My name is Danny and I live in London, UK. I have lived here my whole life. My passion for technology started at a young age back when the internet was young and 14.4k modems were the fastest and only way to get online!
For the past 21 years, I have been working in the IT industry starting as a desktop support engineer to now being a technical specialist for the UK’s largest telecom provider.
At home, I have slowly built up a modest “smart home” utilizing various automations that are focused on practicality and time-saving.
I started my smart home journey with LightwaveRF devices and quickly moved over to more modern technologies such as Wi-Fi and Zigbee. During this switchover, I discovered the need for a central hub or platform to link and control everything from one place. This is where I found and fell in love with Home Assistant.
My Home Assistant journey hasn’t been all plain sailing, along the way I have encountered many challenges in device compatibility, suffering multiple SD card failures and rebuilding my Home Assistant server from scratch multiple times.
I have started this blog to share all of my experiences with the main goal of helping others from beginners to more advanced users who are searching for answers to their questions. I am by no means a complete expert in Home Assistant, the product is evolving at a fast pace, and therefore like everyone else, we are learning all the time.
My Home Setup
I live in a fairly small two-bedroom terraced house and most of the hardware is hidden away in the attic to save space and shield the noise from my main server.
Servers & Storage
Synology DS418play NAS with 4 3TB hard disks
HP ProLiant ML350p Gen8 with 2x Intel Xeon E5-2609 CPU, 256GB memory, and 4 1TB SSDs
My HP ML350p has been sold due to the ongoing energy price rises. I have now replaced it with a Raspberry Pi 4.
Raspberry Pi 4 Model B 4GB RAM Computer+ Pi-Top Rugged Case + 16GB SD Card
My Raspberry Pi is used to run Home Assistant OS. The Pi-Top Case is extremely useful as it has a built-in battery that prevents the Raspberry Pi from suddenly shutting off during power outages.
My Home Network
My Smart Home Devices
RFXtrx433XL USB HA controller – I use this controller to communicate with 3 PIR motion sensors, an energy meter, and my doorbell.
dresden elektronik ConBee II – Most of my smart home devices utilize Zigbee, the ConBee II is the controller I have been using to communicate with these devices as it integrates perfectly into Home Assistant using the Zigbee integration. Prior to using the Zigbee integration, I used it with Zigbee2MQTT.
SONOFF ZigBee 3.0 USB Dongle Plus – I use this dongle as a Zigbee router. I had to download a specific firmware and then flash the dongle to get it working as a routing device.
Telldus PIR-Sensor 433Mhz – These motion sensors are used in various rooms of my house to automate lights turning on. I also have one set up in my garden shed that sends a notification as soon as any activity is detected.
Xiaomi Aqara Temperature Humidity Sensor – I have three of these set up around the house to monitor the temperature in specific rooms.
Aqara Smart Motion Sensor – I bought this during a sale for next to nothing and actually haven’t used it yet.
Aqara Zigbee Wall Switch (No Neutral) – Finding these was fairly difficult because here in the UK we typically do not use a neutral wire for domestic home wiring. I have one of these wall switches in every room so that all my home lighting can be automated.
Xiaomi Smart Door and Windows Sensor – These are installed on every window and door of my house. They form part of a DIY alarm system that I have set up within Home Assistant. They are also useful to easily let me see if I leave anything open when I leave the house.
SONOFF BASIC WiFi Wireless Smart Switch – I have one of these installed in my attic for the lighting. I use a Xiaomi door sensor on the attic hatch that automates the attic lights when it’s opened.
Nest Smoke Alarm
Xiaomi Smoke Alarm
Tuya Zigbee Smoke Alarm – My Xiami Honeywell smoke alarm fell off the ceiling and broke so I have replaced it with this cheaper device
Owl Energy Meter
Ring Smart Flood Cam
Yeelight LED Strip
Generic Tasmota Smart Plugs
SwitchBot Blind Tilt
Software I Use
Proxmox – Installed directly on my HPE server this is my hypervisor of choice. Having tested many hypervisors over the years I have found Proxmox to be my absolute favorite.
Home Assistant – This is the brains behind my whole smart home. I have only ever used Home Assistant and cannot see myself switching over to anything else, it does everything I currently want. There are some interesting alternatives out there and I will be testing these soon and documenting my experiences on this blog.
Eclipse Mosquitto – My RFXtrx devices, Zigbee devices, and Tasmota devices all communicate directly with MQTT allowing them to be discoverable with Home Assistant. Node-RED – The main purpose of me using Node-RED is for it to bridge my RFXtrx devices with MQTT. Zigbee2MQTT – Zigbee2MQTT acts as a bridge between my Zigbee devices and Home Assistant Zigbee devices are discoverable in Home Assistant via my Eclipse Mosquitto MQTT broker. I had tried to use the ZHA Home Assistant integration however for me personally I found it unreliable with random Zigbee devices dropping off the network and becoming unavailable. I use some of my Zigbee devices as perimeter sensors as part of my smart home alarm and reliability is critical for this.
Below are just some future goals and projects I would like to complete in the near future. This list will evolve over time as the technology and innovation in the smart home sector are moving at a very fast pace.
Add Room Presence
I would love to find and implement a reliable room presence solution to aid some intelligent automations around my home. As of March 2023, I am waiting for the Aqara Presence Detector FP2 to be released and will likely buy a couple of these.
Purchase Home Assistant SkyConnect
As part of the migration to Matter and Thread devices, I would need a radio dongle capable of utilizing the thread protocol. Purchasing Home Assistant SkyConnect would allow me to replace my Conbee II dongle with it and still be able to communicate with my Zigbee devices. I am currently on a waiting list as the stock of Home Assistant SkyConnect is selling out fast.
Replace all Wi-Fi and 433mhz IoT devices with Zigbee or Thread devices
The aim of this goal is to be able to turn off 2.4 GHz on my Wi-Fi access points to reduce interference with the Zigbee network.
Install A Smart Door Lock on Front Door
I have had my eye on the Yale SD-L1000-CH Conexis L1 smart door lock for some years now. It has had some mixed reviews and I was kind of hoping for some competing products from other manufacturers that would fit UK door locks but there are not many options right now.
Matter is finally here however manufacturers are still yet to launch many new products with full Matter or Thread support yet (Feb 2023). My goal is to replace all of my smart home devices with Matter-compatible devices. Some of my existing devices hopefully will support Matter by the way of firmware updates but I suspect most will not.