start using home assistant (esphome 1)

what you need to run your own home automation server

  • Raspberry Pi – a kit with Raspberry Pi 3+ or later with the recommended power supply, 32Gb SD card, heatsinks and/or cooling fan. A Raspberry Pi 4 will also need a micro-HDMI to full HDMI cable. A Raspberry Pi 3 will need a regular HDMI cable. You can buy an inexpensive ‘compatible’ HDMI to DVI cable on ebay.
  • You may initially need a USB keyboard and monitor (see below*) .
  • Ethernet cable for a wired connection to your broadband router.
  • A spare SD card and an SD card reader or disc space for a backup of your setup

First timers: use a Raspberry Pi to run Home Assistant (aka Hassio). Here’s a video, with thanks to Juan, that I found useful – Home Assistant Part 1: Hass.io Installation. Juan shows how to download a hassio image and download a copy of balenaEtcher. Next he shows how to use balenaEtcher to copy hassio to your SD card and how to edit a file to add your wifi settings.

Expert users: if you’re comfortable with a command line, you can create Home Assistant in Virtualbox. It runs faster than a Raspberry Pi. I used this detailed youtube tutorial: migrating to a virtual machine

a list of things to do when Home Assistant is up and running

  • When Home Assistant is running, you use it from your desktop machine from a link such as http://hassio.local:8123 or http://192.168.x.x:8123.
  • Several Home Assistant add-ons require you to set a password. Do reuse the same password.
  • Some features are not available until you click your account ’roundel’ and switch on ‘Advanced’.
  • Find out how to make backups and how to download them to your machine.
  • Don’t yank out the Pi’s power. If you must stop it, do this from Hassio.
  • On your router, give the Raspberry Pi a fixed IP addresses for both the wired and wireless ethernet connection
  • In Hassio go to the add-on store to set up Samba (to copy files from the Pi) and Configurator (to edit your configuration).
  • If you want to use ESPHome, as in many of my projects, you must install it – but that’s on this page
  • If you want to access the RPi remotely on your phone, you’ll need to open a port on your router.
  • If you’re comfortable with FTP and FileZilla, install the Hassio FTP add-on to access files on your Pi.
  • If you want secure remote access go to the Hassio Add-on store, install DuckDNS and follow the instructions with care. Henceforth your access URL may change! It might now be https://xxx.duckdns.org:8123 or https://192.168.x.x:8123.

go to step 2 to install ESPhome

You can skip step 2 if you want to explore what Home Assistant can do on its own.

*when do I use a keyboard on the Raspberry Pi? You need it to use the Hassio CLI

It might not look lovely, but this usb keyboard is so handy and reliable.
This is rechargeable, uses a USB dongle on the Pi and the backlight is reassuring. It also works on e.g. a TV or other computer.

You don’t much use a keyboard and monitor with the Raspberry Pi but if you do you’ll see a black and white world running behind the scenes. Don’t be alarmed by this command line interface. It’s purpose is not well advertised but knowing that this exists can be a life saver. If like me you got to it because you thought your Home Assistant was broken, here’s what to do.

  • Consider that your HA might not be broken – you might be using a wrong URL or your Home Assistant might be very busy.
  • In this CLI you press ENTER to gain attention and then enter the word ‘root’. You then see a Hass.os graphic and the screen will show some commands you can use. Type help for a list of commands
  • Type homeassistant for a list of what you can do with home assistant including restore a backup of the configuration. Try homeassistant check OR homeassistant restart
  • Try these shortcuts: ha check – ha stop – ha restart
  • Type host for a list of what you can do with the host. Examples host reboot.

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