Getting started with Home Assistant

This is what I wish I knew when I started with HA

by Pete
Published: Updated: 12 minutes read

If you’re looking to turn your home into a smart home, Home Assistant is an excellent place to start. This open-source home automation platform allows you to control and automate various smart devices in your home, making your life easier and more convenient.

Let’s get into it

Note: this is a basic starting guide and instructions are generic due to the many permutations of install types. But we’ll make posts in the future for installation and customization, so don’t worry!

1
Understanding the components of Home Assistant

Before we begin, we need to understand the core components of HA.

ComponentDescription
Home Assistant CoreThe central component of Home Assistant that provides the core functionality for automation, device control, and more. It is responsible for handling the user interface, automation engine, integrations with various devices and services, and more.
Lovelace UIThe default user interface for Home Assistant, accessible via a web browser or mobile app. It allows you to interact with your devices and services, create and manage automations, and view information about your home. You can customize the interface with cards that display various types of data or allow you to control your devices.
SupervisorProvides additional management features and add-ons for Home Assistant. It includes features such as automatic backups, add-on management, and updates for Home Assistant and its components. The Supervisor component also allows you to manage the Docker containers that run Home Assistant and its add-ons.
Add-onsPre-packaged software components that you can install to extend the functionality of Home Assistant. They can add support for specific hardware devices, provide integrations with third-party services, and more. Add-ons are managed via the Supervisor component and can be installed, configured, and updated from within the Home Assistant user interface.
IntegrationsPlugins that provide support for specific devices and services. They allow Home Assistant to communicate with devices and services in a standardized way, which makes it easier to automate and control them. Integrations are managed via the Configuration menu in the Home Assistant user interface.
Custom componentsUser-created plugins that provide additional functionality not available in the built-in integrations and add-ons. They can be used to create custom automations, control devices and services, and more. Custom components are written in Python and can be installed via the Home Assistant user interface or manually added to the Home Assistant configuration directory.

2
Choose your hardware

To get started with Home Assistant, the first step is to choose the hardware you want to run it on. You can use a Raspberry Pi, Intel NUC, or any other computer that can run Docker. You can also use a virtual machine or a cloud service like Amazon Web Services or Google Cloud Platform.

It’s understanding what type of install comes with compatible hardware.

Installation TypeCompatible Hardware and Versions
Home Assistant Operating System (HassOS)Raspberry Pi Zero, Zero W, 1, 2, 3, 4; Intel NUC with x86_64 CPU architecture; Virtual machine on any hardware; AWS and GCP; Odroid C2, Odroid N2/N2+, Tinkerboard, Cubietruck, Cubieboard 2, UP Board.

You can download the images from the necessary HA installation page. You’ll need to follow the links to your appropriate hardware type.
Container installationAny hardware that can run Docker
Manual installationVarious Linux distributions, including Raspberry Pi OS, Debian, Ubuntu, CentOS, etc.
Home Assistant Container (Hass.io)Any hardware that can run Docker

3
Install Home Assistant

Home Assistant has a few options for install. Some have their pros and cons, so it’s worth understanding which install type is best for your experience levels.

Installation TypeDescriptionCompatible Operating Systems
Home Assistant Operating System (HassOS)Recommended installation type for most users, full operating system optimized for running Home Assistant.Raspberry Pi OS, Debian, Ubuntu, CentOS, Fedora, and more.
Container installationRuns Home Assistant in a container using Docker. More flexible, but requires more technical knowledge to set up.Any operating system that can run Docker, including Windows, macOS, and various Linux distributions.
Manual installationGives complete control over the Home Assistant installation, but requires the most technical knowledge.Various Linux distributions, including Raspberry Pi OS, Debian, Ubuntu, CentOS, and more.
Home Assistant Container (Hass.io)Legacy installation type that is no longer actively developed or supported. Replaced by HassOS.Any operating system that can run Docker, including Windows, macOS, and various Linux distributions.

Once you’ve chosen your hardware, it’s time to install Home Assistant. You can use Home Assistant OS or another method that works for your hardware.

Head over to the Home Assistant installation page to get going!

4
Set up your devices

Next, you’ll need to set up your devices. Home Assistant supports a wide range of devices, including lights, switches, sensors, thermostats, and cameras. You can add devices by configuring integrations, which are plugins that allow Home Assistant to communicate with your devices.

But first, hope on over to the Onboarding page to continue your install.

Follow these steps to get your devices going.

StepDescription
1Connect your device to your home network according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
2Add the device to Home Assistant using an integration or add-on.
3Configure the device to work with your smart home automation system by setting up automations or creating a custom user interface.
4Test the device to ensure it’s working correctly. You can trigger automations or use the user interface to control the device.
5Troubleshoot any issues you encounter by using the Home Assistant community and online resources or seeking help from other users.

5
Configure automations

After setting up your devices, you can configure automations to trigger actions based on events. For example, you could turn on the lights when someone enters a room or adjust the thermostat based on the weather. With Home Assistant’s visual automation editor, you can create automations without writing any code.

Automations are tricky to get your head around when you’re new, but head over to the Automating Home Assistant page to get started.

6
Customize your interface

To make your Home Assistant interface more personalized, you can customize it by adding dashboards that display specific information or controls for your devices. You can also use themes to change the look and feel of the interface to suit your taste.

Home Assistant uses Lovelace for it’s dashboard engine. It’s powerful and looks fantastic! It’s worth noting to get familiar with Material Design Icons as they’re everywhere for icon use in Home Assistant.

Lovelace is the user interface for Home Assistant, and it allows you to create a personalized and flexible interface for your smart home automation system. With Lovelace, you can create custom cards that display information or control your smart devices, and arrange them on your dashboard in any way you like.

Here are some key features of Lovelace:

  1. Custom cards: Lovelace allows you to create custom cards using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. This gives you complete control over the content and appearance of your cards.
  2. Pre-built cards: Lovelace also provides many pre-built cards that display different types of information, such as weather forecasts, calendar events, and media players.
  3. Card configuration: You can configure the settings for each card, such as the title, icon, and background color, to make it fit your dashboard.
  4. Card arrangement: You can arrange your cards in any way you like, either by dragging and dropping them in the UI or by specifying their positions in the configuration file.
  5. Views: Lovelace supports the creation of multiple views, which allow you to group related cards together on separate pages.
  6. Themes: You can apply themes to your Lovelace interface to change the colors and styling of your dashboard.

7
Explore additional features

Finally, don’t be afraid to explore additional features of Home Assistant as you become more familiar with the platform. You can integrate it with other home automation systems, add voice assistant support, and use YAML to customize it further. So be sure to check out the integrations supported out of the box for Home assistant.

Here are some examples on how to expand Home Assistant:

  1. Voice control: Home Assistant supports voice control through integrations with popular smart assistants such as Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple Siri. With voice control, you can interact with your smart home automation system without needing to use a physical interface.
  2. Notification system: Home Assistant includes a flexible and powerful notification system that allows you to receive alerts based on specific events, such as the status of your smart devices or the weather forecast. You can receive notifications via email, SMS, or push notifications through the Home Assistant mobile app.
  3. Automation editor: Home Assistant includes an automation editor that allows you to create automations without needing to write code. The automation editor provides a graphical interface for creating and editing automations based on specific conditions and triggers.
  4. Integration with third-party services: Home Assistant supports integration with many third-party services, such as IFTTT, SmartThings, ESPHome, Tuya, Tasmota, and Sonos. This allows you to connect your smart home automation system with other services and devices, expanding the capabilities of your system.
  5. Data logging and visualization: Home Assistant includes a built-in data logging and visualization system that allows you to track and analyze data from your smart devices. You can view historical data in graphical form to identify trends and patterns in your data.
  6. Home Assistant Community Store (HACS): HACS is an integration that allows you to install custom Lovelace cards, themes, and other extensions to further customize your Home Assistant setup.

In Conclusion

Home Assistant has a large and supportive community, so if you need any help, don’t hesitate to visit the Home Assistant website and forums. There are also plenty of YouTube tutorials and blog posts available to guide you through any issues you encounter. With Home Assistant, you’ll have a smart home that works exactly the way you want it to.

Don’t forget to check out the Integrations and Addons I use in my install of Home Assistant to give you some ideas!