How Raspberry Pi Home Automation Helps DIYers
For those willing to get their hands a little "dirty," the Pi can be an inexpensive and powerful home automation hub.
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The Raspberry Pi is an affordable DIY-friendly mini-computer that can be used to run home automation software, if you are somewhat technically inclined. If you’re researching the best options for starting or expanding your smart home system, it’s a capable and flexible ecosystem to consider alongside more mainstream products. Find the answers to your Raspberry Pi home automation questions here.
What Is Raspberry Pi Home Automation?
The Raspberry Pi Foundation sums up its Raspberry Pi device as a “low-cost, credit-card-sized computer that plugs into a computer monitor or TV, and uses a standard keyboard and mouse.” When it debuted in 2012, it encouraged accessibility for people of all ages by offering an absurdly cheap yet fully functional computer.
With the number of home automation products growing exponentially, the Raspberry Pi has also developed into a great option for controlling your smart home. It offers a more open, controllable and privacy-minded approach than many commercial offerings, but requires more technical aptitude to set up and lacks some of the user interface polish.
How Does Raspberry Pi Home Automation Work?
Raspberry Pi home automation requires software, including great no-cost solutions like Mozilla’s WebThings Gateway (nice setup procedure) or Home Assistant (more mature and polished). Both leave your data in your hands, never sending anything outside your home network — an excellent data privacy benefit for those who aren’t comfortable with the licensing agreements of most commercial hubs on the market.
Once you choose your software, you’ll download their system file, put it on a microSD card with a free tool like Balena Etcher, plug the microSD card into the Pi and start it up.
You’ll usually go through some basic setup instructions, and then the software is ready to connect with everything from lights to door locks. It’s generally compatible with devices that work on WiFi and Bluetooth. Or, for about $50, you can get a ZigBee or ZWave USB adapter to match your existing smart devices’ communication protocol.
The Pi works as the central hub, keeping track of the current state of your devices and sending commands. To create customized triggers or automation, edit YAML code directly or use an intuitive tool such as Node-RED to program with visual “wiring diagrams.” Then just find a convenient spot with access to power and internet to tuck away your Raspberry Pi, and you’re ready to control your smart home.
What Is the Latest Model of Raspberry Pi?
The latest version of this home automation device is the Raspberry Pi 4. Compared to older models, it features better processor speed, multimedia performance, memory and connectivity. At the same time, it maintains similar power consumption and backward software compatibility that ensures what you create on a Raspberry Pi 4 will work on older models as well. It comes with optional 1GB, 2GB or 4GB of on-board RAM, a 64-bit quad-core processor, dual-display 4K HDMI output, WiFi, Bluetooth, Ethernet and USB.
How Much Does Raspberry Pi Cost?
You can get the 1GB Pi 4 board only for just $35. Power it yourself, enclose it yourself or just mount it bare on a DIN rail in a closet.
Or get all set up with a full desktop kit for about $130, including the 4GB Pi 4, enclosure, power supply and a mini mouse and keyboard.
Who Is Raspberry Pi Good For?
Raspberry Pi home automation is a great home automation choice for those who don’t mind digging into some technical computer setup. If you enjoy taking on projects like this, it can be satisfying. But can also send you down rabbit hole of command-line troubleshooting or installing drivers. Overall, it’s a fine inexpensive, modular, open-ended and DIY-friendly smart home system.