John is a fervent writer, gamer, and guitar lover. Former automatic-transmission repairer, welder and hobbyist game developer.
The rise of smart devices in homes and businesses has been nothing short of meteoric in recent years, and Home Assistant has been a particular highlight in that field.
While proprietary alternatives are often seen as the better option, they tend to lock you into a third-party ecosystem, taking a lot of control out of your hands, and leaving you at the mercy of issues like server outages, and internet connection problems. With Home Assistant, you have a much steeper learning curve, but you keep complete control over your smart home and can configure it any way you choose. The only limit is your own knowledge or willingness to learn.
But I'd be lying if I said it was the most beginner-friendly path to take.
Fortunately, the popularity of Home Assistant is growing by the day, and with it, so too is the wealth of knowledge and experience available for beginners to draw from. In this post, I'm going to look at five mistakes to avoid if you are a beginner to Home Assistant.
1. Following Old Advice
Home Assistant is a very sophisticated system, but it is also a very young system, and it is changing constantly. Unfortunately, the combination of an active, helpful community and a constantly evolving smart home platform means that it is perhaps easier than it should be to find outdated advice.
You may find yourself becoming incredibly frustrated if you try to follow a three-year-old tutorial and it doesn’t work, so always have a look for the latest information when you go searching.
That being said, I'm not saying you should avoid any tutorial that wasn’t published within the last six months. It’s always worth clicking on older guides because they may have been updated to reflect any relevant changes to Home Assistant, and search engines don’t always show this in their results. Even dated information can be useful in some cases, but step-by-step guides will usually need to be up to date.
2. Forgetting to Remove Old Integrations
Smart home devices are evolving all the time, and you will no doubt often find yourself adding and removing devices as new products hit the market. It is the removing part that I'm focusing on here.
As convenient as smart devices can make life, removing a device from your smart network is not as simple as just unplugging it—you also need to remove the integration.
One or two devices may not make much difference, but, over time, if you wind up with several integrations that are no longer connected, you could find your Home Assistant becoming incredibly bogged down as it tries (and fails) to connect with those integrations.
If you’re not sure whether you have any old integrations that need removing, you can always check the logs to see if your Home Assistant has been trying to connect to devices and timing out.
3. Not Checking Logs
Sticking with the theme of checking logs, you can learn a lot more than whether you have any old integrations to remove by doing so. It’s tempting to only check the logs when something is amiss, but by checking them periodically, you can often catch a problem before it inconveniences you. Not all errors will grind Home Assistant to a halt, but many of them can slow it down, like the aforementioned missing integrations.
There are different logs, accessible through different means depending on your setup, so you may need to do a little research to figure out where to look. But, once you know where to find your logs—and what you’re looking for—fitting a regular log-check into your schedule can save you headaches further down the line.
If you’re not sure what a particular logged error means, you can usually find someone in one of the Home Assistant communities who can help. Just remember to be polite and thank them!
4. Not Using 2 Factor Authentication
For many, the worst-case scenario from a smart home security breach is that someone could turn their lights on and off remotely. A nuisance, certainly, but not the end of the world. However, if your home security includes a smart alarm system that is connected to your Home Assistant, you could have real problems if there is a breach.
Enabling 2-factor authentification will allow you to access your Home Assistant remotely with the full peace of mind that comes with knowing you are secured against malicious attempts to access your smart home. It’s not much of an inconvenience, either, as you won’t have to go through the 2-factor login process every time you access your Home Assistant remotely.
5. Not Backing Up!
There was a time when telling people to back up their data would be considered unnecessary due to the common knowledge aspect of it. However, the prevalence of the Cloud in our lives has caused something of a backslide. We are now spoiled by always-connected applications and constant behind-the-scenes backups.
Unfortunately, one of the trade-offs with Home Assistant is that we have to take a little more of that responsibility back, and that is true with backups.
Hard drives can fail, data can become corrupted, accidents can happen. Rather than tear your hair in the event of data loss and wondering if you have the will to go through the process of setting everything back up again, get into the habit of taking regular backups.
And there it is—my five beginner Home Assistant mistakes to avoid. Of course, this is by no means a definitive list of all the mistakes a beginner can make with Home Assistant. Other examples of mistakes to avoid include not having adequate hardware for your home network (Raspberry Pi’s are great but they have their limits), and not updating your Home Assistant.
For the most part, you’ll find that a little common sense will be enough to avoid most beginner mistakes, but things aren’t always intuitive, so don’t be afraid to check articles like this one from time to time.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 John Bullock