Home automation and Raspberry PI

Last modified January 3, 2021

As you probably know, shortly after you've read some of my writing on this blog, the little Raspberry Pi mini computer is one of my favorite platforms for everything to do with home automation and the smart home.

The price and versatility of the Raspberry Pi make it ideal for a myriad of applications.

But let's go slowly ...

What is the Raspberry Pi?

The Raspberry Pi is a very inexpensive small computer, ideal for use in home automation applications, it can cost from about 35€ (although we will talk about that later) and it has enough power for much more than you can imagine.

In addition, its consumption is negligible (on the 5 watts at full power), so it is ideal to be able to leave it on permanently without ever turning it off (which is normal in home automation systems, of course). Also, it has no fan, so it is silent 100%, ideal for it to be turned on 24 × 7.

Well, yes, but, you will ask me, my friend:

What is a Raspberry Pi for?

Well, among many others, you can use a Raspberry Pi to:

  • Home automation controller (yes, this is what we are going to talk about here).
  • Multimedia device for watch movies in high definition, listen to music, etc.
  • System of video surveillance
  • Telephone switchboard
  • Desktop PC alternative

And you, Mariete, what uses do you make of the Raspberry Pi for home automation?

I have several Raspberry Pi at home running permanently, they have been running for years, and some of the things I have done with them are the following:

  • I have the Weather Station, what can you see here, running in one of them. Since the weather station needs very little power, I used a Raspberry Pi 2, a fairly old model, but with plenty of capacity. I take advantage of this spare capacity to also use it as a remote USB port server with VirtualHere, in this way it is not necessary to carry cables from the alarm and the 433 Mhz receiver to the virtual machine with Windows 10 where HomeSeer is running (and who is really using those devices remotely).
  • There is a Raspberry Pi 3 running Node network and the MQTT server. It is a main piece of the house and its reliability is beyond doubt. Sometimes is months in a row operating permanently, night and day, without any problem. Nor does he lack power for the work he does.
  • For the InfluxDB database, where all the historical information of all the sensors in the house is stored (and there are quite a few!), I use another Raspberry Pi 3. In addition, it has plenty of power for some more less important services such as the server infrared MQTT and something else.

I also have a couple more Raspberries that I use for testing, pots, or substitutions.

And, are there multiple versions of Raspberry Pi?

Ok, I see that you have been attentive to the previous paragraph, where I said that I use several versions of Raspberry Pi.

Yes, there are quite a few different versions, because their manufacturer is releasing new models for a short time, but basically the ones you can find on the market (in the order in which they seem most interesting to me):

Raspberry Pi 3
Raspberry Pi 3

Raspberry Pi 3

Although it is not the latest model, it is the one I use for more things. 
I think its performance / price ratio is ideal.
It has wifi, Bluetooth, 4 USB 2.0 ports, 100Mb Ethernet
Launched in 2015.

Raspberry Pi Zero
Raspberry Pi Zero

Raspberry Pi Zero

It is much smaller and less powerful than the rest of the Raspberry Pi. It does not have Ethernet or USB, but it does have Wifi and Bluetooth. It has Mini-HDMI output.

An interesting concept, and it was planned to cost about $US5 (yes, less than € 5!). The reality is that it is being sold for much more and, unless it is for something very particular, I think it is not worth buying, today.

Announced June 2019

Raspberry Pi 4

Raspberry Pi 4

The last (for now) of the sisters

An important quantitative leap. It is, almost, a PC in a minimal size.

Dual Micro-HDMI output with 4K support

There are versions with different amounts of RAM. With the 4GB version of RAM it is sufficient for the uses we are talking about here.

And how much does a Raspberry Pi cost?

It depends…

The Raspberry Pi, as such, is cheap. Its manufacturer, the Raspberry Foundation, conceived it to universalize computing throughout the world, including many underdeveloped countries where they could not afford even the cheapest of computers.

The initial model, back in 2012, was released for $ 25. The following versions have greatly improved their hardware with very little price increase. The new version 4 has a base price of about $ 35.

Keep in mind that this is the price of the board, to have a complete system you would have to add: power supply, Micro-SD card, box, HDMI cable and, in this case, yes, a fan is recommended. 

I have chosen a couple of kits from Amazon, one for the Raspberry 3 and another for the Raspberry 4, with everything you need, so you don't have to worry about looking for loose components. They are sellers with hundreds of very positive evaluations. Amazon's Choice and very fast Prime shipping.

Sale
Melopero Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, Broadcom BCM2837 64bit Quad Core 1.2GHz CPU, 1GB RAM, WiFi, Bluetooth BLE, Silver
  • Screen dimension 60 inches
  • Processor type Core 2 Quad
  • Dual Core VideoCore IV graphics coprocessor
TICTID Raspberry Pi 4 Model B 4GB Kit, Updated Version of Raspberry pi 3 with 32GB MicroSD Card, Type-C 5V 3A Adapter with Switch, Fan, Case and Card Reader, etc.
  • 【Very Powerful】 Raspberry Pi 4 Model B with 1.5Ghz A72 quad-core CPU, New Soc BCM2711. New update based on Raspberry Pi 3 B. Tripled bandwidth (wired and wireless) and ability to maintain high performance for a long time. 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz 802.11b / g / n / ac wireless LAN and full-speed Gigabit Ethernet.
  • 【Dual Display Output】 4K Output with Raspberry Pi 4, you can run two monitors simultaneously even in 4K. The USB-C power adapter with ON / OFF switch provides 5V / 3A power to support overclocking or using an external hard drive. Specially designed for Raspberry Pi 4, the micro HDMI cable available to connect raspberry pi 4 and TV or other display
  • 【Genuine MicroSD Card】 The Class 10 32GB MicroSD card has NOOBS pre-loaded, supports output of more than 100M per second, fast reading with Raspbian for Raspberry Pi 4B or for downloading other systems. The USB-A and USB-C compatible card reader will make it easy for you to connect the microSD to your computer.
  • 【Increased Security】 In this Raspberry Pi4 there are three premium copper heat sinks and a fan. The fan is equipped to keep the Pi 4 cool. With the fan and copper heatsinks the Raspberry Pi4 does not get too hot during long-term use with the temperature kept below 60 degrees Celsius, which will offer greater safety during use.
  • 【Complete Accessories】 Thanks to the equipped accessories, you can put the Raspberry Pi 4 when delivered: 1 x Raspberry Pi 4 Model B 4GB, 1 x 5V 3A power supply with switch, 1 x Micro SD card preloaded with NOOBS, 1 x black case for Pi, 1 x fan, 3 x heat sink, 1 x Micro SD card reader (USB-C and USB-A), 1 x HDMI to HDMI micro cable, 1 x screwdriver, 5 x screws, 5 x nuts, 1 x warranty card.

Home automation software for Raspberry pi

We already have our Raspberry Pi. Now we need a software to create our smart home.

Keep in mind that the Raspberry Pi does not work with Windows (for now, and with nuances), but with Linux, so if you are not familiar with it, you will have to start them by following the many videos and tutorials on the Internet.

If you use it to build your smart home, the usual thing is that, once they are working, they do not leave a monitor or keyboard and mouse connected, they are «install and forget«.

Don't be scared by the word Linux. The truth is that if you choose the correct option and follow a good tutorial, it will not be very difficult.

There are many existing Home Automation programs for Linux, both free and paid. Among them, I would highlight the following:

OpenHAB

It is an open source home automation program.

One of the great strengths of OpenHab is that it is completely independent of manufacturers and technologies. Almost certainly, if a platform is popular, it will be supported by OpenHAB.

It is developed in Java, so it is cross-platform and its architecture is completely modular.

It has a great community behind it that supports and tirelessly develops the platform to make it grow.

Its installation is very simple and its use, through its web interface, is also very easy.

Its configuration is, in general, quite easy, but some things will have to be configured by editing text files, which may not be to everyone's liking.

In version 1 of OpenHAB, all the configuration was done through text files. Now, with version 2, they allow more and more things to be configured from the web interface, but it is still necessary for the 100% to be available in this way. This means that, at least for some time, we will have to configure both through the web interface and by editing files, which makes it less user-friendly.

OpenHAB is probably the most powerful and flexible of the three but at the price of greater complexity.

As of June 2020, there were 386 addons published for integration with devices.

Domoticz

It is a very widespread home automation program.

It is very light compared to OpenHAB and Home Assistant and offers a huge amount of functions.

Its installation is slightly, in my opinion, slightly more complicated than that of OpenHAB and Home Assistant.

Most of the configuration can be done through its web interface, although not all.

Domoticz allows you to do the basics in a very simple way. For more complex things the difficulty can go up.

One of the problems that I find with Domoticz (maybe it is my feeling) is that it has not been very successful in terms of the number of users and the growth of the community, so it gives me the feeling that it is lagging a bit behind.

As an extension of the previous point, this has caused it not to cover as many technologies, manufacturers and devices as Home Assistant.

Home Assistant

It is the most recent of the three and is very easy to use.

It is developed in Python and is easily expandable through plugins.

Its installation is also very simple. We just have to download the image of the SD card with its operating system, HassBian, and boot from it. In a few minutes our home automation controller will be working.

The setup begins with a wizard that tries to discover the devices in the house that are already installed. If the wizard cannot discover and configure all the devices (which is very likely), some text files will have to be edited.

Home Assistant is, in my opinion, the easiest to configure, although it also seems to me the most rigid of the three.

It is updated very often and usually incorporates support for new things very quickly.

As of June 2020, there were 1,611 addons published for integration with devices.

The best home automation program, HomeSeer (for my taste)

Unlike the three programs seen above, HomeSeer is a commercial (paid) home automation program.

Also unlike the other programs, this one is not available only for Linux but can also be used on Windows.

You may be a bit influenced because It is the program that I use for yearsI bought my first license about 20 years ago).

It has so many possibilities that I will not be able to summarize them here, so I will not try. I will write an article about him one day.

Other home automation and home automation programs

There are many other programs, but this is not an article to discuss each one in detail. Some of them are Jeedom, OpenMotics, ioBroker, FHEM, Pimatic, PiDome, HomeGenie ...

Raspberry Pi and home automation overview

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