READING TIME: 9 MINUTES
With all of the SmartThings issues I’ve been hearing about lately, I thought now would be a good time to share some guides I created whenever I migrated to Home Assistant. Follow this guide to learn how to migrate from SmartThings to Home Assistant in 2021.
Overall, SmartThings was pretty solid for me. I had a lot of fun setting things up and playing with Webcore (for example, configuring MyQ into SmartThings, or creating automations that play custom audio tracks on Google Home speakers). I rarely had outages, and if I did – they never lasted very long.
However, whenever I started purchasing smart home devices 3 years ago, I knew I would eventually move to Home Assistant. That was always the end goal. I always made sure the devices I bought were going to be compatible with both SmartThings and Home Assistant (i.e – zigbee or zwave, no wifi) whenever possible.
So, why did I switch?
The final nail for me was when I unplugged my SmartThings hub to reroute some cabling. After that – 90% of my devices displayed an “offline” status and never reconnected. Rather that re-add all of my devices again, for the 3rd time in 2.5 years, I decided 2021 was the year to finally migrate from SmartThings to Home Assistant.
Although I have no ill will towards SmartThings, moving to HA was probably the best decision I could’ve made. It’s just so much faster, more flexible, and more future-proof for my needs.
Migrating to Home Assistant wasn’t too terribly difficult. I setup everything over the course of a a weekend. It primarily took me so long because I was writing various how-to guides as I went. I have over 30 devices, and most of them paired pretty easily (aside from my Schlage Camelot smart lock and Innovelli Black in-wall switch). Those ones too some googling, but I got both working perfectly.
Before I switched, I have this preconceived notion that Home Assistant requires all kinds of programming, and I’d spend hours and hours trying to fight to get things to work. I was pleasantly surprised to see that that wasn’t the case. Almost everything can be done from a web gui. Adding devices isn’t hard, just different. You have to know which devices are zwave and which ones are zigbee, because that will determine how you add them. With SmartThings, I had no idea what protocol my devices were using.
To simplify things, there is an official SmartThings integration within Home Assistant. You basically input your SmartThings credentials and it pulls in all of your devices. However, I wouldn’t recommend going this route because you are still relying on Samsung at this point. The end goal should be removing your SmartThings hub entirely. If you want to setup the integration for testing, or until you get used to the Home Assistant menu items and layout, that is perfectly fine. Longterm, I recommend spending the time to add your devices directly to Home Assistant.
Also, keep your SmartThings hub handy. You will probably need to exclude and/or delete certain devices before you can just unplug your old hub.
- Do my SmartThings branded devices work in Home Assistant? Yes. So far I have added my SmartThings water sensors, buttons, motion detectors, and multipurpose sensors. I’ve also added zigbee Peanut plugs, integrated my Ecobee thermostat, my Ring doorbell, and my 3 Roku TV’s. All of these show up in my WIP dashboard.
- Can I connect to Home Assistant remotely? Yes, but it’s not free. For $5/month, you can subscribe to Home Assistant’s Nabu Casa service. Subscribing to Nabu Casa also allows for Google Assistant voice integration. There is a free way to get cloud access to your HA using DuckDNS, but for beginners, I wouldn’t recommend going down this route right away.
- Does Home Assistant work with Google Assistant & Alexa for voice commands? Yes to both Google Assistant and Alex, if you’ve subscribed to the Nabu Casa service.
- How long does it to install Home Assistant? Realistically, you can probably install Home Assistant in less than a hour. Adding devices, especially SmartThings branded ones, are extremely easy to add and only take a few seconds.
- How much does all the hardware cost to move to Home Assistant? I have a breakdown of prices below, but it’ll be around $120 total.
Advantages of HA over SmartThings
Obviously, there are a lot of advantages to using open-source software like Home Assistant. Here’s just a few that I personally think are important:
- Local processing. Events no longer have to be sent to Samsung’s servers and back. Now, they just route instantly throughout your home network, virtually eliminating all delays. I didn’t realize how much of a delay I had with SmartThings until I migrated to HA.
- Customizable dashboard. Your main dashboard is 100% customizable. Move the cards up, down, create or delete cards, add or remove entities to existing cards (entities are the property or attributes of a device, such as Battery Level, Status, Temperature, etc. Devices usually have multiple entities)
- Multiple dashboard support. Create as many dashboards as you’d like. My main dashboard is grouped by rooms, but I have separate dashboard that grouping things by entity type. For example, I created a card to display the battery level for all my devices. Another card could be for temperature, or lock status, or person detection. You could also make this secondary dashboard your primary Home dashboard later on, if you choose to.
- Cheaper sensors. Sensors and devices are typically less expensive. Let’s take Aqara devices for example. A SmartThings motion sensor costs $25, but an Aqara is $19. SmartThings multipurpose sensors are $20, Aqara are $16.
- Webui & Mobile App. I really like that I can add devices or edit my dashboards from a web browser. Definitely one of the biggest advantages for me.
Disadvantages of HA over SmartThings
- Setup time. Be prepared to spend a few hours installing HA, adding devices, and tweaking your dashboard. I find this part fun so I don’t see it as a downside. However, I know a lot of you don’t have the time to dedicate to a new project so this could be considered a disadvantage.
- Backup & restore. While it’s great that you control your devices, keep in mind that your raspberry pi or SD card aren’t fail-proof. As a precaution, always take backups or snapshots from within Home Assistant before making configuration changes and on regular intervals.
- Cloud Access: SmartThings is free to access at home or remotely, Home Assistant is $5/month.
- Automations are more difficult to create (but also more flexible): Simple automations like turning lights on at a certain time are just as easy to create in HA as they are in SmartThings. Some automations, like SmartThings buttons for example, are more difficult. I had to create 3 separate automations (single, double, long) by “listening” for event ID’s.
Items to Purchase & Installation Steps
- Purchase a Raspberry Pi 3B+ or 4, 32gb micro SD card, and a case. (~$65)
- Purchase a GoControl HUSBZB-1 zigbee & zwave USB hub. This USB hub will allow your raspberry pi to communicate with your smart devices on both zigbee or zwave prococols. (~$50)
- Download the appropriate Home Assistant image for your pi, and then install Home Assistant on the SD card using Balena Etcher. Here’s a pretty decent video you can follow, if needed.
- Configure your GoControl hub into Home Assistant.
- Start Adding devices! Here are some guides for:
Anyway, I think I’ll stop this guide here, for now. If you are on the fence about whether or not you should migrate, hopefully this post helps make the decision a little easier.
Feel free to ask any questions below and I’d be happy to answer them.
My Favorite Home Assistant Devices
Below are some of the Home Assistant-compatible devices I personally use in my home. I highly recommend each of them.
- Zwave/Zigbee hub: Nortek GoControl HUSBZB-1
- Smart Plugs: Securifi Peanut plugs
- Motion Sensors: Hue Indoor Motion
- Outdoor Camera: Amcrest IP5M Turret
The full list of all Home Assistant compatible & recommended devices I use can be found on my Equipment List page.