Domoticz or Home Assistant¶
If you are completely new to home automation and you want to use the Gateway, you need to make a choice which home automation software you want to implement.
Although there are dozens of different systems, most people will choose between Home Assistant and Domoticz. I often get the question which one you should choose.
Both have their benefits and downsides. In the end it’s your personal choice. You can also try out both with the Gateway simultaneously!
Below are some personal recommendations. Make up your own mind though.
A home automation system needs to run 24/7 to be of any good use. This means you need a computer of some kind that is always on to run the home automation software.
The cheapest and pretty much the simplest way to run Domoticz or Home Assistant is to buy single board computer like a Raspberry Pi. You need to install a disk image of Raspbian or Hass.io on a SD card and plug that into the Raspberry Pi.
The Pi does not have to be near the Gateway. The Pi can connect to your home network via Ethernet or WiFi so you can place it anywhere you like.
A Pi with home automation runs ‘headless’. This means you don’t need to connect a monitor or keyboard to the Pi but you access the services on it via a web interface or SSH terminal on f.i. your laptop.
There are many starter kits available for the Raspberry Pi but you can also build your own. Anyway always get the latest hardware version of the Raspberry Pi.
You need to preferably load Hass.io if you want to use Home Assistant or Raspbian for Domoticz. You can also install f.i. Raspbian and install both Domoticz and Home Assistant on the same Pi. This way you can try both. There are many options.
Although a Raspberry Pi works fine for a lot of people, it has one single point of failure and that is the SD card. SD cards wear out. If you start logging all data of several devices this means a lot of write actions to that SD card. At some point it will fail. It can take a few months, a year, two years, who knows. So if you want to keep all data for the future, make sure there is a regular backup.
Intel NUC or other mini-pc¶
Power users are just better off with a mini-pc like the Intel NUC. You can still start with a Raspberry Pi and after a while evolve to a mini-pc. A mini-pc usually has a large memory and a fast SSD harddrive, so it’s capable of running much more than just your Home Automation. After going through several generations of Raspberry Pi’s and loads of SD cards I finally settled on an Intel NUC. It runs Domoticz, Home Assistant, a Unifi controller, Grafana, several docker containers etc etc without any hickups.
Domoticz versus Home Assistant¶
Domoticz has a very powerful event and scripting engine, an active community and lot’s of plugins. But it’s UI looks a bit like it’s 1999. Home Assistant has a much smoother and shiny UI and is a bit more convenient to work with. It also has a huge community.
EMS-ESP (the software running on the Gateway) was built with Home Assistant in mind. With the latest versions MQTT Discovery was implemented. That discovery protocol makes it possible to load the entire set of parameters from the Gateway into Home Assistant with just a few clicks. EMS-ESP with Home Assistant also makes sure that every parameter on the Gateway is available in Home Assistant. I use Home Assistant on several test systems and I was actually a bit amazed about the easy of use the first time I tried EMS-ESP with the discovery.
Domoticz has been around for quite some years. When I first ventured into home automation I settled on Domoticz and still use it to this day. Yes, the UI looks ancient but on the other hand I hardly ever look at it. All lighting in my house is controlled via Domoticz and most of it runs on timers and sensors so I don’t need to look at the Domoticz UI very often. And if you want you can always modify the UI to your liking.
To use the Gateway with Domoticz, I have created a plugin that takes all incoming and outgoing messages from the Gateway via MQTT and sets the parameters accordingly. While Home Assistant always has the full set of parameters from the Gateway, in Domoticz this is always a bit more limited and some new parameters are only implemented on request.
Making the choice¶
If you already are using Domoticz then stay with Domoticz. If you are already using Home Assistant, there is absolutely no need to migrate to Domoticz. If you are completely new to home automation, or you want to have the largest amount of Gateway parameters available, I would suggest to try out Home Assistant first. But you can also try out both at the same time on the same Pi with the same Gateway to experience them both and see which one works best for you.
And aside from Domoticz and Home Assistant there are many other home automation systems like OpenHAB, Loxone etc etc that are worth looking at.