Linus Sebastian, the renowned face behind Linus Tech Tips and CEO of Linus Media Group, recently showcased Home Assistant, the open-source home automation software, in one of his YouTube videos. He shared his quest for the perfect smart garage opener and how Home Assistant finally provided the solution he sought.
Many in the Home Assistant community can relate to Linus's desire for a remote garage door opener that works with Google Assistant, without requiring subscriptions and with minimal points of failure. It took him two years of experimenting with various setups and a dwindling Wife Acceptance Factor (WAF) to finally stumble upon Home Assistant.
The video has already garnered over 1.25 million views in just one day, and it's safe to assume that Home Assistant will likely experience a surge of new users in the coming weeks. For those newcomers, you're in for quite the adventure, as you've now joined one of the most active and amicable communities on the internet.
Before diving headfirst into Home Assistant, it's advisable to check out this beginner's guide to familiarise yourself with the platform and its workings. The guide also explains the various names Home Assistant has had, helping you better comprehend any tutorials you may follow. To stay updated, consider subscribing to the newsletter (rest assured, you won't be spammed):
In the beginning, Linus opted for a budget-friendly, Wi-Fi connected relay board to mimic button presses by closing a circuit. This approach seemed to work well, as showcased in one of his Linus Tech Tips videos. However, chaos ensued when he dared to replace his wireless access point. To his dismay, the relay board refused to connect to the new access point, and there was no option to reset it to factory settings. Left with no choice, Linus had to discard the board and purchase a new one.
This frustrating experience led Linus to discover Home Assistant, and as per his tech-savvy nature, he documented the entire process on his Linus Tech Tips YouTube channel. If you haven't stumbled upon it yet, Linus Tech Tips boasts an impressive 13.2 million subscribers, which is just a tad more than my own humble channel.
In their quest for a reliable relay board, Linus and his team at Linus Tech Tips opted for a more sophisticated solution: the Sonoff 4CH Wi-Fi Smart Switch. Sonoff, a household name in the DIY smart home community, proved to be a wise choice for their endeavour. However, their decision to use the eWeLink app and IFTTT for remote control turned out to be less than ideal.
The issue with IFTTT arose when the platform altered its monetization strategy, requiring vendors to pay for customer usage. This change contradicted Linus's goal of avoiding subscriptions, leaving their setup stranded and prompting a return to the drawing board.
Fate seemed to conspire against them when their nearly 40-year-old garage opener breathed its last. After procuring a new opener, they sought professional installation – a rare occurrence on Linus Tech Tips. The chosen device was a LiftMaster, a subsidiary of Chamberlain. Linus lamented the lack of alternatives, attributing it to the garage door opener industry's monopolistic nature.
In an ideal world, the Sonoff 4CH Wi-Fi Smart Switch would have seamlessly integrated with the LiftMaster garage door opener, allowing for smooth remote operation. Alas, this was not the case, as modern garage door openers have moved away from closed circuits, and LiftMaster's wall-mounted remotes now rely on wireless communication with the opener. Undeterred, our protagonist Linus embarked on a quest to make the Sonoff work with LiftMaster, even going as far as soldering new components onto the remote. However, despite his valiant efforts, he was ultimately forced to concede defeat and turn to Chamberlain's myQ software.
But the story doesn't end there. Linus soon discovered that the myQ app was far from perfect, plagued by a frustrating tendency to log users out upon switching networks – a common occurrence when returning home and reconnecting to Wi-Fi. A potential solution appeared in the form of an IFTTT recipe, but alas, myQ only permits door closure through this method, leaving the opening conundrum unsolved.
In the video, Linus highlights two significant issues that can plague users of commercial smart home systems. These concerns will undoubtedly strike a chord with many Home Assistant enthusiasts. In fact, it's safe to say that one or both of these problems are the primary reasons for opting for this exceptional open-source smart home solution:
Does this ring a bell? Curiously, Linus contends that there's not much one can do about the first issue. However, seasoned Home Assistant users might beg to differ. They have a simple three-word solution: Embrace local control.
Regrettably, myQ restricts users to cloud polling, disallowing local control, so that avenue is closed. Nonetheless, it would be fascinating to witness someone from Linus Tech Tips create their own garage door opener using ESPHome or install one that permits local control, all the while elucidating its advantages.
In the realm of smart homes, Linus found himself in familiar territory, already having an Unraid server up and running. With the added advantage of Jake Tivy, a Linus Tech Tips writer and Home Assistant enthusiast, setting up a Home Assistant container or virtual machine was a breeze. The integration of myQ with Home Assistant proved to be a smooth affair as well.
As the story unfolds, Linus ventured into establishing his own domain for Home Assistant and forging a connection with Google Assistant. Interestingly, he chose not to invest in Home Assistant Cloud, aiming to avoid subscriptions. However, he seemed to overlook the cost of the domain itself.
From an expert's perspective, their exploration of Home Assistant Cloud seemed rather fleeting. This service offers not only remote access but also a layer of security. For those less technologically inclined, it's worth considering the subscription to avoid potential risks to your dashboard. On a side note, the same subscription also contributes to the development of Home Assistant. For those who find value in this platform, supporting its ongoing existence is certainly a worthwhile cause.