If you are a new user of Umbrel node, here you have a mini guide and links about how to use this amazing simple software node. It is important that if you start from zero knowledge, to begin with reading about what is Lightning Network and how to use it, basic concepts and functionalities. In this guide you will find many links to those resources. Do NOT ignore them, read them and then put them in practice with your Umbrel node.
A BTC/LN node is like a living organism, like a mycelium that needs more connections. For more you connect it to other peers, more is coming to life. So think wisely how you connect your node.
Question to yourself, the new user of a Bitcoin / LN node:
WHY do you want to run a node?
A. You are a simple LN user that just want to pay with sats your shopping
- you will need more outbound liquidity
- but also some inbound in case you need to receive from friends or others.
- good peers to connect so your txs will go through easily and cheaper
- you don’t need to use too much funds in your LN node, enough to cover your spending
B. You are a merchant or freelancer or service provider selling online or physical products/services using LN
- you will need more inbound liquidity, that means other peers or even your own customers to open channels towards your node
- publish your node ID to your customers and encourage them to connect to your node and pay you directly, even without fees
- empty periodically your filled channels so you will have again “space” for more income payments. There are many ways to do this.
- you will need good, big channels to be able to receive as many payments you can
- you don’t need to put too many funds from your side, you are the receiver not the spender
C. You are just a node operator, you are more interested in routing txs through LN
- you do not make too many payments using your node (bad, really bad)
- you will need both inbound and outbound liquidity. And a lot, so be prepared with large chunk of funds to put into your LN channels. So if you want to be a routing node with 20k sats or 1M sats… FORGET IT! Go back to sleep.
- you will need balanced channels, so you better join into Rings of Fire
- you will need to know how to do fees channels management, so start learning
- you will need to have a strong hardware and always online node. This is not a joke!
- you can slowly enter into Lightning Pool and “rent”/auction your node liquidity. But you will need a strong node and lot of liquidity to really see some “income”.
D. You are testing and learning, or a developer using a node as a base
- you need just some few inbound and outbound channels to play with
- you do not need too much funds in it
- is better to inform your peers that you are a temporary peer for them, your node is just a testing ground, so they will not expect you to be online or forever peer.
E. You want to be “Uncle Jim Bank” for your family and friends
- you will offer BTC banking services for your family and friends. That means a lot of responsibility and trust. This is not a joke, your are a real bank now.
- you will need some liquidity in both ways (in/out) to cover your “customers” needs. Remember: your node liquidity is their “water in the pipes” not their funds. So keep your pipes always filled with water.
- You can offer many “services” that you can achieve using LNDHUB, read here and here the examples with BW and LNbits. And many more…
- you will need to educate your customers about how to use these services, so start making your own simple web guides for them
F. “I want to earn money with my node, I want gainz, I want a certain % to give me every month”
- FORGET ABOUT IT!
- This is wrong mentality
- A BTC/LN node is not a shit DeFi shitcoin airdrop, it’s a serious thing. If you came from that “dark side” there’s “no soup for you”.
- Stop thinking like that and review the previous 5 points
First and foremost: default password of Umbrel node is moneyprintergobrrr
Second: EACH Umbrel app, will have a different onion address, so if you plan to use it outside your LAN, save those onion addresses, but NEVER expose/share them in public.
Third: change the default password of you Umbrel node, but keep in mind that for the moment Thunderhub and Lightning Terminal app will not update that password and will still have the default password. You can change that password, digging up manually into the belly of each app repository.
Fourth: WAIT for the node to fully synced and don’t send any funds to your node wallet until then. You can’t use them anyway until is synced, so why so much rush? Patience is the key for a node operator.
Fifth: Have in place a power backup UPS. It is very important, in special for Rasp Pi machines. Any power fluctuation, even if is short, can affect your hardware and in special what is more important – the hard drive.
Sixth: Backup your channels! Every time you open/close channels or make updates for your system, do a static backup of your channels status. Go to Umbrel dashboard -> Lightning –> click on the right 3 dots and select backup channels.
A. Using a Raspberry Pi 4
- Please use the Hardware tutorial from Umbrel for RaspPi models that were tested for Umbrel node (to avoid future hardware issues).
- Optional you can use also TheBitcoinMachine RaspPi versions, works nice and look nice.
- I would recommend to start with the 8GB memory version directly.
- Video tutorial (by BTC Sessions) about install/setup an Umbrel node from zero, using a Raspberry Pi 4
- Github Umbrel install instructions
B. Using a normal PC/laptop/NUC
- Recomended min. hardware configuration: x64 CPU, 8GB RAM memory, 1TB HDD (optimal SSD). One example here: Gigabyte Brix NUC, more other models here.
- OS software base: Debian or Ubuntu, or any other Linux distro you are comfortable with. I found Debian more robust for file system and protection.
- Github Umbrel install instructions for Linux – just follow the simple instruction and in 5 min you have it installed. The process is simple: install linux OS, update OS, install Umbrel pre-requisites (Docker & co.), install Umbrel suite with just one simple terminal command. Done!
Once is installed and running, it start syncing the Bitcoin Blockchain. In this moment you just relax and wait to be synced. It will take 4-12 days, depending on the hardware and internet connection. Meanwhile I invite you to learn more about Lightning Network and how to use and be prepared to use an Umbrel node.
As a general note: if you are new into this area of LN (Lightning Network), please educate yourself, at least the basics of LN, BEFORE starting the Umbrel node.
|Videos, talks, tutorials about LN
|Get Umbrel Page
|LN channels mangement – by Alex Bosworth
|Umbrel Community Telegram Group (EN)
|Alex Bosworth Talks Routing Nodes – by Lightning Junkies
|Umbrel Community Telegram Group (ES)
|Video tutorials about LN – by Ministry of nodes
|Umbrel Community Discord Server
|Video tutorials about LN – by René Pickhardt
|Umbrel Github Page
|Video tutorial Umbrel LN management – by BTC Sessions
|Lightning Network Documentation
|LN Tools to Help You Run Your Lightning Node – by Jonathan Levi
|An Overview of Lightning Network Implementations
|Articles and guides about LN nodes
|Lightning Network Resources – by Jameson Lopp
|Tor-Only BTC/LN nodes – by Jameson Lopp
|LND documentation – by Lightning Engineering
|Lightning Liquidity Management Guide – by Jameson Lopp
|Lightning Node Management – by openoms
|4 Tips to run a profitable LN node – by Erin Malone
|Beginners LN Guide – by Bitcoiner Guide
|Herramientas, explorers, analyzers LN
|LightningWiki – by BitcoinStickers
|Node Doctor – Nice tool preview over your node
|Wiki Lightning Network – by ION Radar Tech
|ln.fiatjaf.com – LN nodes explorer and statistics
|What is Lightning Network – by Binance Academy
|Amboss.space – nice LN nodes explorer and statistics
|1ml.com – LN nodes explorer and statistics
|LNnodeInsight – very good tool to analyze your node and peers
1. Channel size
When you open channels, DO NOT start with small amount like 20-50-100k sats. That ridiculous low amount will not be enough not even for the open/close fees. Low amount channels are doing more harm than good, to you and for the rest of the network.
Example: If you have a 20k channel open with my node:
- that will barely the open/close fees and remains only dust to spend.
- If I want to use that channel to send 50k sats it will not be possible. So the channel will be useless and will lower the node score for both nodes.
Open channels with min 500k-1M sats. That will offer a better routing, for you and for all others that will route txs through your node.
“Bigger is better” DO NOT apply too much in this case, so now don’t go to the other extreme and open massive 0.5BTC channels. Much better the approach of having 5-6 outbound channels with each between 500k to 1M sats and also, depending of your needs, 3-4-5 inbound channels, with the same amount.
Now, yes, more channels is better, because your node will be better connected and will find a better route and faster.
OUTBOUND Liquidity – You have a LN node to make LN payments, buying stuff, sending to friends, paying services etc. So try to open LN channels with those merchants you are willing to trade (merchants, exchanges, wallet operators, LN services, friends with nodes).
INBOUND liquidity – So find some peers that are willing to open some channels TOWARDS your node. Check the Umbrel Discord server and Telegram group, where you can ask for peers to open channels with your node. The inbound liquidity IT IS NECESSARY in order to be able to receive LN payments.
What/with who should I open channels?
- First, with those merchants/shops that you will do txs, you will buy from them, the txs will have zero fees and you have direct routing.
- Second, with friends/LN freaks you know and can create a ring of nodes with specific amount os sats for channels, balancing the funds and lowering the fees between nodes in the ring.
- Third, your ring of nodes can have some “external” connections/channels with other good nodes (ideal that each member of the ring with a different node) so you can route easily and fast anywhere.
2. Node Operator
Operating a node, doesn’t mean automatically “I will get rich earning sats“. Move away from this wrong mentality.
- You run the Umbrel node to protect your privacy, to protect your keys, to protect your money, to protect the custody of your wallets.
- Yes, you will earn some sats, but only if you will manage your node in the right way. But even then, those earnings will be insignificant to be considered “earnings”.
- You run this node to LEARN more about Bitcoin and find solutions for real life applications. Umbrel is offering that opportunity with many apps included (see LNbits, BTCPay, LN Pool, Whirlpool) ready for use cases.
- DO NOT TURN OFF YOUR NODE! I’ve seen people turning off their node at night (they complain that can’t sleep). Why have you run it if you don’t have it ON 24/7/365? A node has to be ONLINE as long is possible. It is also advisable to put a UPS and avoid power outages. This is your Bank and also others depend on it!
- Opening channels with other peers means you sign a contract, a smart contract. Please don’t consider running a node as a stupid game, it’s a serious thing. Your promise to keep the channel active is very important and running a honorable contract. If your node is in maintenance is having real problems and you have to shut it down, is better to inform your peers.
- You can also put contact information in case of SHTF on Amboss.Space page, signing a private message with your node. So other peers can contact you in case they see your node offline.
3. Managing funds – think like a bank
- Do NOT keep all your BTC in the node wallet! This node consider it as your “commercial bank”. Your “vault bank” should be your HODL wallets (hardware wallets HW, cold wallets) that you barely touch/open. This node will be just a “middle-man” for managing your funds and spending.
- Do NOT send straight to your node funds from KYC exchanges, in special those which request address verification. Don’t reveal yourself. Avoid the KYC creeps!
Use the three levels stash approach:
- HODL = HW/cold wallets, big amount of BTC that you barely touch/move, just deposit into those addresses using watch-only xpub options.
- CACHE = temporary transfer wallets, from exchanges or any other wallets, where also you do the coinjoin/mixing (if you do), keep medium amounts from where you are moving into HODL or SPENDL. This cache is mostly used with desktop/node/hot wallets, where you could do coin control.
- SPENDL = small amounts for spending, day to day usage. Can be LN node wallet, other LN wallets (intermediaries), mobile wallets. Use the option from your node LNDhub, creating separate LN wallets, with small amounts moved from your LN node, that will not reveal all your LN balance from your node. See this guide about LNDhub wallets. When you pay a coffee, don’t reveal all your stash… many will try to sneak into your wallet when you pay. Play the “poor guy” role, don’t attract the bad guys on you.
Now, what I suggest, for any new node user, in special with Umbrel:
1 – Wait to sync the blockchain. It will take time, I know, but be patient. It will get through, no worry. Don’t do anything (stupid) until is not ready. Depending on your hardware configuration and internet speed, it could take between 3 and 12 days. After the sync, it will take another 8-12h to sync the index for Electrum Server.
2 – Keep your software updated
Not just Umbrel, if you are not using the Pi mode install. So once is synced, check if there are new updates and apply them.
If you are using RaspPi option, updating Umbrel will update also the OS.
If you are using a Linux machine with Umbrel in docker, I would recommend to do the following procedure (in Terminal):
- Stop Umbrel node:
- Save your lnd.conf file if you edited (add color, name or specific features to your node), see in home/umbrel/lnd
- Update system:
sudo apt updateand then
sudo apt upgrade
- Restart system
- Update Umbrel:
cd ~/umbrel && sudo ./scripts/update/update --repo getumbrel/umbrel#v0.3.14(replace version with the latest release)
- Replace lnd.conf file with the one you save it before update
- Start Umbrel:
- Leave the node to catch up with blocks and logs, usually takes several minutes, be patient. Now you can enter into dashboard Umbrel
3 – Install minimum required apps like (see the Umbrel Apps section):
- Ride The Lightning (RTL) – management for node, wallet, channels, routing.
- ThunderHub – management for node, wallet, channels, routing, chat, tools.
- BTC RPC Explorer – Blockchain explorer and tools
- Mempool – watch mempool fees, blocks, check txs, blockchain explorer, very handy
4 – Install optional apps:
- LNBits – excelent suite of tools – Amazing suite with LNURLpay/withdraw, LN TPoS, LNDHUB and many more, see the YT channel here
- Bluewallet Lightning (LNDHub) – Be the “uncle Jim” bank for your family and friends
- BTCPay Server – very good backend for webshops/shops, donations, POS, business tool, YT channel here
- Samourai Whirlpool – privacy and mixing tool, connection for your Samourai wallet. A great detailed guide here: https://bitcoiner.guide/whirlpool/ and an interview with the developer of Samourai wallet here
- Sphinx Chat – very interesting tool for podcasters, private groups chat using LN for tips and chats. Be aware! In order to NOT be charged a fee EVERY time you login or change profile, you will have to open a 100k sats channel with Spinx app node
5 – Connect some wallets to your node:
Electrum Desktop https://electrum.org/#download:
- You need to install and run Tor service on your computer. Here is a guide for Linux and also a guide for Windows
- Go and copy the onion address from your Umbrel node for Electrum.
- Open Electrum, go to Network – Proxy and activate Tor with local proxy enabled. Go to previous main tab and unselect “use random electrum server” and paste your Umbrel onion address.
- Restart Electrum. Done, now you are connected to your node and all your txs will be validated by your own server.
- Open a channel towards your node. Go to your Umbrel node – Lightning and copy the node URI onion address. Then go to Electrum – channels – open, paste your node URI, put the amount 1M sats and click open. Done, wait until the tx is confirmed and your channel is ready to be used (to send sats from Electrum). This channel is good for your node as inbound capacity. But keep in mind, when your Electrum wallet is not open, the channel is not online, so cannot receive payments to your node or route others txs. Another aspect of this is that you can easily make swaps in/out from LN with this channel, into Electrum.
- You can also open a channel FROM your Umbrel towards your Electrum Node ID, if you want a private channel to move sats around. You can see your Electrum node ID in “Wallet Information” menu.
Zap wallet – https://zaphq.io/ :
- On your mobile you will need to have a Tor service running and setup to use Zap app.
- Go to Umbrel node – Lightning and copy the node URI
- Go to Zap and connect it to your node by pasting that URI
- Wait to connect and done, from now on you have full control of your node (onchain and LN), opening channels, make/receive payments
Zeus wallet – https://zeusln.app/ :
- With the latest version 0.5.0 Zeus have already integrated Tor service, no need to run any other one on your phone.
- Go to Umbrel node – Lightning and copy the node URI
- Go to Zeus – settings, activate Tor box. Restart app.
- Go to add node and paste the onion URI, but add in the beginning the “https://” if is missing. Click and save node.
- Wait to connect and done, from now on you have full control of your node (onchain and LN), opening channels, make/receive payments.
- Install in Umbrel the app LNBits. This will activate the option to create various LN wallets on your node, that can be linked using lndhub connection.
- Create a wallet in your LNbits module, activate the LNDHUB extension and link it to that LNbits wallet. Use the onion address for this procedure, NOT the local IP or umbrel.local. The wallet have to be visible over internet and the only way is through Tor.
- Open your Bluewallet, go to add wallet, click import and scan the QR code displayed on your LNbits LNDHUB. You have two options: as admin (full rights over the wallet) or invoicing only (limited rights only for creating invoices).
- REMEMBER: Use Bluewallet under Tor service (Android Orbot app) otherwise will not read that QR code.
- Done. Now you can use that wallet as a normal LN wallet in Bluewallet, no need for opening channels etc it’s all linked with your LN node, so it depends of your node liquidity. This is a good option if you have a small shop with employees that can charge using LN, without having full permissions to your node.
- Great video tutorial by BTC Sessions about this feature
6 – Connect your onchain node wallet with Bluewallet. Yes, now you can connect directly to a mobile app, the onchain AEZEED wallet. Just use your Umbrel node seed in Bluewallet (adding it as new wallet) and done. Use cases:
- you want to have at hand a way to deposit quick to your node wallet (onchain)
- you need to have access to your onchain funds in case your node is crashed and want to recover / access the funds.
FUNDING / CONNECTING YOUR NODE
- Keep in mind: your Umbrel onchain wallet should act as a bridge/ramp between your many other wallets or BTC sources and your LN channels. This wallet is used to fund the opening and closing channels on your LN node. So in order to be able to open LN channels you will need to send some funds into this onchain wallet.
- Go to your Umbrel main interface, Bitcoin wallet and click “receive”. From any other wallet send some funds (usually for 3-4 channels, each 1M sats). Wait to be confirmed then go to next step.
- You can use Lightning wallet, from the same main Umbrel interface, but I suggest to use Thunderhub app. Why? Because you can control better the miner fees for opening the channel. Also RTL app is good, but still you can’t see how much fee in total you are paying. So use one of these 3 interfaces and go to open channels. Select a node desired and put at least 500k-1M sats and open a channel. Start with one good node (see https://ln.bigsun.xyz or https://1ml.com or amboss.space) which node has longest history or number of channels) and later continue with other users nodes. Help new users that post their new nodes URI in the Umbrel Community Telegram group and ask for new channels. TOGETHER STRONGER.
- Once you open a LN channel, until is not confirmed (usualy takes 3 confirmations) the UTXO from where you used the sats to open the channel will not be usable until is not confirmed the new UTXO. See here what means UTXO. In other words, until is not confirmed, you cannot use those remaining sats for opening a new channel. Wait. Be patient.
- Balance your LN channels. You can use the Umbrel app Thunderhub to open and balance your channels with the peers. This will provide a better routing for your txs and also for other users txs that are routing throuhj your node. Here you have a simple guide using Thunderhub. Another option could be: open a channel towards a peer, let’s say 1M sats. Then once is open, go and make a payment to an external wallet (for example Bluewallet) with half of the balance. In this way you are balancing the channel for in and out txs. Optional, you can loop out from the same channel, back to your onchain node wallet and re-use that amount to open another channel with another peer.
- Are you going to do some shopping with LN? Good, then go and open channels with those merchants you are planning to buy from. In this way, you get to pay less fees, your txs will get through faster, you help also the merchants to have better inbound. Optional you can ask them to lower the fees for your channel. Even if you are not planning to do that shopping with them, doesn’t matter, just open the channels. It will be used also for routing, if there are with a good amount.
- Video Tutorials about how to open/fund LN channels:
- Video tutorial Umbrel – by BTC Sessions
- Opening your first channels – by Bitcoin Summer
- Getting started with LN channels – by Start9
- Functional Lightning Network – by Jestopher BTC
- Video Tutorial RTL app – by Ministry of Nodes
- Video Turorial RTL rebalancing channels
- Video Tutorial ThunderHub app – by ThunderHub
- LN channels mangement – by Alex Bosworth
- Lightning Network Ring of Fire – Interesting group to create a ring of nodes, opening channels to each others. Here is a better explanation of how this works. If you want to join their Telegram group and participate in different types of rings, here is the link
- LN Balanced Channels – another Telegram group for opening channels and help others with liquidity. Here is the link to their group.
- Lightning Network Plus – nice initiative to create balanced rings of nodes
If you appreciate this mini-guide, you can open a channel with my Umbrel node if you like and I will lower the base fee to 500 mSats for that channel. I usually open a mutual channel if I have available funds.
Wait for the opening channel to be confirmed (usually 3 confirmations) and done, you are ready to start lightning, using the wallets I indicated before.