A basic Home Assistant automation

A screenshot of Home Assistant showing an automation to turn off a smart plug after 18 hours

One of the biggest benefits of running Home Assistant in your home is its powerful automation tools for controlling your smart devices. In this example, I have a smart plug socket which I want to run for 18 hours, and then automatically switch off. This is the smart plug that we use for our heated drying rack, and it ensures that the rack doesn’t continue heating for longer than necessary, to save energy. As I run Home Assistant on a Raspberry Pi 4, it only uses 15 watts of power, compared to the few hundred watts that the drying rack requires.

Automations in Home Assistant have become much easier in recent releases. In times gone by, you’d have to write YAML scripts to automate your devices, but now there’s a relatively straightforward interface. Generally, automations work on the principal of ‘if this, then that’ – a bit like IFTTT, but it runs in your own home.

Tuya me, to you

For my automation, I use the trigger of the smart socket being turned on. In my case, this is a Tuya wifi-enabled smart plug, which I’ve called ‘Cuthbert’. We have four Tuya plugs, all with silly names like Cuthbert, just because. Tuya are a white label manufacturer, and so the brand names on the plugs vary despite them being exactly the same. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend them, as presumably every time you turn them on and off, your request goes via Chinese-controlled servers. I would probably buy Matter-enabled plugs instead now but they work fine. Plus, the recent 2024.02 release of Home Assistant massively improves Tuya support and no longer requires you to create a developer account, which is nice.

Automation actions

Anyway, having selected the ‘When’ event, we now need to specify the ‘Then do’ actions to take. First of all, we need a time delay, otherwise as soon as the socket is turned on, Home Assistant will turn it off again. The ordering of actions is important, as I found out the hard way; I originally had the delay after the command which meant that the socket just turned off straight-away. So, we specify a delay and then the action to turn the socket off.

The third action is optional, but it just sends a notification to my phone to tell me that the automation has completed. I’m using the Home Assistant Companion app but you could use an app like Pushover, or trigger an email.

This is a really simple automation, but you can create more complex ones. I’m hoping that, at some point in the future, we’ll have some smart blinds in our kitchen, and I’ll be able to use Home Assistant’s sun integration to open and close them at sunrise and sunset.