My smart home setup powered by Home Assistant

It’s only fair that I share my setup. As I recommend a lot of products on this website I want to show you that I have experience with them and know what I’m talking about. Throughout the years I’ve learnt a lot about working with various system and were I to start over I would change a few things. For full transparency I will tell you what I’d still recommend and what I would do differently.

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My servers

Proxmox Virtual Environment host

My application server runs the Proxmox Virtual Environment (Proxmox VE), which in turns runs a Ubuntu Server virtual machine (VM). That VM is my Docker host which runs my Home Assistant Core container. All in all, I’m quite happy with this setup. However, it is not the way I’d go were I to start over. The reason is that I don’t need all the features that Proxmox VE offers, that operating system is wasted on me. Ever since I switched from FreeNAS to Unraid for my NAS operating system I’ve come to realise that I could get everything done with Unraid. As my current Unraid based NAS has a rather weak CPU I am considering swapping the this server’s guts over to it. That would require a few extra purchases so I’m currently still holding off that project.

The heart of this system is an AMD Ryzen™ 5 2600 CPU. At the time it was the cheapest way of getting six physical cores and hyper-threading in a CPU. The current Ryzen™ 5 3600 and upcoming AMD Ryzen™ 5 5600X would over a substantial upgrade. This CPU allowed me to set up a number of virtual Ubuntu Server machines. The motherboard I went (MSI B450M Mortar) with was a big mistake as it can’t be booted without a GPU. Always make sure the motherboard can be booted without a GPU when using AMD Ryzen processors.

AMD Ryzen™ loves fast memory so I went with a 3200MHz kit from HyperX. The RAM has caused me no issues thus far. They don’t have any RGB LEDs which is an added bonus for me, as I don’t want to be spending money on things I will never use.

The case is another area where I let price dictate my choice. I went with the Thermaltake Core V21, which isn’t bad but could be replaced with something more fitting. I certainly wouldn’t recommend to anyone building an application server today. The lack of expandability, especially when it comes to HDD, is a major pitfall of this case.

Ryzen 5 2600

CPU Cores: 6

Threads: 12

Base Clock: 3.7GHz

Boost Clock: up to 4.6GHz

TDP: 65W

HyperX Fury 3200MHz DDR4

Speed: 3200MHz

CAS latency: CL16

Thermaltake Core V21

Form factor: Micro ATX

Ports: 2x USB 3.0, 1x Headphone, and x Mic

The dream build

As mentioned above, if I were to start over I would only build a single machine running Unraid which would be my NAS as well as my application server. One area that would certainly warrant an upgrade is the case. I would base this build on the Fractal Define 7 or Fractal Define 7 XL. The non-XL version fits up to 14 HDDs and the XL up to 18 HDDs.

Because I’m disappointed in my choice of motherboard, I would very much like to replace it too. ASRock Rack makes a few X570 motherboards which are suited for servers and look very promising. Combined with the Dell H310, which I already own, I would have enough SATA connectors for all my HDDs and could potentially add a GPU for Plex transcoding.

The CPU I already own has more than enough power for my needs and I would consider swapping the RAM for ECC memory for the added peace of mind.

Fractal Design Define 7

HDD mounts: 13

Form factor: ATX/E-ATX

Fractal Design Define 7 XL

HDD mounts: 18

Form factor: ATX/E-ATX

X570D4U-2L2T

Form factor: Micro ATX

SATA: 8

AMD Ryzen 5 3600

Core count: 6

Cooler: Wraith Stealth

Ecosystem

The Zigbee protocol

My first ever smart home devices were a pair of Philips Hue spotlights and the Philips Hue hub. I used these as part of my alarm clock with the integration of the app Sleep as Android. Ultimately, this is what got me started smarting up my home. I have since expanded my Zigbee network and don’t regret picking it over competing ecosystems, such as Z-Wave. There are many cheap Chinese sensors and devices which also use Zigbee and I use them around my home. Because I use products from many different vendors I have retired my Philips Hue hub and replaced it with Zigbee2MQTT.

The only thing that lets Philips Hue products down is pricing. I now also have multiple bulbs from the IKEA TRÅDFRI line and can’t tell the difference. I also started using GLEDOPTO LED strip controllers, which I discovered thanks to the Zigbee2MQTT community. These are cheap and compact controllers which can be hooked up to any dumb/traditional LED strips (i.e. they don’t support individually addressable strips) of your liking.

To control my lights I use mainly motion sensors from Aqara. I also use their temperature and humidity sensors in the bathroom.

Philips Hue Smart Hub

Uses Zigbee and is compatible with Home Assistant.

Philips Hue Starter Kit

Includes a hub, three RGBW bulbs, and a button.

Philips Hue Play

Can be hidden behind monitors and used for indirect light.

GLEDOPTO GL-C-008 (RGB+CCT)

Can control RGB+CCT LED strip and costs a lot less than Philips Hue

BTF-LIGHTING 5050 RGB+CCT

RGB and CCT on the same chip make these the best looking LED strips