Setting up Home Assistant on the Raspberry Pi

Lately I’ve been playing with Home Assistant (open source) on my Raspberry Pi for Home Automation.  I was surprised on the amount of support that is currently available and how flexible and easy to setup it is.  If you haven’t looked at Home Assistant yet, you can check it out here.

I’ve mainly been using a Raspberry Pi 3, but I have also tested Home Assistant on a Raspberry Pi 2 and it ran very well with no issues.

Below is some instructions for setting up Home Assistant.  These are my notes, but hopefully you might find them useful too.

Firstly, go to the Home Assistant site and download the image of Hassbian.  Grab the etcher software too for writing the image to the SD card.  After you’ve written the image to the SD card, put it in the Raspberry Pi and start it up.

NOTE: The Hassbian instructions say to wait about 5 minutes, mine took between 5-10 minutes.  During this time, Home Assistant may detect devices/sensors on the network it is connected.  It may automatically find some of your devices. e.g. it automatically found my Chromecast.

Setup the Raspberry Pi

Once Hassbian is up, SSH in using the pi user – remember the default password is raspberry.  Once in, first thing I did was setup the Raspberry Pi.  This is pretty much the same as you would do if it was running raspian.

Change the passwd for the pi user.

Then configure the Raspberry Pi settings.

I update the timezone, locale, wifi locale and expand the filesystem (so I have use of the full SD card).  Then reboot – raspi-config usually prompts you to.

After the reboot, update and upgrade the packages installed on the Raspberry Pi.

Note: This normally takes quite a while.

I usually do another reboot after the updates and upgrade just to make sure everything is running on the updated versions with no issues.

Configure Home Assistant

To configure the Home Assistant, you’ll need need to edit the Home Assistant configuration file.  In Hassbian, the Home Assistant configuration files are located in  /home/homeassistant/.homeassistant.

The Home Assistant site has resources on this.  You can check them out here.

Now lets update the Home Assistant configuration file.

It probably look something like this:

I updated latitude, longitude, elevation, unit_system and time_zone.

If you are having trouble determining the location for latitude, longitude, google maps can help you find them.  If you click on your location on the map, the location details are usually at the bottom of the browser window.  For more info, the google help page on this is here.

When updating this configuration file, it can be fussy sometimes. It’s a good idea to validate the configuration changes before restarting Home Assistant to use configuration. You can do this in GUI very easily. You can get to the GUI by going to the hostname or IP Address of you Raspberry Pi on port 8123. Something like http://172.16.13.13:8123/.

HomeAssistantConfigurationWebPage1.jpg

Once you’ve made changes to the configuration file, you’ll need to restart Home Assistant.

Security and Certificates

I would also recommend that you password protect your Home Assistant.  It’s good practice even if you aren’t exposing it directly to the Internet.  To do this, update the http: section of the configuration.yaml file and add api_password: PASSWORD

It should look like this:

You’ll need to restart Home Assistant for this to take effect.

Going to the Home Assistant web gui after this change will prompt for a password.

HomeAssistantPasswordPrompt

You should note however that this option still transmits the password insecurely over HTTP.  You’ll need to add certificates if you want it securely transfer your traffic.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If your Rapsberry Pi has a private IP Address (e.g. 192.168.0.5) and get a certificate for a domain with a public IP address, you browser will give you a warning that the Raspberry PI is not trusted if you go to it from your private network.  If you go to it from the Internet, you will not get this message.

If you decide you want a certificate, Let’s Encrypt provide a fantastic service where you can get free certificates.  You need a domain for this as the Let’s encrypt certificates require that you can prove ownership of your domain.  The easiest way to prove this is to port forward ports 80 & 443 temporarily to your raspberry pi while you run the script which sets up, verifies and obtain a certificate.

To get the certificates, after you’ve put the port forwards in place, you run the following commands to get obtain certificate.  Make sure you update the email address and hostname to suit that of your raspberry pi.

Note: These scripts will install python if it’s not already installed.

This will take a while.  Once this has completed, it should provide you with information about the certificate you just obtained, similar to below:

Now, to use the certificate you just got in Home Assistant, we’ll need to edit the configuration.yaml file again.

Make sure you update the path of the key and certificate to match your domain.

Once you’ve made changes to the configuration file, you’ll need to restart Home Assistant.

As the certificates from Lets Encrypt expire in 90 days, it’s important to renew the certificate.

The previous script secures the certifcates for only the root user, so we’ll first need to update the permissions.

Once this has been done, add the auto-renewal setup into cron.

(select nano, its easiest)

This crontab will attempt to renew the certificate on a daily basis, but you could go weekly or monthly if you prefer.

Troubleshooting

If you have any issues with your Home Assistant, (maybe a typo in the configuration file) checking the home assistant log file can give you information on what is wrong.

That’s it.  Home Assistant is now configured.  The next step is to attach devices/sensors and add automation.