Are you trying to choose the best home automation platform for your needs? Then this page is for you. Today I want to compare three of the main platforms out there, OpenHab vs Home Assistant vs Domoticz.
At the end of the post, you will have a clear picture of the best option for your particular requirements.
The post will cover the main aspects that you need to think about when choosing a Home Automation platform.
- Installation Process
- Community of Users
- Pace of Development
- Automation Capabilities
If you are new to the world of Home Automation you should probably check Five Steps to Start your Smart Home Project, it will help you understand the basic concepts of a home automation system before we dive into the details.
OpenHab vs Home Assistant vs Domoticz
Although there are a number of alternatives out there (HomeGenie, MyController.org, MyNodes.NET…), in this post we will focus on the three biggest communities. A big community translates into more ideas and more people sharing their knowledge with you.
OpenHab is an Open Source Home Automation Platform. It is vendor and technology agnostic. As a result of this, if a device is popular, it will likely be supported by the platform sooner or later. It is developed in Java, which gives you endless devices where you can run the system. The community is very well established and helpful. Its architecture is based on bindings that bring support for different smart home devices.
Domoticz is another big name among the Home Automation Systems. It is very lightweight compared to OpenHab and Home Assistant while still delivering a decent number of features. The configuration is mostly done through a web interface and you can use plugins to extend the functionality.
Home Assistant is the newer cool kid in the neighborhood. It is a growing community with a very user-friendly approach. The tagline of this Home Automation Software is Simplicity. It is developed in Python and in the same way as Domoticz, you can extend its functionality by using plugins.
OpenHab vs Home Assistant vs Domoticz – Let’s get down to Business
I would recommend installing the software on a Raspberry Pi. It is a very cheap and scalable device. The best part is that you can have it running 24/7 without that much of an impact on the electricity bill.
Using OpenHabian the installation is a walk in the park. The installation process takes between 20 and 40 minutes and it is extremely hands off. Once it is finished you can enter into the web UI and start adding supported devices. It is that simple. If you have a Raspberry Pi 3, configuring the wireless connection is very simple as well.
Related: How to Install OpenHab in 30 Minutes
The installation process for Home Assistant is very similar to OpenHab. You just need to download and burn the image of HassBian, officially supported by the Home Assitant project. Ten minutes after inserting it into the Raspberry Pi the system is up and running. The installation time might be a bit longer depending on your internet connection. The first thing that it does it to download the latest version of the software.
Domoticz is slightly less straightforward. There used to be an SD card image as for the other two alternatives but Domoticz stopped maintained this. To install Domoticz you first need to have a Raspberry Pi distribution like Raspbian installed and with Internet connectivity.
OpenHab2 was released in 2017 with the idea of reaching a less technical audience. The new release includes Paper UI, a new web UI that allows you to do a lot of the configurations without having to edit files. In principle this is great, but there is a caveat. Paper UI still doesn´t support all the features in OpenHab so you still have to go and do some of the configurations editing the files. I think the initiative is still halfway there but once everything is supported, it will be able to reach a lot of users that don´t feel very comfortable in a Linux environment. The main downside of it is having to configure things in two different places, Paper UI and the files. It is not ideal to keep your configuration versioned and to create regular backups.
The project has gone the route of making decisions on behalf of the user. The first time that it runs, the system tries to discover all the devices in your house and adds them to the UI. This is practical if you have very few things but for more complex implementations it is limited. If you want to do more customizations there is some file editing to be done. They have chosen YAML for configuration files. I guess this is about preference but I don´t find it very intuitive.
A big percentage of the configuration can be done using a Web UI. The interface itself is not extremely intuitive, but for those that don´t feel very comfortable with files, it might be something to consider.
OpenHab can be as flexible as you want it to be. It comes at a cost though, it is not the easiest system. The Web UI supports very basic things, the power is still in the configuration files. I personally don´t mind dealing with that but I don´t like having mixed up configurations.
Home Assistant can definitely cover most people needs. The auto-discovery function works fairly well and the system makes a pretty decent job guessing your needs. I think it is definitely on the right path, but in my opinion, it still lacks flexibility.
Domoticz is very stable and will do the basics just fine, however, I think is quite limited in terms of supported devices and configurations.
Community of Users
The community of users is probably one of the best things about OpenHab. The best practices are very well established and very knowledgeable people in the forums are always happy to answer your questions. Browsing through the forum you will very likely find everything you need to solve your issue. If you post questions you usually get a response pretty quickly, it is a very active community. The documentation is very helpful and adapted to all kind of audiences.
HASS is generating a lot of chatting on the internet lately, which is great, the community is growing very quickly. On the flip side, most of the people in the forums are asking for help. I guess this will change over time once the platform reaches maturity. The documentation can definitely use more structure.
I think Domoticz has substantially fewer users than Hass and OpenHab. I find the documentation slightly outdated and finding answers when you are facing issues is not always easy.
Pace of Development
The pace of development in the OpenHab community is quite slow. The main reason for this is the rigorous approval process, which at the end of the day, is what makes this platform very stable. On the flip side, there are new IoT devices every day and OpenHab might not be the first one adding a binding to the stable release.
Home Assistant is a thrill in this sense. There are new releases every week with the latest gadgets. If you are a very early adapter this is great for you, however, you have to trade some stability in exchange for this.
Domoticz is definitely lagging behind when it comes to supporting the latest devices. Especially those that come from very proprietary brands and don’t use very well known protocols.
If XBase is painful, Yaml is by far worse to define automation rules. It is also very inflexible. Same as OpenHab with JSR223, in Home Assistant you can use AppDaemon to write the rules in Python. Python is very easy to learn for non-developers, you can do fairly complex things with just a few lines of code.
Domoticz uses LUA Scripting, which I find very clean and powerful. It definitely can handle anything you set your mind to. The only disadvantage that I could find is that learning Python is probably a lot more practical than learning LUA.
OpenHab vs Home Assistant Vs Domoticz: Conclusions
I haven´t really found any significant advantage of Domoticz over Home Assistant or OpenHab. I think it was a great platform at some point, however, the community is not as strong as it used to be. The is an exodus of users moving to OpenHab or Home Assistant. Compared to the other two it lacks flexibility and supported devices. At this point, I don´t think Domoticz is the best option unless of course, you already have an installation.
Home Assistant is killing it lately. I think they are taking steps in the right direction. It is a great alternative if you want to have support right away for the latest gadgets and don´t mind to lose some stability over that. I like especially the support for media devices like Roku or Chromecast. The UI, although has some limitations, is very attractive to the eye. This will increase the approval ratio of the rest of the members of your family when you start messing out with the lighting…
OpenHab is probably the most noteworthy out there. It is amazingly flexible. The User interface is not as beautiful as the one in Home Assistant but it is very decent and customizable. I am not going to deny that the development pace sometimes feels too slow, but if you want to live on the edge you can still use the non-stable snapshots. Paper UI still feels raw, but I think it is moving in the right direction. The other thing that I find fantastic is the script to do the configurations automatically on the command line. It allows you to do lots of tasks semi-automatically. If you like flexibility and don’t mind a slightly steeper learning curve, OpenHab is the way to go.
And the winner is…
OpenHab Vs Home Assistant vs Domoticz, Which Home Automation Platform are you going to Use? Let me know in the comments!