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 Bitcoin Lightning Network (LN) 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 Lightning 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 Umbrel.
Question to yourself, the new user of a Umbrel Bitcoin / LN node:
WHY do you want to run a node?
While some claim that running a node today is purely altruistic, there are incentives for doing so:
Investment: If you’re highly invested in bitcoin, you may wish to support the network in order to protect that investment.
Performance: It is orders of magnitude faster to query a local copy of the blockchain as opposed to querying blockchain data services over the Internet.
Permissionlessness and censorship resistance: By receiving and sending transactions from your own node, no one has the power to stop you from doing so.
Privacy: If you’re querying other nodes or services about blockchain data, they can use those queries to try to deanonymize you.
Trustlessness: Owning a copy of the ledger that you have validated yourself means you don’t have to trust a third party to be honest about the state of the ledger.
Why You (Yes, You) Should Be Running a Bitcoin Node - video by Jonathan Levi
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 physicalproducts/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 “banking services”, that you can achieve using LNDHUB Bluewallet and LNDHUB 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", "I want to mine bitcoins with my node", "I want passive income"...
- FORGET ABOUT IT!
- This is wrong mentality, this is lazy communist mentality, get money for doing nothing. To earn money you and your node need work hard.
- 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”.
- From famous Seinfeld episode - Soup Nazi
- Stop thinking like that and review the previous 5 points
8 points to always remember
First and foremost: default password of Umbrel node is moneyprintergobrrr
2nd - EACH Umbrel app, will have a different onion address, so if you plan to use it outside your LAN, save those onion addresses in your Tor browser bookmarks, but NEVER expose/share them in public. Remember that using onion addresses there’s no need to open any ports on your router and the traffic is secured.
3rd - 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 docker repository.
4th - 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.
5th - 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.
6th - the mSD card is where the Umbrel OS resides, it can be re-flashed as many times you want (as you did at 1st install), always using the latest version of Umbrel. It will not affect the node data in any way. Do not remove that card! Without OS your node is DEAD.
7th - your SSD/HDD drive is where the user data and bitcoin data blockchain resides. That means - keep an eye on that not to be broken.
8th - 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. Optional you can add a WatchTower to your node.
There are 3 ways to have a backup for your LN channels:
- manual SCB backup, as you can see in the image bellow, saving the file in your local PC/USB stick
- automated, by Umbrel scripts, every time you shut down/restart the node or update it, open/close channels, the file is saved in:
- this automated SCB backup is also uploaded to Umbrel servers and encrypted with your node seed, then it can be recovered with Umbrel devs help, providing your seed as proof.
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 here you have a list of hardware by Jonathan Levi that he used with success for Umbrel node.
Umbrel node with recommended hardware and CryptoCloaks case
- Optional you can use also TheBitcoinMachine RaspPi versions, works nice and look nice.
Umbrel node on The Bitcoin Machine (RaspPi)
B. Using a normal PC/ laptop/ NUC/ Barebone
- Recomended min. hardware configuration: x64 CPU, 8GB RAM memory, 1TB HDD (optimal SSD). One example here: Gigabyte Brix NUC, more other models here.
Umbrel node on Gigabyte Brix NUC (fanless) - i3 CPU, 8GB RAM, 1TB HDD(int), Debian 10
- Pantera Pico PC are also really nice and tiny.
- 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!
- Step by step installation guide of Umbrel on Linux Ubuntu - by CryptoGarage
- NOTE: when you install docker and docker-compose requisites on DebianOS, be aware to choose installation files FOR DEBIAN and not for Ubuntu.
Once is installed and running, will start syncing the full 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.
PLEASE TAKE YOUR TIME AND READ / WATCH / STUDY THESE LINKS!
Here is a curated full list of links with documentation, video tutorials, articles, node operators groups - all you need to know to run a Bitcoin Lightning Network Node.
Also here a separated curated list of awesome things you can do on Lightning Network.
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:
a. that will barely the open/close fees and remains only dust to spend.
b. 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. Lightning Network Plus and Rings of Fire are great options.
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.
This is how a honorable node operator should announce his node maintenance
- 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!
Try using one UTXO per channel open, with all available sats in that UTXO. You save in fees, you do not leave dust in UTXOs and also is more private. Here you have a guide about how to consolidate the UTXOs for your node.
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.
4 - Consolidate your UTXOs
This is a special chapter and I put it into a separate mini guide here. Sometimes you can mess up UTXOs and your node will act weird. Worth reading this.
5 - Good usage of your node
Simple rules / steps to have a healthy usage of your Umbrel node apps:
- Access your node from home LAN using IP/ umbrel.local, no matter you use TH, RTL or main dashboard interface. There’s no need to access your node using Tor onion address when you are at home.
- Access your node from outside home, using mobile (clean), using Zeus and/or Zap mobile node management apps. Works great with Tor integrated and ONLY if is really necessary, all the rest as spending can be done with lndhub wallets.
- For even more protection: outside your home, use LNDHUB wallets, with less amount of sats, created on your own node (Bluewallet LNDHUB or LNbits LNDHUB). Why do you need to reveal in public all your node balances when you can have just a portion in use for quick spending?
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.
Patience you must have my young padawan…
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):
- Make a channels backup. Go to Umbrel dashboard - Lightning and on the right top side, 3 dots, save backup on your local PC.
- Open Terminal and run:
- Stop Umbrel node:
- Update system OS first:
sudo apt updateand then
sudo apt upgrade
- Restart system:
- Update Umbrel:
cd ~/umbrel && sudo ./scripts/update/update --repo getumbrel/umbrel#v0.4.8(replace version with the latest release)
- Start Umbrel:
- Now you can enter into dashboard Umbrel. Leave the node to catch up with blocks and logs, usually takes several minutes, be patient. In special electrs service that is re-indexing latest blocks.
3 – Install minimum required apps
These are minimum necessary apps to have installed on your Umbrel node, to be able to manage like a PRO your BTC/LN node.
- Ride The Lightning (RTL) – management for node, wallet, channels, routing. Tutorial video here. To access directly from LAN you can use http://:3001
- ThunderHub – management for node, wallet, channels, routing, chat, tools. Tutorial video here. To access directly from LAN you can use http://:3000
- BTC RPC Explorer – Blockchain explorer and tools. To access directly from LAN you can use http://:3002
- Mempool – watch mempool fees, blocks, check txs, blockchain explorer, very handy. To access directly from LAN you can use http://:3006
NOTE: If you use a RaspPi 4GB, you better not install mempool app, it will take quite some memory. Strongly recommend to upgrade to a RPi 8GB.
4 – Install optional apps
Bluewallet Lightning (LNDHub) – Be the “uncle Jim” bank for your family and friends. To access directly from LAN you can use http://:3008
BTCPay Server – very good backend for webshops/shops, donations, POS, business tool, YT channel here. REMINDER: BTCPay on Umbrel works by default behind Tor, so if your shop is on clearnet, you will need to do a reverse proxy so your customers can be able to pay on clearnet. Here is a great guide, how to do it.
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. If you need more help from them, contact on their Telegram group. To access directly from LAN you can use http://:3300
Lightning Terminal - useful tool for rebalancing channels and operate with Lightning Pool (renting liquidity). To access directly from LAN you can use http://:3004
5 – Connect some wallets to your node
Please follow the instructions EXACTLY step by step, in special the part with installing Tor service
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 (alternative Windows guides here and here)
- 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.
- You can use also your Electrum wallet with private channelñs towards your node.
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.
- Great video tutorial Zeus + Umbrel node management - by BTC Sessions
BlueWallet - https://bluewallet.io
This wallet app you can have it connected to your node in three ways:
a. As standalone onchain wallet + LN wallet hosted on Bluewallet servers. Your onchain txs will be broadcast from your node only, but LN txs will be still custodial from Bluewallet node. If you use only an oncain wallet, you just have to connect BW app to your Electrum Server. So go to Umbrel dashboard - connect wallet and select “Electrum wallet” (not Bluewallet!). That’s it.
b. BlueWallet Lightning + LNDHUB wallet - this is an advanced mode and is described in a separate guide here.
c. BlueWallet + LNBits LNDHUB - another advanced way to use LNDHUB from your node. A detailed guide here.
6 – "Restore" your node wallet
There are 6 methods to “restore” your Umbrel node and to have a better explanation I made a separate guide for that “not desired chapter” of recovering your node.
FUNDING / CONNECTING YOUR NODE
Some points to follow in order to start funding your LN 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 amboss.space or ln.fiatjaf.com or 1ml.com or ) 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 known peers. This will provide a better routing for your txs and also for other users txs that are routing through 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.
An automated option exist also but for more advanced users.
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.
If you want to open a channel with my node, I will lower the base fee to 0.21 sats and apply a 42ppm for that channel.
I am NOT looking for liquidity. This is just one of the 3 nodes I have (the public one). This node is running to be able to help others with information and support. So open a channel only if you really want to have a connection with my node. But this node is NOT dedicated to make gainz or earn sats from routing.
DarthCoin checking his Umbrel node