Hardware for home assistant? Variants: HAOS vs. Docker

Home Assistant Home Assistant: Docker startup + SSL Internet access

Home Assistant can be run on its own dedicated hardware by using the Home Assistant Operating System (HAOS). In addition, those who want to run other services on the same hardware besides Home Assistant can either create HAOS virtually as a VM, or start it as a Docker container. The latter requires fewer system resources (CPU and RAM), but loses the ability to install Home Assistant add-ons. Using Docker means that the add-ons cannot be installed in Home Assistant, but must also be started and managed in Docker. To do this, the HA Docker image can be  run consistently across the same platform alongside other services, making it easier to backup and move the installation.

Installation variants overview

Hardware dedicated for Home Assistant: e.g. Raspberry PI


Operating system: Home Assistant Operating System (HAOS)

  • Installation directly on the hardware 👍👎 (conditionally recommended).

Advantage: Easy installation. All Home Assistant features supported incl. easy installation of add-ons. 👍
Disadvantage: With this variant, no other services except Home Assistant can be operated on the hardware. 👎
For example,
a Raspberry PI or Intel NUC could be used as hardware.

Hardware: PC / mini PC / NAS / server

Operating system independent (Windows, Linux, Mac)

HyperVisor (HyperV, Virtualbox, Proxmox, KVM, VMWare Workstation)

  • Home Assistant Operating System 👍
    (installation as VM)

Container e.g. Docker

  • Home Assistant Container 👍

Operating system: Linux

Installation variants:

  • Installation directly in Linux (not recommended)
    • Home Assistant Supervised 👎
    • Home Assistant Core 👎
  • Hypervisor: VirtualBox, KVM (Proxmox), VMWare Workstation
    • Home Assistant Operating System 👍
      (installation as VM)
  • Docker
    • Home Assistant Container 👍

What hardware can be used for Home Assistant?

A Rasperry PI is very often recommended for the operation of Home Assistant. Even if a Raspberry PI 3 or better Raspberry PI 4 has enough computing power for operation, a standard low-power hardware, such as a mini PC, is still much more performant. In addition, a PC has enough power to run other services like Grafana or Nextcloud.Once a suitable hardware has been chosen, it is easier to answer the question with which variant Home Assistant should be installed:

Which installation variant should be used for Home Assistant: HAOS or Docker?

According to the manufacturer, the preferred installation variants are the use of the Home Assistant Operating System (HAOS) or, alternatively, the use of a Home Assistant container. The decision criteria are, on the one hand, whether separate hardware should be used for Home Assistant and, on the other hand, whether other services should also be operated with Docker. The latter was the case for me: I also run other services, such as Nextcloud, on the same hardware as Home Assistant.

The price for using Docker is the abandonment of the AddOns store, which ends up in having to deploy AddOns via additional containers instead of the store. As hardware for running the Docker containers mentioned here, I use a home-built NAS, see: Building a NAS yourself: flexible, low-power and cheap [HowTo]. However, any other hardware, such as a notebook, a Raspberry PI, or a mini-PC, can also be used for operation .

With Docker, Home Assistant can be tested on existing hardware without reinstalling the operating system, and if necessary, it can be easily moved to other hardware later. Backup can also be made uniform for Home Assistant and other services, see: Practice: Backup Docker Container Data: Volumes / Bind Mounts.

In summary, my recommendation

If the hardware choice should fall on a Raspberry PI, I would recommend HAOS as installation variant. In my opinion, however, the use of a Mini PC is more performant and flexible and thus more sustainable. As you can see on the page, I am a fan of container technology. Still, I can understand that not using the add-on store can be a bit more effort to get add-ons up and running, especially for non-Docker fans. For this reason, HAOS in a VM on a mini-PC certainly has its raison d'être. However, anyone who uses Docker anyway and also runs other containers will find Docker to be a platform in which the most diverse systems can be operated uniformly.

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