Installation in virtualenv

There are several reasons why it makes sense to run Home Assistant in a virtual environment. A virtualenv encapsulates all aspect of a Python environment within a single directory tree. That means the Python packages you install for Home Assistant won’t interact with the rest of your system and vice-versa. It means a random upgrade for some other program on your computer won’t break Home Assistant, and it means you don’t need to install Python packages as root.

Virtualenvs are pretty easy to setup. This example will walk through one method of setting one up (there are certainly others). We’ll be using Debian in this example (as many Home Assistant users are running Raspbian on a Raspberry Pi), but all of the Python related steps should be the same on just about any platform.

Step 0: Install some dependencies

$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get upgrade
$ sudo apt-get install python3-pip python3-dev
$ sudo pip3 install --upgrade virtualenv

Step 1: Create a Home Assistant user & group

This step is optional, but it’s a good idea to give services like Home Assistant their own user. It gives you more granular control over permissions, and reduces the exposure to the rest of your system in the event there is a security related bug in Home Assistant. This is a reasonably Linux oriented step, and will look different on other operating systems (or even other Linux distributions).

$ sudo adduser --system homeassistant
$ sudo addgroup homeassistant

Home Assistant stores its configuration in $HOME/.homeassistant by default, so in this case, it would be in /home/homeassistant/.homeassistant

If you plan to use a Z-Wave controller, you will need to add this user to the dialout group

$ sudo usermod -G dialout -a homeassistant

Step 2: Create a directory for Home Assistant

This can be anywhere you want. As example we put it in /srv. You also need to change the ownership of the directory to the user you created above (if you created one).

$ sudo mkdir /srv/homeassistant
$ sudo chown homeassistant:homeassistant /srv/homeassistant

Step 3: Become the new user

This is obviously only necessary if you created a homeassistant user, but if you did, be sure to switch to that user whenever you install things in your virtualenv, otherwise you’ll end up with mucked up permissions.

$ sudo su -s /bin/bash homeassistant

The su command means ‘switch’ user. We use the ‘-s’ flag because the homeassistant user is a system user and doesn’t have a default shell by default (to prevent attackers from being able to log in as that user).

Step 4: Set up the virtualenv

All this step does is stick a Python environment in the directory we’re using. That’s it. It’s just a directory. There’s nothing special about it, and it is entirely self-contained.

It will include a bin directory, which will contain all the executables used in the virtualenv (including Home Assistant itself). It also includes a script called activate which we will use to activate the virtualenv.

$ virtualenv -p python3 /srv/homeassistant

Step 5: Activate the virtualenv

$ source /srv/homeassistant/bin/activate

After that, your prompt should include (homeassistant).

Step 6: Install Home Assistant

Once your virtualenv has been activated, you don’t need to sudo any of your pip commands. pip will be installing things in the virtualenv, which the homeassistant user has permission to modify.

(homeassistant)$ pip3 install --upgrade homeassistant

And that’s it… you now have Home Assistant installed, and you can be sure that every bit of it is contained in /srv/homeassistant.

Finally… Run Home Assistant

There are two ways to launch Home Assistant. If you are in the virtualenv, you can just run hass and it will work as normal. If the virtualenv is not activated, you just use the hass executable in the bin directory mentioned earlier. There is one caveat… Because Home Assistant stores its configuration in the user’s home directory, we need to be the user homeassistant user or specify the configuration with -c.

$ sudo -u homeassistant -H /srv/homeassistant/bin/hass

The -H flag is important. It sets the $HOME environment variable to /home/homeassistant so hass can find its configuration.

Upgrading Home Assistant

Upgrading Home Assistant is simple, just repeat steps 3, 5 and 6.

Starting Home Assistant on boot

The autostart instructions will work just fine, just be sure to replace /usr/bin/hass with /srv/homeassistant/bin/hass and specify the homeassistant user where appropriate.