Before you start with Home Assistant


If you are considering getting into home automation, Home Assistant is a great way to start. My current setup consists mostly of lighting, sensors and buttons, and a few small appliances. I Before you start, there are a few things that you might want to consider.


So, currently, I have home assistant installed on an old laptop that works as a server. Alternatively, you could use a Raspberry PI or any similar single board computer.

Home Assistant sells a single board computers which are a bit more powerful than a Raspberry PIs and all the needed software is pre installed:

What you end up doing will probably depend on your budget, what you have lying around and how DIY you want the solution to be.

Celling Lighting

One of the easiest / cheapest things to start with is lighting. It also brings some of the (IMHO) biggest advantages. To do lighting, you have 2 options. Smart switches or smart bulbs (or both, I guess that makes three).

Smart Switches

This is (probably) the easiest and cheapest starting point, however comes with a pretty big caveat. You’ll need to check that your wall socket has a ground or neutral wire (probably green and yellow sleeve in the UK). If not, this option probably won’t work for you. I am not an electrician so if you are in doubt, find someone who knows what they are taking about. SERIOUSLY. If you electrocute yourself, that is generally bad and not on me.

I use these switches from Sonoff. They can be flashed with open firmware so you can be sure they are not talking back to their mother ship.

It can be useful to get a switch panel with extra switches. That way you can use the extra buttons for triggering automations or turning on other things other than the celling lights.

Smart Bulbs

Smart bulbs are a generally a bit more expensive than smart switches. However, they often come with the advantage that you can change the brightness / colour etc.

Unfortunately, you’ll need to leave the switch on all the time if you want the advantage of being able to turn them on with your phone or on a timer.

I use these bulbs from BlitzWolf. These can also be flashed with with open firmware.

What I do

Anywhere I have a smart bulb, I also have smart switches. This is so I can leave the power to the bulb on at all times. You don’t want (and your wife definitely won’t want) to have to get your phones out every time you want to turn the light on or off. If you have a smart switch, it can “ask” the bulb to turn off but without cutting its power. This means you can turn the bulb on with your phone or a switch or an automation.

In some places, I only have a smart switch and dumb bulbs. This is basically just the bathroom and kitchen where we have loads of spot lights and it’s not worth the cost to make each bulb smart

I can still turn the lights on / off with the switch or our phones or with automations.

Other small appliances

I also have things like lamps attached these to Sonoff Basics. They work in basically the same way as a smart switch with a dumb bulb. It means that I can turn them off with smart buttons, my phone or any automations.

Lastly, I have some Sonoff S26s. I use these for appliances such as my kettle that are used around water and I want to play it safe. You could probably use a Sonoff basic for this, but they don’t come with any water certification. At least these are kept above surfaces that might have water on them.

I’m happy to pay a bit extra and just not risk electrocuting myself.


Everything I have linked above use a chip called an ESP8266 (or variations of it) which mean it can be flashed with open source firmware called esphome. This way, I am happy to buy cheep Chinese bulbs and I am confident that the bulbs are not talking back to China.

If you are interested I can talk to you about flashing it at a later date. Different devices require it to be done in different ways.

Hopefully that should be enough to get you started, I will be writing more posts on home automation in the future.