In this article I will describe how to get the most bang for of your buck. I won't lie and tell you home automation is a cheap hobby. I spent quite a bunch of money before finally getting it right.

The hardware

The trick to saving money is to learn from my mistakes and buy the right hardware right off the bet. Most of the consumer level products in this space try to lock you into their ecosystem by using 'bridges' and 'hubs' that either only talk to their brand of products or a select group of partners.

A good example of this is the Philips Hue Bridge which only works with a select few partners (e.g. IKEA Tradfri, Innr etc.). Even then it will probably only support the light bulbs.

This means that when you bought into the Hue ecosystem you can only choose between the Philips line of products or the select few partners. This limits your options and make you spend more than necessary.

The protocol

It's good to know that all the products I've discussed above make use of the free (Open Source) ZigBee protocol. This means they all talk the same language and largely work in the same manner. The fact that they won't always talk to each other is because the manufacturer of the bridge/hub won't actively support a competitors product. This seems to make a hell of a lot of business sense to me but from a consumer standpoint this is annoying.

What I'm going to show you will help you keep your options open and let you choose between many many brands within the ZigBee space.

Making choices

I will be splitting this guide up in to logical chunks of information so depending on how far along you are with your automation strategy you can easily find the information you're looking for.

For this guide I'll be making some biased choices that I will elaborate on in another post. Here are some of the important choices:

For a complete list of essential hardware check out our handy dandy list of Essential Home Automation Hardware.

Please note: Even if you're running your system on diffrent hardware and/or software than beforementioned you can still find relevant information in this guide but some of the code snippets will probaly not work without modification.

Step 1: Setting up the basics

From this point onward I will assume you are in possession of at least the Raspberry Pi and it's required MicroSD Card.

Go to the download page of the Home Assistant project and pick the appropriate download for your Raspberry Pi model. For now the 32bit images are recommended over the 64bit for stability reasons.

We can now flash our downloaded image onto the SD Card using a so called flashing tool. For this we will be using Etcher which is lightweight free and Open Source.

Once you open Etcher it is actually quite easy to get flashing. Most of the times it's able to recognize the location of your SD Card (drive) automatically and will prefil it as the flashing target.

As for the source file (image) you will have to point it to our freshly downloaded copy of Home Assistant which will probably look something along the lines of hassos_rpi4-3.7.img.gz.

If you've checked that both the image and the drive are correct it's time to hit the Flash button! If all went well you now have installed Home Assistant OS (or Hassos) onto your SD Card and are ready to boot up your Raspberry Pi.

Insert the flashed SD Card into your Raspberry Pi, plug in an ethernet cable and finally plug in the power/usb cable to start the setup. The first boot takes a while so please don't panic or pull the power. After about 5-10 minutes you'll be able to reach your very own Home Assistant instance in your browser by visiting: http://hassio.local:8123.

Congratulations!! You are on your way to fully automize your home and so far you've spent well under a $100,- doing it!

The next steps

The follow-up steps will be detailed in several follow-up posts. I will be showing you how to configure several soft- and hardware integrations and how to write your first automations to truly take advantage of your Open Source based non-locked-in Home Assistant.