Hardware for home assistant? Variants: HAOS vs. Docker

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)

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

Operating system: Linux

Installation variants:

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

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. The Add-ons menu item is not available with the Docker variant:

The reason for this is that HAOS provisions the add-ons as containers. If Home Assistant itself is run in Docker, no other containers can be created within the container: Those running Home Assistant in Docker will have to create containers directly in Docker as a replacement for the required add-ons. In addition to being easy to deploy, add-ons also have the advantage that Home Assistant handles authentication for the add-ons: Logging in to Home Assistant also provides access to the add-ons. The situation is different when using your own containers instead of add-ons: These require their own user logon: Either provided by the application itself or upstream via a reverse proxy.

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.

What are the advantages of HAOS compared to Home Assistant in Docker?

  • The setup of HAOS is easier.
  • In HAOS, certain services can be added more easily via add-ons. (incl. existing HA user-authentication)
  • No knowledge of container operations required.

What are the advantages of the Home Assistant Docker variant compared to HAOS?

  • Home Assistant is "just" another container that fits seamlessly into an existing Docker setup: With a Docker setup, other web services such as Nextcloud can be run on the same infrastructure in addition to Home Assistant. Home Assistant can not only use the existing hardware, but also the same reverse proxy for access from the Internet. If you have already set up a backup for Docker as an example, you can also use this for Home Assistant without any further customization. Moving Home Assistant to another hardware is also limited to moving the containers.
  • The use of additional services is not limited to the add-on store.
  • The Docker variant of Home Assistant requires fewer system resources.

Hardware recommendations

The Home Assistant Operating System (HAOS) can be installed directly on one of the following devices, among others:

on amazon.com:

Raspberry Pi 4 Model B 2019 Quad Core 64...

Availability: Now
Price: $66.95
as of: 2023-10-02 18:18

In most cases, a RaspberryPi4B is recommended for Home Assistant operation.

on amazon.com:

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ Board (3B+)...

Availability: Now
Price: $49.95
as of: 2023-10-02 18:18
Performance for test environments, small installations sufficient, newer devices offer better performance.
on amazon.com:

ODROID N2 Single Board Computer (SBC) (4...

Availability: Now
Price: $122.95
as of: 2023-10-02 18:18

If you want to run other services besides Home Assistant, you can use any low-power x86-64 hardware for it, e.g.

on amazon.com:

Windows 11 Mini PC 12th Gen Celeron J641...

Availability: Now
Price: $300.00
as of: 2023-10-02 18:18

The Veneon Mini computer has enough power to run other services besides Home Assistant, so for this device, as mentioned above, I would run Linux as the operating system and either HAOS as a VM or Home Assistant as a Docker container, see also: cheap and economical Docker Mini Server for Home

If you want to build your own server at home, you can follow this article: Build NAS yourself: flexible, power-saving and cheap [HowTo]. The basis could be, for example, an appropriate motherboard with integrated passive-cooled CPU: 

on amazon.com:

ASRock J5040-ITX Intel Quad-Core Process...

Availability: Now
Price: $154.48
as of: 2023-10-02 18:18

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. Of course, the lack of an add-on store and the effort involved in getting add-ons up and running is an argument against HA in Docker. At this point HAOS in a VM certainly offers a possible option. 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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Updated: 2023-10-02 von Bernhard | Übersetzung Deutsch |🔔 | Comments:0
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