Light switches are a thorn in the side of many people, especially in smart homes. And I can certainly understand that this concept can be strongly questioned in today’s world. While devices offer more and more functions, light switches still turn the light either on or off. With the SONOFF NSPanel, however, this should be overhauled in principle.
The SONOFF NSPanel is a gadget that completely replaces your light switch. It offers two relays to control lamps and a touch display to control other functions. With the right concept, you can create a central control for your room that has much more to offer than a conventional light switch.
But it is also true that the SONOFF NSPanel is initially integrated into its own ecosystem. This ecosystem requires registration and integration of your devices. This is of course a big sticking point for users of ioBroker, OpenHAB, HomeAssistant or other solutions.
In this article, I would therefore like to deal in detail with the topic of NSPanel and show you that, despite the deep integration of eWeLink, much more is possible than you might think at first glance. As usual, I will also provide you with the appropriate additional information so that you can obtain specific information for your respective platform.
Because even if it seems quite simple at first that you can connect to other Smart Home systems, but the connection of each individual system is its own challenge.
SONOFF NSPanel Basic Data
Probably the most important point about the NSPanel is that it cannot necessarily be installed everywhere. Some flush-mounted sockets are a bit too narrow and therefore cannot accommodate the device (source: haus-automatisierung.com). If in doubt, you will probably have to improve something. You might think that 28.7 mm is not that much. That’s how deep the NSPanel is if you ignore the 13 mm deep display, which has a 3.5 inch TFT screen (resolution: 480 x 320px).
But of course, the technology has to be housed somewhere. Inside, your own WLAN uses the IEEE 802.11 b/g/n standard at 2.4 GHz. Unfortunately, as with many other smart products, there is no support for 5 GHz. In case of doubt, this means that the 5 GHz must be switched off to learn the WLAN. At least if there are problems.
The Bluetooth connection is a bit easier. It is based on the 4.2 BLE standard and can be used quite simply if you rely on the original firmware. As with an alternative firmware, I have not tried it myself. But it should still be possible.
Those who have already done some research will also find that there are two versions of the NSPanel. And no, I don’t mean the Standard and Pro versions. SONOFF has launched an EU and a US version. The main difference between them is the format. While the US version comes in portrait mode (i.e. upright), the EU version is in landscape format. And I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy living in the EU as I am here. 😉
Otherwise, the NSPanel itself is relatively unspectacular. The real magic only comes with the appropriate software. And here there are basically two different options that you can rely on.
The Software of NSPanel
Basically, every NSPanel first comes with software that wants to connect to eWeLink. This is its own ecosystem, comparable to Tuya, for example. Shenzhen CoolKit Technology Co., Ltd. is the company behind eWeLink, which may seem a little strange to some users. Shenzhen is a city in the People’s Republic of China.
Even if I personally find it a pity that companies from China always have a very difficult time, I can absolutely understand the distrust. After all, I primarily process the data from my smart home on my own servers in my basement, where ioBroker takes over the control.
In order for this to work, the NSPanel must be equipped with an alternative firmware. We are talking about Tasmota here, which I am now using for the first time thanks to the NSPanel. Tasmota is an open-source firmware for ESP devices that allows access via MQTT, Web UI, HTTP or serial interfaces. In a way, you free the device from the cloud and can use it completely locally.
In the case of the NSPanel, this means that you should use an MQTT broker (e.g. Mosquitto) that mediates the commands between your smart home and the NSPanel. I have already explained to you in another article what exactly MQTT is and what is so special about it. MQTT also offers the great advantage that you can use it with any open smart home system. It doesn’t matter whether you use OpenHAB, ioBroker or HomeAssistant.
NSPanel and Tasmota
I also decided to use it because I want to bring Tasmota to the devices. The eWeLink cloud would have been an alternative option, but on the one hand, the devices have to be in there first, and on the other hand, I would then tie another cloud to my leg. So that’s not an option for me.
The process of bringing the alternate firmware onto the device is commonly referred to as flashing. From a more technical point of view, it describes the process of overwriting the BIOS flash memory. In the case of the NSPanel, the system is therefore replaced so that at the end of the process you have completely new software on the device. This software is then responsible for ensuring that networking with other components or in the smart home is guaranteed.
Of course, it is important to work very thoroughly when flashing. In the worst case, you can also make one or the other mistake, which your device should not be happy about. So my advice is that you follow the instructions very carefully so that your device doesn’t suffer any problems. But I can tell you that the instructions are very well done.
I can recommend Blakadder’s website as a starting point for the Flash process. Here you will find very good information that is also used by others to create their own more detailed instructions. Other content creators then included additional information for the respective smart home system, which I would like to present to you in more detail below.
NSPanel and ioBroker
From my point of view, Matthias offers one of the best instructions for ioBroker (and flashing in general) on his channel haus-automatisierung.com. Following this guide I did the flashing and also started the integration into ioBroker. His preparations for this are really great and make it a lot easier to get started.
Based on his blocks, I then made further additions to integrate my own devices into the NSPanel and also display the weather accordingly. I would like to embed his video for you at this point, so that you too have the right information at hand without having to search for a long time.
NSPanel and OpenHAB
It seems to me to be a bit more complicated with OpenHAB. I assume that you must have a lot of initiative here since there doesn’t seem to be a very good tutorial. Of course, initiative is always required, but with OpenHAB it’s probably a bit more.
Personally, I would basically use Matthias’ video as a guide for OpenHAB. The only difference will then be that the data via MQTT somehow has to come from OpenHAB. It should be a little easier since OpenHAB now also offers Blockly and so a lot can be taken over. Nevertheless, the integration – especially of MQTT and the respective data points – will be a little different. A perhaps helpful thread can be found in the OpenHAB forum.
If you take a closer look in the OpenHAB forum, you will also find an article entitled NxPanel – Replacement Firmware for SONOFF NSPanel. This is another firmware that can be loaded onto the NSPanel (as an alternative to Tasmota) and then works with OpenHAB. Again, the configuration is based on MQTT again, although the steps might be a bit clearer.
Funnily enough, I didn’t find such good videos on this topic on YouTube either. So specifically as far as OpenHAB is concerned. Here I am quite happy that I switched to ioBroker some time ago. At least that made a lot of things easier for me and I’m really happy with my decision.
NSPanel and Home Assistant
I don’t know anything about HomeAssistant at all. But surely one or the other of you will come up with the idea of using it in this combination. So I started researching here and found what I was looking for. Daniel explains on his SmartHome yourself channel how to integrate the NSPanel with Lovelace UI into HomeAssistant. Unfortunately, I can’t really assess how complex the whole project is and whether it’s easy to implement. At first glance, however, it looks quite feasible.
SONOFF NSPanel Alternative
With all the different integrations and options, you may also wonder whether there are alternatives to the NSPanel on the market. And they seem to exist, which can be quite interesting.
A short time ago I became aware of a product via Twitter that is supposed to be available in the coming months. We are talking about the Shelly Wall Display. A tweet about this comes from Twitter user BeardedTinker. According to his tweet, the product is set to launch in March 2023. Let’s see what will become of it. The tweet along with the photo definitely sounds promising. And also in the comments we hoped that the display uses Android as the operating system so that other Apps can be installed.
Of course, as you might expect, the device will be fully integrated into the Shelly ecosystem. Otherwise, it is very similar to the NSPanel Pro, which I would like to discuss in more detail in another article, because I otherwise miss out a bit.
I personally believe that this type of control could become even more interesting this year. Especially since the classic light switch has long been obsolete. We have already seen this with Loxone components, for example.
NSPanel As A Control Concept
Anyone who has been following me for a while now also knows that I give a lot of thought to the topic of control concepts. Although I use my language assistant very intensively, it is not the ideal solution in every situation. Individual switches don’t exactly make me happy either. Just imagine if you need a separate switch for each light scene. I think my wall would be full of switches and nobody would know where to press anymore.
The SONOFF NSPanel makes it easier for me personally at this point. I installed one in the bathroom and can control the light, switch on the fan and also control the shutters. Thanks to MQTT and a fast WLAN connection, this works really smoothly.
I see the greatest benefit above all in the fact that the buttons can be self-explanatory. So it should be clear to every person that the button light provides illumination. This makes the smart home easy to use for the family and guests, at least in the basic functions. Of course, it will not necessarily be possible to map complex functions with it. But you don’t have to.
If you consider the NSPanel as the central control option for the respective room, it offers many advantages. Combined with the possibility of installing Tasmota on it, I think it’s a really good solution. And it’s definitely cheaper than hanging up a separate tablet for control in every room. This is exactly what some smart homeowners are trying to do in order to always have all the control options at hand.
My concept would be that each room can be controlled with a SONOFF NSPanel. In the bedroom (master bedroom so to speak) there is a tablet that can then control the entire apartment or house. This gives me the opportunity to quickly turn on the light outside at night if I should hear something. The external cameras can also be conveniently placed on the tablet and I at least have the feeling of having everything under control at all times.