

Alternative Servers for Home Assistant:

  • Another option for Home Assistant server is to use NAS. NAS is the network attached storage devices with the primary purpose to store your files in your own hardware, not in the cloud. NAS servers usually have fairly good CPU and you can save money by also hosting Home Assistant. Our recommendation for NAS to use with Home Assistant is Synology 4 bay NAS DiskStation DS918+ This is due to a number reasons, but mainly because of the practicality of the Synology products, value for money and ease of installation. Setting up NAS with HA is a more difficult affair than on Raspberry Pi. You can use the official guide to make sure you do everything right.
  • For more flexibility and customization, you can run Home Assistant in your own home server. The difference to NAS is that the home server is usually powerful and can be used for a variety of services. As an example, you can use it not only for the storage but to run media servers, VPNs and many other applications. The disadvantage is that the installation and maintenance of the server usually require unix skills and more complicated than maintaining Raspberry Pi or a NAS platform. One of the proved and good starter home servers is Microserver Gen 8 by HP. It is complemented by many for its low price, expandability and variety options of operating systems you can have. Installing Home Assistant on the home server is dependent on host OS (Ubuntu, CentOS, ESXi, Proxmox). You will need to use official guides for your specific circumstances.

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Best comms stick for Home Assistant: HUSBZB-1

The true potential of Home Assistant is in integration with almost any smart home device but to do so you need to create a single smart home ecosystem. Ideally, you want to have a local connection to your devices and not be dependent on the internet. This will also improve the security and resilience of your smart home

Local connections (except wifi and Bluetooth) will require some additional investment in extension sticks for your servers.

Home Assistant can work with almost any protocol (Zwave, Zigbee, RF, Wifi, Bluetooth) but will require connecting a comms stick to your server

Zwave is arguably the most popular communication protocol to control devices, especially for sensors and lights. Comparing to ZigBee, another popular protocol, is a more homogeneous and standardized protocol. At the same time on average the Zwave devices are more expensive. Using thousands of Zwave devices with Home Assistant is easy and it can be done via sticks that you can plug into your server and control using built-in Zwave control panel.

Zigbee is a similar protocol but with a more restricted architecture. Many brands like Hue, Ikea Tradfri and Xiaomi use it in their devices. The main advantage of using Zigbee is the price as the devices are generally cheaper comparing to Zwave. At the same time, producers use Zigbee to lock consumers within their eco-systems. The recommended stick can solve this problem.

HUSBZB-1 stick is a unique product as it provides a connection to both Z-Wave Zigbee networks. It can be plugged into a USB port and work with major home automation platforms. This will mean you can stop using perpetuity hubs like Philip Hue Bridge or Ikea Tradfri hub

Once installed, the stick appears as two (2) serial ports but a number of community posts like this or this will explain how to set it up.

Working with Z-wave is very simple as the pairing done pressing the button on both the stick and device. The same process is trickier for Zigbee devices as you will need to run it like a service not hardware driven process (like for zwave). To start it go to developer tools –> Services and type zha.permit and press Call Services. After that, you will be ready to connect your ZigBee devices.

  usb_path: /dev/ttyUSB0

  usb_path: /dev/ttyUSB1
  database_path: /config/zigbee.db

Best Zwave stick for Home Assistant: Aeotec-Z-Stick-Z-Wave

If you are planning to have only Zwave devices, Aeon Zwave Stick is the best option for comms stick. Aeon is a very solid brand consistently producing great quality smart home devices including sensors/lights controls and Gen5 stick is not an exception. It is a well-priced device that gone through a number of iterations and trusted by many Home Assistant users

It is a small device similar in size to usb stick and 1.1 x 0.4 x 3.5 inches in size and capable of controlling up to 232 different Z-Wave devices. It is also Z-Wave Plus certified.

Installation is easy – just plug it into your server and add a couple of lines of code into your configuration.yaml. Paring with the devices is done through the button on the device which has a battery so you can bring it closer to the device if needed. From there on paired devices will appear in home assistant and you can configure them using Zwave control panel.

You can also consider the following alternative options: 

  • Z-WAVE.ME ZMEEUZB1 is a good option, but reliability and quality of Aeon is worth paying extra
  • Z-Wave.Me RaZberry is an addon to Raspberry Pi and generally received good reviews, but a similar price Aeon stick can also work with home servers and even Windows computers

Leak sensors save you money preventing damages from pipe burst pipes. Over 5 million people a year experience flooding in the US due to pipe burst with average damage ranges being between $3,500 down to $25,000. This can easily be avoided with the leak detectors and water shut off valves.

To guard against such risks, leak detectors should be installed in the areas at the risk of being flooded. This includes washing machine, dishwasher, and sinks in bathrooms and kitchen. They can be powered through mains or internal batteries that last a long time.

After testing a dozen options in the market Dome Home Automation Leak Sensor is not only the best-looking sensor around but also a reliable z-wave device that can be used together with the external water probes and (not very loud) internal alarm. Integrating Water leak sensor is simple as it is just another zwave devices that will appear in Home Assistant once paired to z-wave hub or stick.

Leak sensor is great as it will notify you that you have a problem, but you need a device to shut off your mains water to prevent any damages. That is where Dome Home Automation Water Shut-Off Valve offers good response times and simple installation. There are other alternatives like Guardian by Elexa ($399) and Automatic Shut-Off Valve by leakSMART ($229), but with the price at least twice more, neither have any local (i.e. zwave of wifi) connectivity and even looking more robust do not offer significantly different functionality.


Light Control for Home Assistant

Lightning is the easiest thing to automate once you have your server, comms, and sensors. We use them every day and as the use is usually based on very simple rules (only on when somebody in the room and it is dark outside) – the automation is straightforward.

You will need two elements – a sensor to help Home Assistant decided when to switch on or off the lights. Ideally, you want to combine it with luminance sensor so lights will be on only at motion when it is dark in your room. (see above our recommendation for Aeon Multisensor ($58)

The active element is a device that will actually switch the lights on and off. You can do that by buying a replacement for your bulbs (or LED) or the smart switch. The latter is a preferred option as it will save you money in the long run (as you can use normal bulbs which are cheaper). The other advantage is that you can physically control your lights. On the other side, you cannot control the brightness or color of lightning.

Integration of lights and switches to Home Assistant is dependent on the device used. With zwave it is a simple process of pairing to stick or a hub. For wifi and/or mqtt devices you will need a bit more effort and potentially couple additional lines of code in your configuration files.

Switches and lights can be controlled in Home Assistant using actions of lights or switch components. Two basic ones are turn_on and turn_off actions. You can send additional parameters like brightness or color with turn_on action if it is supported.

Best switch for Home Assistant: 

Note that with the noted advantages over bulbs, smart switches require a neutral wire in your switch box to be installed.

Our tests and feedback from Home Assistant Community show that Innovelli Z-Wave Switch (On/Off) is the best zwave switch for Home Assistant. It is Z-Wave Plus devices which can do scene control, acts as the repeater and can brew you a perfect cup of coffee. Kidding of course, but the device is a simple, elegant but easy to use that has a reasonable price. You can also programme it to do different actions based on single or multiple clicks which is a nice functionality.

Alternative and a more practical solution is a Sonoff Smart Switch (which can be 1, 2 or 3 gang). It might not look as beautiful as Innovelli, but has a significantly lower price. To make it work with Home Assistant, you will need to install a custom firmware. It might sound complicated, but you can do it over the wifi within 10 minutes so no soldering required. Please look at SonOTA section the official documentation in the Sonoff-Tasmota git website. This will turn Sonoff into MQTT switch and you will just need to install mqtt broker in your and add a couple of lines of code in the configuration file.

Best smart bulb for Home Assistant: 

Comparing to switches bulbs give you extra controls. You can adjust to any colour, set the brightness and colour temperature. One thing to be aware with the bulb is to make sure that your family members won’t physically switch off the bulb with the switch.

For colour bulbs, TP-Link Smart Wi-Fi A19 LED is a reliable and bright colour bulb that does not require a hub. Like the majority of the other TP-link smart devices, the bulb has outstanding functionality for the reasonable price. It works out of the box with only a couple of lines to be added to the configuration file (guide). If you do not fiddle with config files, the best way to go is Z-wave bulb and Zipato RGBW2.US Z-Wave might be your best option.

For white only GoControl Z-Wave Dimmable LED Light Bulb is a good 60 Watt Equivalent LED white Dimming Light Bulb that you can just plug and play if you have the necessary

Security Cameras

Cameras is the next important part of your smart home. You can use them for the security purposes, to look after your kids and also to monitor what your cat is up to. Below is the brief summary of the comprehensive guides the details of how to use the camera and what is the best camera for Home Assistant.

Main things you can do with Cameras in Home assistant is

  • Notifications: you can send snapshots or video clips if there is any movement or door has been open
  • Motion and Luminance sensors: with the right camera you can save some money on buying sensors
  • Baby Monitors: you can be notified and can hear via Chromecast or Google Home for example when you baby woke up
  • Artificial Intelligence; this is an emerging area, but you can already count faces (and pause your movie if somebody left) or identify intruder using local AI with you Home Assistant

Best Security Cameras for Home Assistant: 

Our pick for the cheapest camera for Home Assistant is Wyze Indoor Camera.  This camera is the third iteration with the previous two products also being a success.

Wyze Cam Pan brings full view coverage together with 93-degree vertical tilting with the same great 1080 picture quality and good night/day performance. In addition to the audio and video feed will give you motion tracker and luminance sensors in Home Assistant. Similar to other practical devices, you would need to install a custom firmware. It should not take more than 10 minutes and all you need to do is to use the microSD card to copy the firmware files, modify the configuration to your wifi. After that, the camera will become a full-fledged MQTT camera capable of motion and luminance detection in Home Assistant. For installation, you can follow a simple guide.

For the outdoor camera, we recommend Amcrest 2304TVL which is a solid 3-Megapixel camera with wide 100º viewing angle and waterproof. As many Amcrest cameras, this comes with 4 Hours of Free Cloud Storage. It is very easy to install to cover your porch or your garden and even easier to integrate with Home Assistant. As the bonus, you will be able use motion sensor in Home Assistant potentially saving you some money. Follow additional information in  Python Amcrest project or in our guide.