If you take a look through YouTube then you might find a number of videos in which people are showing off their smart home, everything is connected, doors open with smartphones and pretty much everything else makes you jealous of your old dumb house.
That’s especially annoying since setting up a smart home can be quite daunting, there are so many options to choose from and since a lot of options will leave you segmented between various applications, it can actually make your home a lot harder to use and actually quite dumb.
So to help you through the process and in order to help you get the smart home of your dreams then we are going to be posting a series of how-to articles that will take you through the process of setting up a better smart home that will actually make your life easier and your home a lot smarter.
We are going to go through a lot of things during this article series from smart home sensors to cameras to smart home hubs, but to start off with we are going to take you through the first step that everyone will need to complete, getting your smart home system set up.
There is a range of options that you could choose for a smart home controller, however, for this series we are going to start off with one of our favourites, Home Assistant.
Why Home Assistant?
There are a lot of reasons why we think Home Assistant is one of the best options for a smart home controller, it is simple to use, easy to install, works with a range of smart home, is expandable, customisable, and as you can see from the image above, it looks pretty nice.
Home Assistant also works on a range of systems from a Mac/Windows PC all the way up to a NAS drive.
But one of the best ways to do this by far is with a Raspberry Pi, which are cheap modular computers that can be used to do pretty much anything without having to put too much down. And that’s why we are going to be using a Raspberry Pi for this install alongside the Hass.io installer from Home Assistant.
Setting up the hardware
So if you are going to be following on, the first step that you are going to need to complete is pick up a Raspberry Pi. We are using a Raspberry Pi 3 for this how-to because it’s the most powerful Raspberry Pi that’s currently available and it features WiFi connectivity inbuilt, which will allow it to be hidden in a corner without having to worry too much about cable placement (aside from the power).
Picking up a Pi
There are a number of stores who sell the Pi 3 and you can actually get it pretty cheap.
I picked up mine from an eBay seller named norfolksofleeds, who was selling it for just under £30, which is a bit of a deal. You could do the same or you shop elsewhere such as Pi Hut who have it for £32, Pimorni who are selling for from £34 or from pretty much any other computer or Raspberry Pi focused store.
Grabbing a case
We would definitely advise that you also get a case for your Pi, it will keep it clean and protected and it will ensure that the product that you end up with actually looks nice in your home. There are a number of cases out there, however, we would definitely recommend the one that we are using, which is pretty simple but has plenty of cuts out that ensure that you can get to all the components of the Pi.
Get a microSD card
The Raspberry Pi uses microSD cards to load the system that you are using and to store the files from it, so a microSD card is pretty much essential for this install. You can use pretty much any card out there for an install of Home Assistant, however, we would definitely recommend that you use a class 10 one that has at least 4GB of storage, that will ensure that your smart home keeps running smooth.
Putting it all together
Once you have all of those items simply pop the Raspberry Pi in your case and screw it in if that’s your kind of thing.
Leave the SD card out of the Pi for now as you will need it for the next section, and don’t plug the Pi into power just yet either. You can plug in an Ethernet cable in now if that’s what you are going to be using.
Installing Home Assistant
For this next section you are going to need to grab your computer, the microSD card that you picked up earlier and either a microSD adapter and SD Card USB reader or just a microSD USB card reader if you have one of those.
Once you have that ready, plug in the microSD card that you are using into your adapter and then pop the adapter into the USB port of your computer.
Download and load the software
We are going to be using the Hass.io installation for this install, which you will also be able to do in a few short steps.
First, download the Hass.io image for the Raspberry Pi 3 from this GitHub page, save it to somewhere you can remember as you will need it for the next step, which is to download and load the Etcher software.
As you can see from the GIF above, Etcher is a pretty simple piece of software that makes the process of flashing your microSD card with the image that you downloaded earlier easy.
Simply click to load the image that you downloaded, select the drive that you want to load it on, and then hit the flash button.
Etcher will then format and load the Hass.io image onto your microSD card, it should take a few minutes so be patient during this process and do not remove your card.
(Optional) Set up WiFi for the Raspberry Pi
You are going to need an internet connection to use and install Home Assistant so at this step you are going to need to choose if you are going to use WiFi or not.
If you are going to be using an Ethernet cable then you can skip this step, if you want to use WiFi exclusively or alongside an Ethernet connection then continue on.
To set up WiFi first you are going to go to the folder where your SD card is located on your computer, from here you need to find a file named resin-wifi which can be found in the /resin-boot/system-connections/ folder on your SD card. Open up the file and then enter the following code
Be sure to enter your WiFi connection’s name and password where marked and make sure all of the settings actually apply to your WiFi connection, such as the security level of the key. if it doesn’t match just change it.
Insert your microSD card and power into your Raspberry Pi
And that’s it for the install process, from here you simply need to insert your microSD card into the slot on the back of the Raspberry Pi and plug in a power connection into it via the microUSB port.
Once you have done that, the Raspberry Pi should start up and begin to download and install Home Assistant onto your Raspberry Pi. This will take about 20 minutes to complete, so at this point, you can go for a cuppa and sit back.
You can do this in a number of ways, one of the easiest is to go into your router’s settings (normally 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1) and view the attached devices. In there you should see a device marked ‘HASSIO’. The IP address that belongs to that device is the IP of your Raspberry Pi.
Once you have the IP address that your Raspberry Pi is using, enter it into a web browser along with the port number 8123, it should look something like this: http://192.168.1.18:8123/
If your installation has concluded then you should see your new Home Assistant page on this site, if not then you will see a prompt that will state that it is still installing, if you see that then you can go and have another cuppa.
Edit the configuration file
Once it has installed you will need to edit the configuration file to change a few settings.
Here’s an image showing how you find this file:
You can edit that file in one of two ways, either with SSH or via a Samba share, both of which can be installed on your new Home Assistant installed by clicking the hamburger icon in the top left corner, then the Hass.io option and then by installing the option that you want to use.
If you are using Samba a folder should appear on Windows that will allow you to browse and copy to the contents of your Raspberry Pi, just head to the location where Home Assistant said your config file was and open it up.
If you are using SSH then the best way would be to use a file sharing program like Cyberduck, which will allow you to connect to your Raspberry Pi and browse the folders over an SSH connection.
Once you have the file, you wille need to comment out the introduction line within it by changing the following:
You will now have to reload your Raspberry Pi so you can either load up terminal and SSH into it with your credentials, or you can unplug you Pi and plug it back in again. If you are going for the more elegant solution then type this into the terminal when you are logged in:
Enjoy your cuppa
Once it has installed you are ready for the next steps of getting into Home Assistant and having a fully featured smart home.
This is already quite a long article, so we are going to leave the rest for another. We will be taking you through the whole process so at this point you can enjoy the tea or coffee that you made earlier, maybe with a biscuit alongside it and load up the next article in this series.
Here they are:
- Starting your own Smart Home with a Raspberry Pi and Home Assistant
- Set up Philips Hue with Home Assistant
- Optimising Home Assistant with groups, views, and a customised UI
- Adding Z-Wave capabilities to your Home Assistant install
- Integrating Sensative Strips with Home Assistant
- Add Xiaomi’s Yeelight LED strips to Home Assistant
- Add BroadLink RM Pro to Home Assistant