I have been buying and tinkering with smart home devices for years. This makes my home network look like a Model UN of devices, bridges, protocols, assistants and apps. I’m trying to form alliances, resolve disputes, and reassure everyone, including myself, that this whole complicated thing is still worth it.
My salvation has been a small server that gives you . Every device in my house is connected to Home Assistant, which runs on a tiny under my printer. I have a custom dashboard with all my switches, sensors, speakers and lights. I have full control, a custom dashboard and infinite automations.
But sometimes I just want to change the thermostat from the lock screen on my iPhone or tell Siri, on my phone or watch, to turn on a light. Yes, Home Assistant has its own app, plus a mobile-friendly website. But I also want to prevent my partner from learning how an entirely different, somewhat clunky app works to access lights and switches.
Conveniently, Home Assistant is not an all-or-nothing proposition. Sure, you can use it to remove the big tech companies from your smart home and design your own dashboard. But you can also use it as a gateway between a motley crew of non-HomeKit-friendly gadgets and Apple’s Home system. Or you can switch between the two for more control or easier access.
Let’s see how Home Assistant can help HomeKit find every device in your house for free, even the ones it doesn’t officially support. It can also connect Google and Amazon apps and assistants to the rare devices they don’t support, though that costs $5 a month (but also supports Home Assistant development).
One more note before going deeper: if you only use Apple devices to control your smart home devices, you only care about HomeKit compatibility, and you have a spare Raspberry Pi, HomeBridge is another solution. It’s more limited in scope than Home Assistant, but that can be a plus for some people.
Get your house in order
First you want to get Home Assistant up and running and connecting to your devices. It’s beyond our scope to walk you through that process, but there are many resources you can refer to. To start with to run the system on a Pi, a NUC, a NAS, an always-on system, a Docker container or in a virtual machine. In short, Home Assistant can live on any small computer that can always be on.
Once Home Assistant is up and running, you can add as many devices and services in your home (referred to in the Home Assistant as ‘Integrations’) to it, accessible from your phones or speakers. If you bump into a wall, the Home Assistant , and are good places to look for troubleshooting tips. I found quite a few tips about at.
If you’ve looked in Home Assistant and can’t find an integration for any of your devices, consider using the an unofficial community maintained compendium of integrations and other add-ons. Search (at the top right of the HACS page) to see if your device or brand is listed.
Some HACS integrations may require more work to configure. I had to set one up on a friend’s Home Assistant setup to access his Ring pad lights. For some devices (usually the cheaper variant of the brand), you can sign up for an API key on the developer portal of a little-known company. You can decide if the extra steps are worth it to access these gadgets right on your phone.
If you already have Home Assistant running and connected to everything and want to add a HomeKit bridge, you have a special task:remove as many old, redundant or unresponsive devices as possible. Go to Settings, Devices and Services and then the Entities tab and sort by status to see what is no longer connected or responding. When you connect Home Assistant to HomeKit, Google or Alexa, the server sends entire categories of devices, whether they are duplicated or unresponsive. On HomeKit in particular, it’s annoying to remove dead or duplicate entries, and the Home app will bug you to configure devices until you do.