I have spent hours installing and running home assistant on different types of hardware, first started with a Raspberry Pi 3, then moved to a NAS and now currently running on an Odriod N2+. The cheapest way to run home assistant is using existing hardware that you have already, for those of you that need to buy new hardware this article will give you detailed information of the various options.
Home assistant is free to download and to use, to run home assistant you need to buy hardware that can start from $70 for a Raspberry PI 3B+ kit to $140 home assistant blue. Home assistant has an optional cloud service called Nabu Casa which costs $5 a month that gives you access to your smart home from outside of your home.
What actual setup you buy will be dependent on how big your smart home instance is, as with many things, the more you spend on hardware the more performance you get, but there is a sweat spot that will get you the most bang for your buck.
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WHAT COSTS ARE ASSOCIATE WITH HOME ASSISTANT
Home assistant’s main “selling point” is that it runs locally, that means in your home. With other companies your only option is to buy their hub (Habitat, HomeKit, Amazon, Google) just to name a few, which now home assistant does too with their new home assistant blue, however they also give you the option to install home assistant on your own hardware.
I’ve come to realize that it’s not in the big corporations interest to make a product that focuses on privacy and local control. Our data is too useful for them.Paulus Schoutsen (Home Assistant Founder)
Let’s start with the software, home assistant is free to download and free to use with no subscription fees. How does home assistant keep on the lights? In two ways:
- It is an open source project with many volunteers involved
- They have an optional paid service called Nabu Casa to fund full time developers.
Certain hub are built with controllers, these controllers enable smart home hubs to communicate with many smart devices. These devices can use different protocols, to name a few Zigbee & Zwave. You will find that you will need a USB stick to connect into your home assistant to interact with these devices. These cost around $30 – $50 US dollars.
As mentioned Nabu Casa costs $5, it does give you quite a few benefits and I personally use this (not sponsored) in my smart home. The amount of time & features you get are really worth it. I would recommend to try it out with the free trial. Nearly everything that Nabu Casa offers you can DIY, to find out more I made a YouTube video on this.
DIFFERENT HARDWARE FOR HOME ASSISTANT
In terms of hardware if you are on a budget don’t worry, it is super easy to upgrade later on to a new home assistant installation. Most common hardware choice for beginners is the Raspberry Pi.
The Pi comes in various models I recommend at least a Pi4 kit which you can pick up here, the price difference with the 3b is worth the upgrade.
The hands off solution is a home assistant blue, if you can find it as the stock are very limited you can get that from $140 US. The home assistant blue is preinstalled with home assistant, perfect for beginners and you are supporting the home assistant project.
|Raspberry Pi 3B+||Pi, power supply, 2 heat sinks and a case||$69||https://kit.co/smarthomemakers/getting-started-with-home-assistant/4172355-canakit-raspberry-pi|
|Raspberry Pi4 Kit||Pi, 32 GB SD Card, case, fan, micro HDMI, card reader, power supply.||$100||https://kit.co/smarthomemakers/getting-started-with-home-assistant/canakit-raspberry-pi|
|Odroid N2+ 2GB||Odroid, 32GB eMMC||$96 ($66 + $30)||https://www.hardkernel.com|
|Home Assistant Blue||Odroid N2+ (4Gb, 128 eMMC) with custom case and power supply.||$140||https://www.home-assistant.io/blue/|
All hardware options need at least a power supply, a case and some memory at least 32gb. You might also require a sd card reader if you computer doesn’t have one and a spare ethernet cable to plug into your router.
Other common options are using a NAS (network attached storage) and create a docker container or a virtual machine on it. I would not recommend buying a NAS just for Home Assistant, but If you already do have a NAS with some spare capacity, go ahead with it! A NAS can start from $200 – $1000 depending on the brand, number of bays and the performance.
An Intel NUC is a good alternative when you can’t find an Odroid, or you want to max out the specs on it.
I’m adding a few videos I made to so that you can see the installation process.
ACCESSORIES FOR HOME ASSISTANT
The most important accessories for home assistant are the USB dongles that acts as a gateway between either Zigbee or Zwave devices that you can buy for your smart home.
I have been using for years a Conbee II stick from Dresden Elektronik you can find the latest price here I paid around £30 in the UK. This stick is a Zigbee only, in my smart home I only have Zigbee devices.
For Zwave device a similar device from Aeotec called the Z-stick acts as a Z-wave hub the 5th generation stick is around $54 dollars.
IS NABU CASA WORTH IT?
What benefits are we getting for the $5 dollars monthly fee?
- Ability to access your smart home from outside of your home without opening up ports
- Integrate with voice assistants like Amazon Alexa & Google Mini with a switch of a button
- Text to speech (make your speaker talk with messages), quite useful for broadcasting.
I quantified that it could take you more than 10 hours to figure out how to do this. It includes researching, doing and this will change depending if you are a network engineer or a normal person! You must also consider the support and maintenance that you will need to do in the future.
Nabu Casa is on a rolling contract, so if money is tight you can always cancel it.
Home Assistant is a lot of fun and very powerful and comes at an affordable price, what to install it on existing hardware? Linux, windows, PI, MAC, home assistant has you covered. Want to buy dedicated hardware ? The most you should spend is $200 that includes a home assistant blue & USB gateway of your choice.