Window Shopping Home Assistant

I learned about Home Assistant in a roundabout way, but once I started looking at it, I saw an interesting new tool I want to add to my toolbox. It started off on my good side with description on the project’s home page: “Open source home automation that puts local control and privacy first.” I like everything about that sentence and the tone it sets for the project.

I was once very interested in the promises of having a “smart home” and I was one of the early adopters of a Nest thermostat. (Before they were acquired by Google.) However, several years of Nest thermostat ownership also soured me on the concept of home automation via cloud services. Every once in a while, a server I never knew existed goes down and I get an error message on my Nest. To Nest’s credit, when their backend goes offline the thermostat continues running the last program it remembers. So it would never be worse than a “dumb” thermostat. Unfortunately not all “smart home” devices has such a graceful failure mode. For example whenever AWS us-east-1 suffers an outage, I would read about people not being able to get into their house because their Alexa-enabled smart lock wouldn’t unlock. If my smart home fails, I want it to be my own fault.

With an aversion to this class of failure, I have not bought any more Nest devices and became cool to the whole smart home concept. But maybe that will change if I could have local control and execution, and that is something Home Assistant offers. This also means any data is stored on my home server instead on somebody else’s AWS/Azure/GCP instance. It is popular for people to run on a Raspberry Pi dedicated to the purpose, but I could also run it in a Docker container on my home server as I’ve been doing for many other software pieces in this project.

While I intend to start playing with Home Assistant with DIY nodes built from ESP8266/ESP32, it offers integration with many home automation systems beyond those running ESPHome. It can even integrate with Google Nest, Amazon Alexa, and the like. But there’s a catch: to integrate with cloud-based services I would then have to either (1) open my instance of Home Assistant to the internet, or (2) use Nabu Casa’s cloud-hosted Home Assistant service.

In the near term that would not be a problem because I’m going to leave my Nest as-is. Until I’m more comfortable with the system, I’m not going to let Home Assistant control anything with drastic failure modes like locking me out of my house. I’m going to start simple and keep stakes low.

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