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With an ESP32 or Raspberry Pi Pico W microcontroller board, you can easily create your own home automation devices. Thanks to ESPHome, you don’t even have to be a programmer.

Many home automation devices can be controlled through WiFi, but often these devices have limitations. For example, they might only work through the manufacturer’s cloud service, they might be difficult to integrate with your own home automation system if you prefer to do everything local, they might lack advanced functionality, or they might be difficult to update.

Luckily, you can install alternative firmware on many existing or homemade devices. In this article, I introduce you to ESPHome [1], which supports numerous devices with an ESP32, ESP8266, or RP2040 microcontroller (the chip in the popular Raspberry Pi Pico W), although ESPHome support for the RP2040 is still in development. In the examples in this article, I’ll use the Raspberry Pi Pico W. However, if you encounter any issues with your own projects, I recommend an ESP32 development board.

With ESPHome, you can create your own home automation devices with a supported microcontroller board that you connect to LEDs, sensors, or switches. What sets ESPHome apart from other solutions like Arduino [2] or MicroPython [3] is that you don’t need to program. Instead, you configure which components are connected to which pins on the board. ESPHome then generates the necessary C++ code and compiles it into firmware that you can install on the device (see also the “Replacing Firmware on Commercial Devices” box).

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