Three years ago I was frustrated with my home automation controller, the veralite. In search of a replacement, I stumbled upon Home Assistant. Two hours into trying Home Assistant I was sold. It was easy to configure, worked with all of my current smart home equipment, and had a vibrant and helpful community. It quickly became the perfect smart home hub for me. It’s been three years since I made that fortuitous decision and it’s the best smart home decision I’ve ever made. Here is how my Home Assistant installation has evolved over the years, and why switching to Home Assistant is an even better decision today than it was three years ago.
My start with Home Assistant
I started with Home Assistant in the summer of 2018. I think I was on version .73. My home automation controller at the time, Veralite, had served me well but was becoming unstable, underpowered, and soon to be unsupported. I had kicked around the idea of using a software-based home automation controller a few years earlier, but I wasn’t ready for the time commitment of that leap at the time.
A software controller was more of an option for me that time because my Veralite was still working. I was fine with taking the time to learn a new system. I was looking for a system with the following features:
- Z-Wave support
- Easy to create automations
- Clean UI
- Support for my Alarm system (alarm.com)
- Support for DirecTV (which I don’t have anymore since I cut the cord)
- Integration with Google Assistant
- If a software hub, it runs on Linux
- Ability to simply execute RESTful commands
A few systems out there did all of these things, but I wanted to go with a software solution. I narrowed my choices down to OpenHAB and Home Assistant. I found the Home Assistant community much more inviting and that’s what I went with. Three years later, I am really happy with that decision. Heck, two hours in I was happy with the decision!
Key ways Home Assistant has changed over three years
Home Assistant has grown mightily over the years. It has a rapid development pace and new features and bug fixes come quickly. Here are some of the things I’ve noticed have changed (all for the better) over these three years:
- Release cycle – There used to be a new release every three weeks. Now there is one every month, and then a few stability point releases after that
- Release names – In December 2020, Home Assistant changed their release name from being strictly numeric increments to being year and month based, to coincide with the new release schedule. Instead of releases names like 113.2, we now have 2021.6
- Customization in the UI instead of in configuration files – While I like writing automation code and am comfortable with configuration files, I understand that sometimes and for some people using a graphical interface is easier. I can’t even remember all of the things moved to the UI. Many integrations, additional configurations, improved automation control, even customizing the UI itself have all been either greatly enhanced or added to the UI over the last three years.
- More integrations – The development community is especially strong, and they have been busy adding even more integrations to Home Assistant. If it can be done, it will probably be in Home Assistant eventually. I thought it had everything I wanted when I started. It has grown a ton since then.
- New controller features – They added things like blueprints, analytics, Home Assistant Cast, Lovelace User Interface, and an official Android app, just to name a few.
- Speed! – The user interface has gotten faster throughout all of this development!
- New hardware – They now have the Home Assistant Blue that comes with Home Assistant pre-installed. Here are all the best choices for Home Assistant hardware.
How my Home Assistant Installation has grown over three years
My installation has grown and changed over the years. It started off as a straight replacement of my Veralite controller, but it has grown so much more. I’ve added well over 100 automations to make my home smarter and smarter. I’ve expanded into Zigbee devices. MQTT integration is now a very large part of my smart home. I’ve even integrated Python scripts to respond to and control the RF devices I’ve added. I’ve integrated ecobee thermostats, additional sensors, A/V equipment, candles, garage door openers, ceiling fans, and so much more. Overall, I’ve made my house more fun, secure, and automated. If you want to see many of the things I’ve done, check out my Home Assistant articles.
My configuration files started to become unwieldy due to the hundred of automations, integrations, scripts, sensors, etc. I eventually organized them better by breaking up my Home Assistant configuration files.
I’m at the point where I don’t buy smart home devices unless I know how they integrate with Home Assistant. Luckily, I don’t have to work too hard to find devices because almost everything does!
In the three years since I switched to Home Assistant, my smart home has been turbocharged. It is the single smartest smart home decision I’ve made over the past three years. It has grown and evolved for the better, and my smart home has grown and evolved with it. It’s been a great three years, and I’m looking forward to many more.
How has your smart home and smart home controller evolved over the past few years?