How we built our DIY Smart Home Automation System

I often get questions from friends, family and colleagues about our self-hosted DIY Smart Home and how they can also get something like it. I have already written a detailed technology guide to home automation but this blog post is about how I put my system together and how you can do the same without breaking the bank.

Home automation is so affordable and accessible these days. Gone are the days when you had to shell out thousands for your own smart home, and even then the end result was far from impressive! You can get fully wireless smart home lighting or security kits for $100-$200 today, instead of the thousands it used to cost! And you don’t need an army of technicians to install it either.

The focus of my blog is DIY smart home solutions, and you can get your smart home set up yourself for the most part – but you may need a certified electrician if you are not confident enough or your country’s codes require you to use one.

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What does my Home Automation System do?

Currently these are the various things it can do, from any screen in the house or from anywhere on the planet, and by voice control:

  1. Turn on/off lights around the house according to the time of the day and the weather OR on demand via smartphone, wall-mounted tablet or voice control (no mind-control yet!)
  2. For each heating zone, set the right thermostat set points depending on the season and weather
  3. Maintain the temperature in each zone of the house based on that zone’s thermostat set point
  4. Run the boiler according to the hot water schedule everyday.
  5. Automatically turn on/off the humidifier in the baby’s nursery based on the measured humidity in the room.
  6. At night, turn lights on in the stairs when motion is detected. Switch it off after 5 minutes of no motion.
  7. Monitor all my security cameras.
  8. If motion is detected when the alarm system is armed, turn on QNAP Surveillance Station camera recording and turn on the correct outside lights.
  9. Take snaps/record Surveillance Station videos based on different triggers such as new post or a doorbell push.
  10. Send me email alerts when anything unusual happens in the house or if the alarm system is triggered

Of course there’s a lot more it can do. Even with my current setup, there are probably hundreds of different scenarios I could set up to make my life more comfortable and increase the security of my home – this is what gets me really excited about home automation!

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What I wish I knew when I started on Home Automation

As discussed in detail in my home automation technology guide, think of different functions in your home as sub-systems. For example, lighting is a sub-system, so are heating, water management, and fire safety. Ultimately you need all your sub-systems to be aware of each other and interact well so that you can actually automate your home, not end up with an expensive collection of stuff that gives you headaches!

Choose your HA platform carefully – I chose Z-Wave

As I say again and again, you have to think long and hard about the basic technology platform that your home automation is built on. If you start buying stuff without considering how they will interact with each other, you will end up wasting your money on kit that works poorly as a whole. With home automation, the attitude has to be ‘set-and-forget’. Your time is precious and should be spent doing what you love with those you love, NOT troubleshooting your smart home all the time. Your smart home should always be working away in the background, doing what you have asked it to quietly and efficiently. It should make its presence felt only when needed.

What are your options? Even though modern wireless home automation is still in its infancy, there is a bewildering array of home automation platforms:

  • DIY platforms
    • Proprietary platforms that allow unrelated smart devices to work together
      • Amazon’s Alexa-powered smart speakers
      • Apple Homekit
      • Google Home
      • IFTTT
    • Platforms based on open standards such as Z-Wave and Zigbee
      • Cloud-reliant DIY platforms
        • Eg. Samsung SmartThings
        • Pros: Cheap, but basic in capabilities
        • Cons: Won’t work without the cloud, not much control in your hands, your data is not yours really
      • Consumer level DIY platforms that are not reliant on the cloud/Internet <- I recommend these
        • Eg. HomeSeer, Vera Controls & Fibaro HomeCentre
        • Pros: Affordable and can be very powerful with added plugins
        • Cons: Not simple to use if you want to get the most out of it
  • Professional platforms such as Control4
    • Very costly, very advanced and will need professional installation & support.
  • Managed platforms such as Vivint and ADT
    • Installed and maintained by a 3rd party, costly.

So what did I go for? As shown in red above, a DIY Consumer level platform that is not cloud-reliant. Specifically, I chose Z-Wave technology as the foundation of my smart home and there are quite a few reasons:

  • Its wireless.
  • Its not one manufacturer’s proprietary standard – means I am not tied into one single company’s products or eco-system (no, I am not an Apple person either).
  • More manufacturers means more choice and more competition, meaning the customer invariably benefits.
  • Industry leading standard that has solid reliability and high performance, at low prices.
  • I don’t think its going away anytime soon due to the huge Z-Wave ecosystem that exists today.
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My Z-Wave based Home Automation Layout

How we built our DIY home security camera CCTV system - Network Map - VueVille

Our DIY Smart Home Network Map

Long-time readers may have be aware that I used the Vera Plus from Vera Controls as my smart home hub for the last 2 years. However as the time available to work on my HA system has reduced (I am a father of 2 young kids) and my HA needs have grown (for example my multi-zone automatic heating system), I outgrew the Vera Plus. I have done an extensive review of the Vera Plus which is a great resource if you would like to learn more about why I chose it at the time.

Hands-on Review: Vera Plus Z-Wave Smart Home Controller

Hands-on Review: Vera Plus Z-Wave Smart Home Controller

I have always wanted a smart home. Even back when I was a kid, I dreamt about being able to just say things and then ...

The stock Vera could handle basic to medium-level complexity scenes. So actions such as turning my hot water on according to a schedule was handled fine by the default Vera. But my fully automated central heating control is way too complex for the default scene editor, so I used the PLEG plugin instead. While I was able to create a single-zone automatic heating system using PLEG, the PLEG plugin is clunky and had a very workman-like archaic approach to workflow. This became impossible to deal with as my second child arrived – I simply did not have the luxury of time or the patience.

After much dithering about the higher cost of HomeSeer software and a laptop to run it vs. my Vera Plus, I finally decided to switch to the HomeSeer HS3 software in May this year when they had their annual sale. I am SO glad I did.

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HomeSeer Home Automation Controller – Smart Home Hub

The heart of my DIY home automation system today is the HomeSeer HS3 software running on a low-power Windows 10 laptop equipped with an Everspring SA-413 USB Z-Wave stick. I could have gone with HomeSeer’s own hardware controllers but a laptop meant that it had a built-in 10 hour battery backup. This is a very powerful Z-Wave based solution that connects to a wide variety of devices such as:

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Z-Wave Sensors

I just love these amazing little devices that can sense everything you may want to monitor in your house. Temperature, humidity, light levels, motion detection, vibrations, UV rays – you name it, there’s a sensor for it.

Based on the readings of the sensor, you can make your Smart home hub heat up or cool down a particular room, switch on lights, open the blinds, send you a text alert, etc.

These sensors are battery powered so you can place them anywhere in your house. But hey won’t the batteries run out quickly? The beauty of Z-Wave technology is that it’s mesh-based and is ultra low-power, unlike Wi-Fi which requires much more power. So the batteries will last for at least a year.

I use the Fibaro Gen 5 Multisensor and the Aeotec Multisensor 6 – I am very pleased with both of these sensors and would recommend them in a heartbeat.

Hands-on Review: Fibaro Z-Wave Motion Sensor Gen5 (FGMS-001)

Hands-on Review: Fibaro Z-Wave Motion Sensor Gen5 (FGMS-001)

When I started thinking about getting into home automation and building my smart home, I spent months researching ...
Hands-on Review: Aeotec Multisensor 6 Z-Wave Gen 5 (ZW100)

Hands-on Review: Aeotec Multisensor 6 Z-Wave Gen 5 (ZW100)

As my baby son suffers from a mild case of dry skin, we need to ensure the environment in his nursery is always at ...

Read: Best Z-Wave Multi-Sensors

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Z-Wave Smart Plugs

Everyone’s heard about Belkin’s WeMo which popularised the idea of making dumb appliances smart by putting a smart plug between the wall and the appliance. Z-Wave smart plugs are similar, but they just work on the far more reliable Z-Wave wireless technology instead of Wi-Fi like the WeMo.

I bought a truckload of smart plugs and have been very happy with the Greenwave smart plugs, I currently use them to automate my bedside lamps, floor-stander lamps, humidifier and air purifier.

Review: Greenwave PowerNode 1-port Z-Wave Smart Plug with Power Monitoring

Review: Greenwave PowerNode 1-port Z-Wave Smart Plug with Power Monitoring

It's all well and good being able to monitor motion and temperatures changes around your house, but your home truly ...
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Z-Wave Boiler Controller

Secure 2-ch Boiler Receiver Z-Wave - VueVille
In a sense my home automation journey started with my boiler controller. When we moved into our new home, I quickly found that the existing boiler controller was outdated and didn’t even have a holiday mode! So instead of replacing it with a new ‘dumb’ controller, I got my first Z-Wave device, the Secure 2-channel boiler receiver.

In the UK you can get this receiver from Vesternet.

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Ethernet-to-IR bridge

There are a few ways you can control your home theatre devices – gold old infrared which is supported by any device, or sending http commands via a network connection. But I didn’t know that I could make my Smart Home Hub control an infrared emitter to mimic an IR remote control!

So my first attempt was the http API route. While my Denon AVR fully supported http API commands, my Panasonic Viera LCD TV had a limited http API command set. So this was a no go. Some quick research led me to a plugin for the HomeSeer HS3 that could control an InfraRed emitter from a company called Global Cache. I managed to score one of these Global Cache Ethernet to IR devices on eBay.

Check Amazon Price

This is a brilliant device which plugs into a network switch using its ethernet port and will take properly formatted TCP/IP commands and convert it into InfraRed commands that it beams out of one of its three IR emitters.

They also have a WiFi-to-IR model but I haven’t tried it.

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QNAP NAS as NVR and VPN Server

I used to have a QNAP TS-231+ for over 2 years during which I wrote about my DIY home surveillance system. But I recently upgraded to the much more powerful QNAP TS-253A NAS.

The TS-253A is my network storage, my NVR, my media streaming server using DLNA and finally my VPN server. The VPN server feature is especially cool because it lets me remotely access my home network and everything on it including the HomeSeer HS3 in a safe and secure manner.

Read: How I connected our QNAP NAS to HomeSeer HS3

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So these are all the various bits of kit that I have added to my HomeSeer HS3 Home Automation System right now.

While I do not have a review of the HomeSeer system up yet, check out my detailed hands-on review of the Vera Plus if you would like to learn step-by-step how to add each Z-Wave device to a Vera Plus. Got any questions, comments or feedback? Leave a comment below!

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I am Daniel and VueVille is where I document my DIY smart home journey. I focus on 100% local-processing and local-storage because that’s the only way to secure my family’s safety and privacy. Oh and I don’t like monthly subscriptions!

  1. Hello, just found your site and really enjoy your work! I am just getting started in the DIY home automation/security game, so pardon my ignorance. I am just curious as to what reasons/benefits for hosting HomeAssistant on a laptop as opposed to your NAS. I understand the benefit of having an inbuilt battery backup, but what other benefits do you find from that setup? Again, sorry if the answers are obvious, but as I said, I’m very new to this! Thanks, and keep up the good work!

  2. Hi mate – thanks for this helpful blog.

    Quick ques on Home Automation, do you know of any smart power sockets (not plugs) which are compatible with HomeSeer i.e. are Zwave compatible? I came across this link for UK power sockets (as I am in the UK), but I don’t see they mention Zwave anywhere?!

    Be good to know if there are any Zwave compatible power sockets to allow for a cleaner look of the house.


  3. What wall display unit/tablet etc do you use?
    I have a creaking Honeywell Hometronic system which I wish to replace.
    It controls every water radiator separately in all the rooms or as a whole room where there are say 2 rads.
    I am still deciding whether to start with say a Fibaro HC or a Vera connected to Popp rad valves to replace my Honeywell HR80 trv’s.
    I still would like to be able to go to a ‘wall panel’ to turn on the Hot water, or to turn up the heat in the TV room but have only seen the Zipato wall tile which has had mixed reviews & I have decided against it.
    I wondered how easy either Vera or even Homeseer s/w runs on an iPad?
    I am also a beginner & time poor!!
    – Richard

    • I use an old Google Nexus Android tablet running the Imperihome app. Any Android tablet will do for Imperihome. I gave up on Vera because creating coplex systems like central heating was a pain. With HomeSeer it is much much easier. Imperihome runs on iOS, so I don’t see an issue there. With HomeSeer , there is a learning curve but its much better than with Vera. Can’t comment on Fibaro, except to say that I am yet to hear good things + its far more expensive than it should be.

  4. I posted on the Vera Forum and received this reply.

    Hello ZenSlo,

    We do not have this device model integrated with our controllers. Our list of compatible devices can be found at:
    I suggest contacting our Customer Relations Department by sending an email to and seeing how we can assist you.

    Thank you and have a nice day!

    So far no reply from Support.

  5. Hi,


    A fascinating read.

    I am just getting started with my home automation with a Z-Wave system (VeraPlus), a Phillips Hue, a Raspberry Pi (for HA Bridge), Alexa and ImperiHome Pro (on Android) with a bit of Luup Code thrown in.

    I have just added a Secure SSR302 to the mix and having included it on my VeraPlus it seems not to be recognised properly (only as a Generic Z-Wave device) with a Manufacturer of :Secure and a model of SSR303 (note 303 not 302). It works and I can controll it, but the “failsafe” mode does not work.

    Did you have this problem and if so do you have a solution?


  6. Great website, thanks.
    I’m new on the HA journey, so forgive the ignorant questions. I’m not sure i understand how the old style burglar alarm system interfaces with the hub controller. In other words how do you arm, disarm, send alerts etc – is this happening from the hub or from a dedicated alarm panel?

    Also, you mention imperihome app – that looks like a monthly subscription app? Does this replace the user interface for the hub (and the home security system)?

    Any help appreciated.

  7. Hi Daniel,
    Thanks for the wealth of information. I’m just starting the journey, so lots to learn.

    A couple of questions/clarifications:

    I understand that the camera surveillance system is separate via NAS and integrated into HS, but i’m not clear on how you approach more classic home security. Typically the concept of arming/disarming the home security system includes door/window sensors, motion detectors, etc. In your Smart Home world is that handled by an integrated security system? Or is all of that functionality (arming, disarming, alarming, sirens, email alerts, etc) set up in the HomeSeer(/Vera) system? Do you make use of strobes and sirens in your system? Are they zwave or more traditional wired units?

    Also, i notice that you use Imperihome. I assume HomeSeer and other hubs come with their own dashboard/user interface – is Imperihome far superior? It looks to me like that is a monthly subscription style system – am i correct?

    Appreciate any guidance you can offer.

  8. I have an iMAC and don’t use Windows or Linux. What home controller would you suggest for a MAC environment as HomeSeer HS3 doesn’t work on a MAC (unless I use VMware…which defeats the purpose of not wanting Windows).

    Any suggestions?

  9. what do you use to monitor your cameras, you QNAP or the Smart Hub?

    • I use the tinyCAM Monitor app on my Android devices for just checking the live-view. The QNAP NAS monitors the cameras, records motion detection clips and informs HomeSeer whenever motion is detected.

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