Working with motion flows in Node-RED

Motion automations are some of my favorites. I’ve noticed a lot of questions across the internet about how to set them up, so I’ll do a few simple ones to help others get started.

Motion activated light.
Super simple. Grab an “events: state” node undefined, and a “call service” node undefined. Configure the events state node with your motion sensor. Here’s an example of mine:

If you put a value in the “If State” field, you will have two outputs. Top is “true”, bottom is “false”. In this node, the If State is “on”, so if motion is “on” (true), output from the top, when motion is “off”(false) output from the bottom. Think of it like “If state is true – top”, and “if state is false – bottom”. Doing it this way, the flow will start when motion is detected, or true, if connected to the top. If connected to the bottom, the flow will start once there is no motion. If you leave this field blank, there will only be a single output node that will trigger every time the state goes from on to off, and off to on.

The “Output only on state change” setting is important to how your flow will behave. Lets say that the motion sensor you are using is in the living room and you’re having a party. There’s a ton of people in your house and there’s constant movement. The motion sensor will trigger when it first senses motion, and it will stay triggered until it no longer senses motion. With “Output only on state change” checked, it will only send out a message from the output once, when it was initially triggered by motion. This is because the state has not changed from “on”. If you uncheck “Output only on state change“, it will send a new message every time the motion sensor is triggered. different motion sensors check for motion at different intervals. All of the motion sensors that I use (I highly recommend the Zooz ZSE40) trigger about every 15 seconds. So a new trigger message would be sent every 15 seconds with non stop motion.

If you’re brand new to this, I realize that’s a lot of info, but it will make sense soon enough.

On to the call service node. It will need to be configured like this:

Domain” is the first part of an entity in Home Assistant. “climate.xxxx” would be the domain of a thermostat, “lock.xxxx” would be the domain for a smart lock, etc. In this case, we’re using the “light” domain.

service” is the action you want to perform, in this case, “turn_on” which will turn on the light that we specify when triggered. After you’ve selected your domain, you can use the drop down menu to see what services are available. Below you’ll see that the options are “toggle”, “turn_off” and “turn_on”.

“Entity Id” is where you specify what device to control. if you type in “light”, it will auto complete every entity that is in the light domain, and you can just select the entity you want.

With both of these done, the most basic configurations are done. You now need to just connect the nodes. Now what we have is a complete working flow. When the Entryway Motion node state is “on”, it will turn on the Entryway Lights, and that’s it.

Easy flow, but essentially useless in the automation sense of things. Lets have the light turn off after a set period of time.

Motion activated light with timer.
We want the light to turn off at some point, so we’re going to work off the flow that we just created and make that happen. First grab a “stoptimer” node, undefined and wire it after the other two nodes.

The way the stoptimer node works; Once it receives a message, in this example from the Entryway Lights node, which was passed on from the Entryway Motion node, it starts a 5 second timer. Once the 5 seconds are over, it sends the message. If the stoptimer node receives another message within the five second timer, it restarts the timer.

Grab another call service node and attach it to the top output of the stoptimer node. Configure it exactly as you did the first call service node, except use the “turn_off” service. So this is what you’ll have:

So now, motion in the entryway, turns on the entryway lights, waits 5 seconds and turns off the entryway lights. Are you still with me? Don’t worry about it if you’re not, it’ll all work out in the end.

So at this point we have a complete but inefficient flow. We can fix this solely with configuring the nodes in a different way.

How do we make this a usable flow?
It’s easy. As we’ve said a few times already, our example motion sensor refreshes every 15 seconds and sends a new message depending on the state of the node. If there is constant motion, it will send a message of “on” every fifteen seconds. No motion will send “off” every fifteen seconds. If there was was motion and it sent “on, and then no motion, the next message will be “off”, etc etc, you probably get the point by now. Also remember, that the stoptimer resets if it receives another message before the timer is over. So if it’s a 5 second timer, and it receives another message at 4 seconds, it starts back over at 5 seconds.
So, knowing this, we can set the stoptimer to anytime longer than the refresh time of it’s input. The example motion sensor sends an update every 15 seconds, so we can set the stoptimer to 16 seconds. The motion sensor sends a message the first time it detects motion, which turns on the lights and then starts the stoptimer. If there is no more motion, the light will turn off in 16 seconds. If there is still motion, within the 16 seconds, it restarts the timer. The timer will be restarted as long as there is motion, which will leave the light on while the room is occupied.

Or will it? Remember that check box, “Output only on state change” ? With this checked, even though the motion sensor sends an update every 15 seconds, the Entryway Motion node would not send an update because the state stays “on” with constant motion. State doesn’t change, it doesn’t send a new message. With it checked, it would only send a new update to the top output when the motion went from on, to off and then back to on.

So, we uncheck it. This will allow the Entryway Motion node to send a new update every time it receives one from the motion sensor, even if the state never changes. Even if the state stays to on for an hour because there’s constant motion, it still sends an update every 15 seconds from the motion sensor, and since the timer is set to 16 seconds, the light always stays on with motion.

If your motion sensor sends a new update every 8 seconds, you’d want to set the stoptimer to 9 seconds to keep the light on with motion. Twenty second motion sensor, 21 seconds stop timer, etc etc.

Here’s the code of the above flow for import.

Here’s another motion flow as an example. If the dining room light is left on, and there is motion, the light will stay on. If there is no motion for 20 minutes, the light turns off. Le’ Code.

Using smart switches and smart bulbs together, with Home Assistant and Node-RED.

I have 6 Hue A19 Color bulbs in the ceiling of my kitchen. We were using them with standard dummy switches, which was a pain as I had to constantly remind people to leave the switches on. Not to mention that it is bad for smart bulbs to be constantly powered on and off. I was about to pull out the smart bulbs and install standard LED lights and go with smart switches, but I really did not want to do this, as the individual bulbs are used for certain automations. For example, a nightlight where bulbs 1 and 3 are motion controlled to come on at 5% if everything else is turned off, and it’s dark outside.

How to get around this to keep my smart bulbs AND keep them powered at all times? At first, I tried using a Sylvania Dimming switch and control the lights with a scene. This switch is placed over the existing dummy switch, which you leave flipped on. Since this was a 3-way setup, I put a switch cover over the second switch (you could also get a second Sylvania switch). This worked….I now had always powered and physically controllable smart bulbs, and although it was a practical solution, it was kind of ugly. The wife definitely didn’t like the look in her new home, so I was back to trying to figure this out.

All of the smart switches in my house are of the Go Control / Linear / Nu Tone variety. These are all made by the same manufacturer, but sold under different names. They are not Z-Wave Plus, but I got the first one years ago and have been matching them together ever since. I haven’t noticed any downfalls of them not being Z-Wave Plus, but they’ll eventually be upgraded. For a three way setup, there is the NuTone NWT00Z which are not standard add-on switches. These are “virtual 3-way” switches. The low ratings on Amazon are somewhat understandable as the documentation (PDF of the manual here and here) is cryptic at best, and does not say explicitly how to use these. I will say that we’ve had these installed for a few months now with zero issues.

The way these are intended to work, are as “remotes” to other switches. In my entryway, I have one installed in a 3-way setup with a NWD500Z dimmer switch. You wire it up and and it controls the master switch in a zwave group association, but we’re going to do something different with them.

I used two of these in my kitchen. The way to wire them and have the lights always on is an odd way. Take the load, line and traveler wires from the wall, as well as the load line from the first switch and connect them all together. The ground and neutral are wired up as normal. The second switch needs to be wired a little differently as well. Take the line and load wires from the wall, cap them together and stuff them into the wall. Take the traveler wire, which is now a constant 120v line, and connect it to the load line of the NWT00Z. Wire the ground and neutral up as normal.

Now what we have are two smart switches that are wired up and connected to the mains, but they do not control the power to the lights. The power is now constant to the smart bulbs. At this point, the lights will stay powered on, unless you control them from Lovelace or using voice if you have Google Home/Alexa setup, but theres no way to mechanically control them yet. The hard part is done and we now have to head over to Node-RED and start working on the automation to turn these on or off.

We can’t add the switches to a Zwave group association, as the Hue lights are zigbee. So we need to grab the zwave event type commands coming from the switch. To do this, use a “events: all” node and filter “zwave.node_event” commands. Example below.

“events: all” node

So now we’re grabbing all node_events from the “zwave.” domain, now we need to filter them. To do this, we need a switch node to filter the “payload.entity_id” from the specific switches we setup. You’ll need to use the name that you gave these switches when including them in your network. One thing to remember, you need to use the “zwave” domain name, NOT the “switch” domain name.

At this point, we’re filtering the two switches with “payload.entity_id”. Now we need to filter it down again to get the actual commands from the switches. With these switches, “0” is off and “255” is on. We need another switch node and filter “payload.event.basic_level“. This will grab all “.basic_level” events that come over the two switches. You’ll want to connect both output nodes from the previous switch node to the input on this switch node. This will filter all commands from both switches to this node. In this node, the top output will be “on” and the bottom output will be “off”.

We’re almost done at this point. Now we need to use a call service node to turn on, and off the lights. I forgot to mention earlier that the easiest way to control multiple lights, is with a light group. This will create a “group.kitchen_lights” entity in Home Assistant. You’ll need to do this in your config.yaml or groups.yaml in Home Assistant.

Now we take a call service node, and configure it to control the kitchen_lights group. We need one for on, and one for off. The “on” node will be connected to the top output, and the “off” node will be connected to the bottom output.

Call service node to turn on the kitchen_light group.
Call service node to turn off the kitchen_light group.

Here is how the entire flow looks:

With this setup, we have Hue smart bulbs that are always powered and can be manually controlled by a switch. This allows individual bulbs to be used in automations and you don’t have to worry about the switches, like in me previous example of using lights 1 and 3 for a nightlight.

One more thing to keep in mind; When smart bulbs lose power, they will come on at full brightness when power is restored. The Hue bridge however has a setting for “power on behavior” where you can tell the bulbs what to do when power is restored.

Here is the formatted code if you’d like to import it and work off of it.