Home Assistant Home Automation Z Wave

Home Automation…. reinventing the wheel

A few months back I had a catastrophic failure with the Raspberry Pi that had been running my Home Automation Platform (Home Assistant). Long Story short, I reached the physical limit of writes available on an SD Card. Who knew you could reach that limit on less than 2 years if you are running an a Home Automation System, Logging Location Services, Temperature monitoring, well as an MQTT Broker on the same box?? 

Unfortunately my schedule did not allow for me to rebuild my Raspberry Pi sooner, and I am kind of glad that it did. During the time of being Home Assistant-less, I learned that I was really not using it to it’s fullest extent and that overtime most of the features that I depended on it for had been transitioned over to my Google Home/Smart Things Hub, or my kids ended up reprogramming (more on this later).
I started to think about what I really needed Home Assistant for, well besides turning on my Z Wave Controlled office lights for me (that was very handy). I also thought about how my Google Homes had been taking over my life. Then it occurred to me. 90% of what I use my Google Homes for is Voice controlling my lights. That is not Automation, 4 times out of 10 I have to repeat myself to get it to work, and the effort of turning on a light switch with my hand is not very taxing. 
Really, I am just being lazy….. End of Story!
Just kidding….
In all seriousness I decided to get back to basics and figure out what I had going on in my house that could use Automating and here is a list of projects I have come up with that I will do blog posts about in the future.
  • Install Philips Hue Lights (the wife bought me these about a year ago, Time I put them to work)
  • Automating Dehumidifier – using a Z Wave humidity sensor and a WEMO Outlet
  • Automating Basement Space Heater – Same concept as above
  • Automating Office Fan – Now this one is going to be tricky. I am not sure if I want it to turn on when I open the door, or at a certain temperature. 
  • Automating my Bearded Dragon’s Lights – Using a WiFi Enabled power strip
  • Automating Exterior lights – Using Presence of all family members and time of day
I have other lists of things that I would like to do down the road, but for now, this should keep me busy. 
Just so you are aware, I do have vanilla Home Assistant running on my Raspberry Pi 3 B+ and I am still trying to figure out what I am going to do about an MQTT Broker to communicate with my Smart Things Hub. I have been playing around with Docker and I am thinking that is a good place for it to live, as well as hosting it on a separate Pi or Linux machine. 
Come September my schedule will be going back to crazy, if not worse with some additional things I am putting on my plate which I hope to talk about soon.
Home Automation Z Wave

Home Automation Platform Discussion Continued……

In my previous post I spoke about the shut down of the Lowe’s IRIS Home Automation Platform. I went into great detail about several of the Open Source options that exist out there such as:

Home Assistant

I also made mention to there being paid Home Automation Systems that are available that do not require a subscription. But I did not make mention of them in my last post. I would like to take this opportunity to list some of the (in my opinion) more popular ones.

Depending on which one you plan on going with, you might be locked into a particular type of hardware or protocol, in other cases the platform might me more Open.

Google Home/Alexa – I mostly have experience dealing with the Google Home line of products, however I do have some experience with writing Alexa skills. I can say for sure that Google Home is compatible with a wide variety of products and services including some open source ones like Home Assistant.

Smartthings – Samsung is another one of those platforms that will accept different pieces of hardware. However I am pretty sure that you are locked into using the Zigbee protocol. Oddly enough, if you sign up for their developer portal, you can reprogram IKEA TRADFRI lights to work with it as seen in this Blog post I did years ago.

Philips Hue – I believe they only deal with lights, many different kinds of lights. From Bulbs, to LED Strips, to Wireless LED bulbs. Within their app you can set different Profiles or scenes for each device so you an set the mood.

Ikea Tradfri – I would call this one the poor man’s Hue. That does not mean that this product is any worse that the Hue, but I will say that the lights are cheaper, like $12 a bulb vs $20 a bulb for the hue. Like I said above, the TRADFRI operates using the Zigbee Protocol, so you can reprogram them to work with a Smartthings Hub if you follow the guides.

What I like the most about all of the hubs that I listed above is that they all can integrate with Home Assistant which is by far my favorite home automation platform. The downside is I now have 4 or more hubs running on my home network, but that is my problem.

I hope you guys found this article helpful and if so please share.

If you are interested in purchasing anything covered in this post, feel free to check out some of these links below.




Raspberry Pi:

Home Automation Z Wave

Lowe’s to shut down IRIS Home Automation Platform…..

A few weeks ago I saw this Article about Lowe’s Home Improvement Store shutting down it’s own proprietary home automation system. Here is the article if you wish to read it:

I have never used this system before, but my very first Home Automation System was a Nexia Home System. I thought it was awesome, until I realized it was a pay service, and I needed to use their hardware which was very hard to find.

The purpose of this post is not to mark the death of another proprietary home automation platform, but to bring awareness to some of the open platforms like Home Assistant, OpenHab, and others.

There ares several issues with these proprietary systems such as:

Locked into hardware – You have to use a set hardware list provided by the hub supplier. This limits you on what hardware you can use, and where you can procure it. Also non-branded hardware might not be supported by your hub.

Large up front costs – Just to get into the Home Automation game you not only need to pay for the “Smart” Hardware, but you will also need to pay for the Smart Hub, or Gateway.

Subscription Cost – You are required to purchase a subscription to use your home automation system. If you do not pay, your services will be terminated.

Locked into protocol – Each proprietary hub uses their own protocol. It could be ZWave, ZIGBEE, WiFi, or something else entirely. But either way you only get to use one.

Security – Instead of all events being handled on the local HUB (sometimes called a Gateway) all functions are handled in the “Cloud”. This means not only do you need an internet connection, but you are relying on the vendor for the security of your data, and your home.

Once you realize this you are going to think, is it even worth it to look into Home Automation?? Why should I do this when the cost is so much??

Well I am here to help show you another way. You see there are several open source options out there as well as non-subscription based Smart Home Solutions available to you.

Open Source Solutions

The benefits of Open Source Solutions include the following:

Open Hardware – You are not locked into specific hardware, which means that you can get your hardware from anywhere.

Low upfront cost – Most if not all Open Source Solutions can run their software on cheap/low cost hardware such as a Raspberry Pi.

Open Protocols – Most if not all Open Source Solutions support any protocol, if not multiple protocols at the same time.

Security – As the hub is running in your house, it is not necessary to connect it to a cloud service (but you can if you want) so you can prevent your system from being accessed from the internet if you want to.

Below is a list of Open Source solutions that I would recommend looking into:

OpenHab – I do not have much experience with Open Hab, but like most Open Source Home Automation Solutions, you can run the Hub software on a Raspberry Pi.

Home Genie – This was the first Home Automation Solution that I used. It was very easy to administer, but I found it limiting with what I could do. Now it has been several years since I looked at it, so I would suggest checking it out again. This one also can run on a Raspberry Pi.

Home Assistant – This is the Solution that I am currently using, and I have to say I love it. I have not found a limitation with the system, except for my SD card running out (but that was my Error). It is super simple to setup and even has a cloud connector is you want to be able to connect to cloud services like Alexa or Google Home.

I hope you found this guide helpful, please share with your friends.

If you are interested in purchasing anything mentioned in this post, please feel free to check it out in the links below.

Raspberry Pi:

Nexia Home Automation:

How to use IKEA TRADFRI with a Samsung Smartthings

So as you may or may not know one of my hobbies as of late has been Home Automation. My favorite platform is Home Assistant as it allows me to connect a whole plethora of products together and use them in a giant mesh throughout my house. 
I recently setup IKEA Tradfri bulbs in my Master Bedroom and the Daughters room and I was able to connect them into Home Assistant with mixed reviews. The integration with the IKEA Tradfri lights is already part of the standard build for Home Assistant, however I have to admit that it is not always reliable for me and I find myself using either the Tradfri app or the remote controls that I purchased for them. 
This weekend my Son asked if I could do the same for him so he could be cool like his sisters. So I went to IKEA and purchased a new Light bulb. Now one of the things that I have noticed from being a user of the system that no one mentions is that if you desire to use a remote for the lights, you will need to purchase one for each room your are setting up as there is no way to switch between light groups on the remote. So not only and I purchasing an $11 light bulb (because I am cheap) but I have to purchase a $20 Remote!!
I had done some research online and found that the IKEA Tradfri bulbs are actually using a form of ZigBee to communicate and that it might be possible to use it with a Samsung Smartthings Hub. 
So when I got home from IKEA I opened up my laptop and searched for a Guide and I found one listed below which I was able to follow with great ease considering I had already done a lot of this work when setting up the MQTT Bridge with Smartthings.

Smartthings to Home Assistant using MQTT

I have been away for a while, but in my absence I have been playing with a Home Automation System called Home Assistant. You can find out more about it here on their website: 

One of my Father’s Day Gifts from my Wife and Kids was a SmarThing Hub with a Arrival sensor. Now Home Assistant has literally hundreds of pre-built integrations however SmartThings is not one of them. To make it work with Home Assistant you will have to use a protocol called MQTT which is very versatile and can be used to create your own Automations.  (Find out more about it here.)

Now my Home Assistant instance is running on a Rasberry Pi 3 (also a Father’s Day Gift) however it also runs on a Raspberry Pi 2. I am also running HASSbain which is a Raspian image created by Home Assistant. As for MQTT there are a few products out there that you can use, I prefer Mosquitto as there seems to be more guides out there on how to configure and manage it.

Start off by checking for and installing updates for Raspian:

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get upgrade

this could take a while depending on your setup.

Next you will need to setup the smarthings-mqtt-bridge via npm
sudo apt-get install npm

sudo npm install -g smartthings-mqtt-bridge

Then you will need to setup pm2 to run the processes
sudo npm install pm2 -g

Once installed you will need to create and edit smartthings-mqtt-bridge config
sudo cp /usr/local/lib/node_modules/smartthings-mqtt-bridge/_config.yml ~/config.yml

sudo nano ~/config.yml
Here is what the mqtt-bridge-configuration ~/config.yml file should look like if all is configured correctly.
  # Specify your MQTT Broker’s hostname or IP address here
  host: mqtt://localhost
  # Preface for the topics $PREFACE/$DEVICE_NAME/$PROPERTY
  preface: smartthings

  # Suffix for the state topics $PREFACE/$DEVICE_NAME/$PROPERTY/$STATE_SUFFIX
  # state_suffix: state
  # Suffix for the command topics $PREFACE/$DEVICE_NAME/$PROPERTY/$COMMAND_SUFFIX
  # command_suffix: cmd

  # Other optional settings from
  username: pi
  password: mqttpass

  # Port number to listen on
  port: 8080

Now that all of the local configurations have been completed you need to configure the SmartThings Device handler, Device, and SmartApp using steps outlined in

Device Settings
IP: raspberry pi IP
MAC: Raspberry pi MAC
Port: 8080

Next you will need to add mqtt to HomeAssistant config configuration.yaml
  broker: localhost
  port: 1883
  client_id: home-assistant-1
  username: pi
  password: mqttpass

Now you will need to add your devices to their own file, or configuration.yaml
Since I am using mine for presence detection mine looks something like this

  – platform: mqtt
    name: “MQTT Presense Detection”
      Friendly Name: smartthings/device name/presence
      Friendly Name1: smartthings/device name/presence
Now you will need to start the bridge

sudo ln -s “$(which nodejs)” /usr/local/bin/node
pm2 restart smartthings-mqtt-bridge

restart Home Assistant
sudo systemctl restart home-assistant.service

That should do it. You may want to sudo reboot

In the future I may do more of these as I have learned at lot from it, including beginning to dabble with Docker.