OpenHAB Vs. Home Assistant: Which Is Best For Your Smart Home?

Upgraded Home Team
by Upgraded Home Team

Slowly and quietly, a new trend in smart homes is starting to take root among the ultra-techy. People are now making their own open-source programs for their smart home hubs. But when comparing the OpenHAB vs Home Assistant programs, which is better for your home?

The main difference between OpenHAB and Home Assistant is that Home Assistant is slightly better rated for its user-friendly build and easy integration. That said, they are both great options, and offer similar features such as Amazon Alexa Echo, apps for your phone, and work with Zigbee and Z-Wave protocols.

If you are a fan of open-source programming and want to unlock its power for your home, getting one of these apps just makes sense. That being said, it’s a good idea to know what you should expect from both programs and what it could mean for your home automation.

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Before We Begin: A General Introduction To Open Source Smart Homing

Let’s start with the beginning. It’s a trend that was bound to happen—a trend that brings the wonder and community of open source goodness to smart home hubs.

Both OpenHAB and Home Assistant are programs that allow you to upload your own coding to your smart home hub. These computer programs are designed to work with smart home devices to make your home easier to automate and customize.

Unlike Amazon Alexa or Google Home, these programs require you to be able to code and also require a higher level of tech knowledge. If you are not well-versed in programming or coding, then these are not going to be a good match for you. Now that we’ve discussed that disclaimer, let’s talk about each program.

What Is OpenHAB?

Kai Kreuzer created OpenHAB in 2010, and OpenHAB 2 was developed in Java. It combines Apache Karaf with Eclipse Equinox to create an Open Services Gateway initiative (OSGi) runtime environment. The HTTP server is Jetty, and you can extend OpenHAB using add-ons. (More on add-ons a bit later).

You can run OpenHAB on many popular platforms including Windows, Mac OSx, and Linux.

What Is Home Assistant?

Home Assistant uses Python 3 and Polymer, for the backend and frontend components, respectively. It is licensed under Apache 2.0, and like OpenHAB can be extended by using add-ons.

OpenHAB vs Home Assistant: A Word About Picking Your Platform

When it comes to people in the maker world, it’s clear to see that everyone has their personal preferences. The way that we decided to look at the open-source platforms in this article was to provide a new foray into the open-source makerspace.

If you are looking for a more challenging and complex system, then chances are that you would find OpenHAB to be your cup of tea. We are writing this article with the thought of introducing newbies to the open-source smart home arena—and that includes having an intermediate understanding of coding.

OpenHAB vs Home Assistant: What Do They Have In Common?

With a lot of open-source platforms, trying to compare two programs is a lot like comparing apples and oranges. This isn’t the case here, since they’re fairly similar. Before we start comparing the two, we need to talk about the similarities that both programs have:

  • They both have skills on the Amazon Alexa Skills market. If you have an Amazon Echo or any other Alexa-capable device, you can use these programs to make more use of your smart home hub.
  • They both work with Zigbee and Z-Wave protocols. This means that you will be able to use most smart home protocols with them effortlessly.
  • They both also have apps. If you have an iPhone or an Android device, you can access both with ease.
  • Both have communities that work to help others out. Like with most programming-oriented communities, you can expect to get a lot of help from people in both the OpenHAB and Home Assistant communities.

OpenHAB vs. Home Assistant: The Installation

As far as installation goes, both OpenHAB and Home Assistant are meant to be fairly easy to set up. However, installation definitely gets a little trickier when you’re working with OpenHAB. This program is notorious for glitching during setup and having confusing instructions associated with it.

OpenHAB’s newest version, OpenHAB2, still requires booting a power shell on your computer. Home Assistant, on the other hand, doesn’t. Since Home Assistant’s installation procedure is guided by an easy-to-use graphic user interface, it’s considered to be an easier install in general.

The Winner Here: Home Assistant

Open HAB vs Home Assistant: What About Integration?

Both OpenHAB and Home Assistant will need to be integrated with their hubs and smart home items. When it comes to OpenHAB, you typically will need to spend around 40 minutes on a web interface to be able to integrate your open source.

Home Assistant is a little bit different. With that platform, the majority of the integration is automated by its web interface. Heck, even clicking the “Discover” button can make a big difference in speed.

The Winner Here: Home Assistant

Which Platform Has Better Help Guides?

Installation and configuration can be tricky with both of these platforms. That’s why it is a good idea to keep an eye out for help guides provided by each group. Both platforms have a fair amount of sources that help explain their platforms.

However, both have been known to have their issues when it comes to explanations. Most people find OpenHAB to be more complete when it comes to their help guides.

The Winner Here: OpenHAB

OpenHAB vs. Home Assistant: Functionality

OpenHAB and Home Assistant both have their own strengths when it comes to compatibility, programming, and all the other aspects of use that people think of. To take a better look at compatibility, we decided to break it down by each measure…

What About App Usage?

If you are looking for a platform that has app capabilities, then it’s an even tie. Both Home Assistant and OpenHAB now have apps that work in both Android and Apple settings. OpenHAB, however, also has the added perk of having Linux-friendly and Pine-friendly apps as a result of its hacker-friendly interface.

The Winner: OpenHAB

What About Your Coding Experience?

In terms of coding your own automation rules, things get a little different. OpenHAB uses Xtrend in Blocky to get your rules written, while Home Assistant uses YAML. YAML is a more user-friendly coding markup, primarily because it’s written to be readable for non-coders as well.

Programming-wise, it’s a matter of preference. If you’re a fan of Java programming, then you will want to stick to OpenHAB. If you like Python, then Home Assistant is a better choice for you.

Xtrend is a more complex language than YAML, which makes a big difference to newbies. If you are not used to dealing with heavy coding but still want to try the open-source movement, then it’s pretty clear that Home Assistant is king.

The Winner: Home Assistant

OpenHAB vs Home Assistant? What Are Add-Ons Like?

Add-ons are a huge sticking point for both OpenHAB and Home Assistant. In fact, some might even say they’re what make the biggest difference between the two platforms. Both OpenHAB and Home Assistant have a slew of brand-specific add-ons from major labels like Hue and IKEA that make them awesome.

However, they also have their own unique integrations that make them worthwhile. OpenHAB has a very respectable number of add-ons, totaling around 390 not including extra “things.” These add-ons allow OpenHAB to interact with a growing number of physical items.

Home Assistant, however, seems to have outpaced OpenHAB when it comes to the sheer variety of add-ons you can get.

It’s safe to say that OpenHAB has enough functionality to do most of the things people love to see smart homes do. Home Assistant, on the other hand, goes the extra mile by having add-ons that feature cryptocurrency like Ripple and car connections.

The Winner: Home Assistant

OpenHAB vs Home Assistant: User Interface

One could argue that both Home Assistant and OpenHAB have great user interfaces, and they’d be right. Both are designed to be user-friendly, and it’s their interfaces that helped them gain the strong followings they’re known for. Visually, they’re both pretty epic, although most people seem to enjoy the appearance of Home Assistant’s more.

With this issue, most people would say that it’s a matter of personal preference. Newbies tend to prefer Home Assistant because everything’s laid out in an easy to understand way. On the other hand, OpenHAB is typically more flexible and customizable with its UI. So, it’s a tie.

The Winner: Tied.

Raspberry Pi Compatibility

It’s no secret that Raspberry Pi is known for being a programmer’s best friend. These affordable mini-computers have been used in almost every conceivable hack/makerspace way. There’s good news here: both platforms can work with Raspberry Pi.

That being said, older Raspberry Pi models can be difficult to work with on both platforms. That’s just a matter of it being potentially obsolete.

The Winner: Tied.

OpenHAB vs Home Assistant: Flexibility

It’s hard to say that either platform has limitations, but we have to be honest. The way they are set up can make it hard for you to do certain things. Reputation-wise, OpenHAB has a tendency to be more complex and difficult, but many people consider it to have more potential to do fascinating stuff.

Home Assistant might not have as much potential to do complex, high-level functions, but it is noticeably more user-friendly than its OpenHAB competitor. So, it’s a trade-off. It’s up to you to decide which platform has the right configurations for you.

The Winner: Tied.

OpenHAB vs. Home Assistant: Coding Sources and Updates

Here’s where we get to the real meat and potatoes of the user experience: the codes you can run on each. Though these programs are meant to be used by people who know how to code from scratch, it’s often easier to grab codes that other programmers have made. So, here’s what you need to know about each platform:

  • You can find codes for both platforms on sites like GitHub. GitHub is a major hotspot for both users, however, the amount of codes that you can find on GitHub is slightly higher for Home Assistant.
  • OpenHAB’s users are more likely to post their cool tinkerings on forums. There’s definitely a chatty community with OpenHAB. The good news about this is that you can often find complex programs that work well with your goals, without having to do all the coding yourself.
  • Both OpenHAB and Home Assistant can give you alerts through a wide range of different methods. When an update is necessary, both platforms make a point of letting users know through easy-to-read access alerts.

What Are The Updates Like?

OpenHAB has a reputation for being difficult when it comes to installing updates, even with the alerts. You typically have to go into a command line to get updates for your program, and the whole process can be time-consuming at best.

You can perform Home Assistant’s updates with the click of a button, making it easier and faster for all parties involved. When it comes to updates, there’s definitely a clear winner in Home Assistant here. There’s no other way to put it.

The Winner: Home Assistant

Open HAB vs Home Assistant: What Are The Communities Like?

When it comes to working with open source platforms, the communities that surround them are going to make a huge difference in your overall experience. This is both a part of open source programming culture as well as a necessity.

In the past, OpenHAB was known for being the more active community, but that quickly stopped being the case. This community is still alive and well on the forums, as well as on sites like Reddit.

Home Assistant now sees around 500 to 700 different community topics per week, making it a very active and lively open source community. If you are looking to connect with others in this world, or are a newbie who just wants a little help, Home Assistant is a great pic.

The Winner: Home Assistant

How Easy Is It To Get Codes For Your Platform?

This is another major question people have, and honestly, the answer varies. OpenHAB is always coming up with new ways to share codes and projects. They regularly feature new concepts on their forums and GitHub has plenty of snippets that you can use if you so choose.

Home Assistant may have a lot more programs on GitHub, but the truth is that sifting through them all can be a pain. So, while access to new programs can be easier, there’s still a lot of tedium when it comes to finding the right project for you. Even so, you can’t ignore the number of codes on GitHub.

The Winner: Home Assistant.

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OpenHAB vs Home Assistant: Mobile Applications

A big part of having a smart home is being able to control things in your home remotely, mainly from your smartphone. Both OpenHAB and Home Assistant work with mobile devices, but they approach it differently.

The Home Assistant app for iOS features advanced push notifications, basic control of all your Home Assistant activities, location tracking, and integrates with third-party apps. Overall, it gets good reviews and users are happy with the app.

The Android Home Assistant app isn’t actually an official Android app, but instead an unofficial one with basic functions. It si not nearly as developed as its iOS counterpart.

Still, Home Assistant works very well with the web interface and most users often find the limited Android app sufficient for their needs.

On the other hand, the OpenHAB Android application is solid with many robust features. You can control your openHAB server and receive notifications through the OpenHAB Cloud connection. You can also change items via NFC tags and send voice commands. The OpenHAB iPhone app has similar function with a clean and crisp look.

Winner: OpenHAB.

Although you don’t need an app to have a functioning Smart Home, it’s typically easier when it comes to multiple family members.

Getting Started With OpenHAB

Once you install and launch OpenHAB, you’ll launch the user interface to create an admin account. After creating an admin user, you will go through a guided set-up where you input your location, region, time zone, and language.

Within the setup wizard, you’ll also have the opportunity to install add-ons, or you can skip the step and return to it later. Once you complete the wizard, you’ll see your dashboard. You won’t need to sign in since you’re established as the administrator.

Getting Started With Home Assistant

Make sure to download the latest Home Assistant that matches your model of Raspberry Pi. You can use balenaEtcher to flash the home Assistant image to your micro SD Card. Once it’s on the card, insert the card into your Raspberry Pi and connect the power cable and ethernet cable.

Then, you will control everything via your browser on your regular computer. Once you’ve accessed your Home Assistant, you will see the UI that you can use to control your devices. You will also be able to begin installing your add-ons.

Our Final Take

If you are just beginning your journey as a maker or just want to experience the world of makerspaces for the first time, choose Home Assistant. It’s pretty clear that Home Assistant is going to be the one that you’re going to want to choose. Even advanced coders enjoy using it, simply because it features such a “no fuss” platform.

Though most people will enjoy Home Assistant more, it’s worth noting that OpenHAB still has its own value and community worth checking out. If you are looking for a more flexible style of coding that works with more advanced goals, OpenHAB might be a better option for you.

At the end of the day, the smart home platform you choose is an individual choice, which will be primarily based on what you want to do (and your programming language of choice). If you’re seasoned enough to know what you want, the answer for the best platform for you will be clear as day.

Related Questions

How can I create a smart home if I don’t know how to code?

You don’t need to know how to code or be a tech genius to have a smart home. You can purchase Smart home hubs that you can operate through voice assistants like Google and Alexa. Of course,e your commands will be limited to what these systems provide, but you can control a variety of different things.You can still operate your lights, AC, television, over, run your robot vacuum, and more using these types of systems. If you really want to create your own, then you would need to learn how to code and be ready for the time and effort it takes.

Are OpenHAB and Home Assistant clouds free? 

The OpenHAB cloud is free, but Home Assistant costs $5 a month.

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Upgraded Home Team
Upgraded Home Team

We are a team of passionate homeowners, home improvement pros, and DIY enthusiasts who enjoy sharing home improvement, housekeeping, decorating, and more with other homeowners! Whether you're looking for a step-by-step guide on fixing an appliance or the cost of installing a fence, we've here to help.

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