Node-RED vs. Home Assistant: Why not use both?

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For those delving into the world of smart home automation, choosing between Home Assistant and Node-RED might initially seem like a key decision. However, it's more about understanding the unique strengths of each platform than about selecting one over the other. While both platforms are designed for automation, they serve different purposes and complement each other when used together. Considering the distinct advantages of Home Assistant and Node-RED, it becomes clear that using them in tandem could enhance the overall functionality of your smart home setup. This discussion aims to shed light on how integrating these tools can optimize your automation tasks.


Automation Capabilities Compared

We'll focus on the automation functionalities of Home Assistant and Node-RED, particularly their ability to control and automate smart devices. This comparison will avoid delving into the exhaustive list of integrations and the technical details of creating user interfaces with Node-RED.

Advantages of Home Assistant

Home Assistant sets itself apart with an extensive catalogue of integrations, making it a central hub for connecting a diverse array of smart home devices and services. This broad compatibility means you can integrate virtually everything in their smart home ecosystem, from lighting and climate control to security systems and multimedia devices, all within a single platform. What sets Home Assistant apart is the ease with which these integrations can be implemented. Unlike Node-RED, which often requires the manual addition of nodes for each integration, Home Assistant provides a more straightforward approach. Many integrations in Home Assistant are discoverable and configurable through the user interface, reducing the initial technical barrier for setting up a comprehensive smart home system.

The platform's dual approach to automation creation caters to a wide range of users. On one hand, YAML (YAML Ain't Markup Language) offers a text-based configuration option that, despite its initial learning curve, provides powerful and precise control over automation rules and device interactions. This method appeals to those who prefer direct coding or have complex automation needs that benefit from the granularity of text-based configuration.

On the other hand, Home Assistant's web-based editor presents a more accessible entry point for users less familiar with coding or those seeking a quicker way to create and manage automations. This graphical interface allows you to construct automations through a series of dropdown menus and input fields, simplifying the process of setting triggers, conditions, and actions without needing to write a single line of code. While historically less visually engaging than Node-RED's flow-based interface, Home Assistant's UI has seen significant improvements. With each update, the platform becomes more intuitive, offering visual feedback and drag-and-drop elements that make automation creation not only more user-friendly but also more enjoyable.

These advancements in Home Assistant's interface are part of a broader trend towards making smart home automation more accessible to a wider audience. By reducing the complexity of setting up integrations and automations, Home Assistant is lowering the barrier to entry for individuals looking to create a smart home that meets their specific needs and preferences. This commitment to user-friendliness, combined with the platform's robust integration support, positions Home Assistant as a compelling choice for both beginners and experienced users alike, providing a solid foundation upon which a versatile and responsive smart home can be built.

A no-code future for Home Assistant?

Home Assistant's evolution toward a more user-friendly configuration paradigm signifies a significant shift in how users interact with the platform. This transition away from YAML-based configurations to a predominantly UI-driven approach is a deliberate effort to make smart home automation more accessible to a broader audience. YAML, while flexible and powerful, can be intimidating for users who are not accustomed to coding or scripting. Recognizing this, the developers of Home Assistant have been progressively enhancing the platform's user interface to offer a more intuitive and visually guided experience in creating and managing automations.

Each update to Home Assistant brings improvements to the UI that simplify the automation creation process. The introduction of visual editors for automations and scripts, for example, allows users to define triggers, conditions, and actions through a more engaging and less error-prone interface. These editors often include helpful prompts, dropdown menus to select devices and services, and graphical representations of automation flows. Such features make the task of setting up new automations not only more straightforward but also more satisfying, especially for users who prefer a visual approach to problem-solving.

Node Red Home Assistant 06

However, this shift towards a UI-centric experience does not come without challenges. Implementing complex logic directly through the UI can be difficult, as the nuanced control and flexibility offered by YAML are challenging to replicate in a graphical interface. While basic automation flows with logical conditions are easily manageable, more sophisticated scenarios requiring intricate IF/THEN/ELSE logic, loops, or dynamic data processing still benefit from the granularity and versatility of YAML.

Home Assistant is the safer option

Choosing Home Assistant as the primary platform for home automation offers distinct advantages in terms of stability and reliability. This preference stems from Home Assistant's integrated design, which is built from the ground up to provide a cohesive smart home ecosystem. Unlike setups that rely on multiple platforms or services, using Home Assistant alone can reduce the complexity and potential points of failure in your smart home system.

Moreover, the streamlined nature of Home Assistant means that automations and integrations are managed within a single ecosystem, using a unified interface and configuration approach. This coherence greatly reduces the risk of conflicts or errors that might arise from managing dependencies across different platforms. For instance, when using Node-RED in conjunction with Home Assistant, users must ensure that communications between the two systems are correctly configured and maintained. Each update or change in one platform can potentially impact the other, requiring additional troubleshooting and adjustments.

It's worth noting, however, that while Home Assistant provides a solid foundation for reliable home automation, the choice to use it exclusively or in combination with Node-RED should be guided by the user's specific needs and comfort level with each platform. Node-RED offers unique advantages, especially in crafting complex logic and visualizing automation flows, that some users may find invaluable. Ultimately, the decision hinges on balancing the desire for a stable, streamlined setup with the need for advanced automation capabilities that may be easier to implement or manage through Node-RED.

The allure of Node-RED

Node-RED stands out in the landscape of smart home automation tools with its innovative node-based visual programming interface. This approach allows users to “wire” together flows that represent their automations visually, making the design and understanding of complex logic not only simpler but also more intuitive. Each node in a flow can represent devices, actions, triggers, or logical operations, enabling users to construct detailed automations by connecting these nodes. This visual paradigm is particularly advantageous for users who may not be comfortable with traditional coding or scripting, offering a more accessible entry point into the world of smart home automation.

Furthermore, Node-RED's availability as a Home Assistant Community Add-on amplifies its utility for Home Assistant users. This integration means that Node-RED can communicate seamlessly with Home Assistant, allowing for the creation of automations that leverage the strengths of both platforms. For example, Node-RED can use Home Assistant's vast array of device integrations as triggers or actions within its flows. This capability significantly expands the automation possibilities, enabling scenarios that might be difficult to achieve using Home Assistant's automation editor alone.

Screenshot of Node-RED's palette manager showing a list of installed nodes. 'node-red' version 3.1.5 with 50 nodes is indicated as 'in use'. Other listed nodes include 'node-red-contrib-ha-mqtt' version 1.2.13 with 28 nodes, 'node-red-contrib-home-assistant-websocket' version 0.63.0 with 37 nodes marked 'in use', 'node-red-contrib-zigbee2mqtt-devices' version 0.20.0 with 31 nodes, and 'node-red-dashboard' version 3.6.2 with 21 nodes 'in use'. Lastly, 'node-red-node-ui-list' version 0.3.6 with 1 node is also 'in use'. Options to 'remove' or 'disable all' are available for some nodes.

Crafting logic with ease

Node-RED's prowess in handling complex logic operations stems from its intuitive and flexible interface, which fundamentally changes how automations are designed and implemented. This graphical programming environment enables users to visualize their automation flows, making it easier to understand and manipulate the logic underlying their smart home setup. Unlike traditional programming or scripting, where logic is expressed through code, Node-RED's node-based approach allows users to represent logical operations visually. This method significantly lowers the barrier to creating advanced automations, opening up possibilities that might be cumbersome or overly complex in a text-based environment.

One of Node-RED's strengths is its capability to manage intricate logic operations, such as conditional statements, loops, and event handling, with ease. For instance, users can implement IF/THEN/ELSE logic by simply dragging and connecting nodes that represent these conditions. This visual arrangement makes it straightforward to add layers of complexity, such as nested conditions or parallel processes, without the need to deeply understand coding syntax. Moreover, the ability to directly observe the flow of data through these logical constructs in real-time aids in debugging and refining automations.

Node-RED's function nodes further enhance its capacity for complex logic by allowing users to inject custom JavaScript code into their flows. This feature provides the flexibility to perform calculations, transform data, or execute specific tasks that go beyond the capabilities of standard nodes. While leveraging function nodes requires some programming knowledge, they bridge the gap between visual programming and the power of traditional scripting, offering the best of both worlds.

The platform's event-driven architecture is particularly well-suited for managing smart home automations, where devices communicate through various signals and triggers. Node-RED can efficiently process these events, applying user-defined logic to determine the appropriate actions. This could range from simple automations, like turning on lights based on motion detection, to more complex scenarios, such as adjusting the home's climate control system based on a combination of temperature readings, time of day, and occupancy status.

This image shows a Node-RED automation flow diagram for a smart home environment, specifically monitoring whether 'Liam is sleeping?'. It presents various connected nodes that control media players, lighting, and volume settings. Some nodes include 'Turn off desk', 'Turn off lights', 'Turn on desk', 'Turn on lights', 'Set volume', 'Play sounds', 'Bathroom lights', 'Delay', 'Change lights', 'Play radio', and 'Stop', with connections indicating the flow of actions.

An Example: The Node-RED Bedtime Routine

Node-RED simplifies the creation of complex automations, such as a bedtime routine, through its visual programming interface, which offers an intuitive and user-friendly way to design and implement smart home tasks. Here’s how Node-RED makes setting up a bedtime routine automation easier compared to using YAML in Home Assistant:

Node Red Home Assistant 04 2

Visual Flow Design

The visual nature of Node-RED allows users to see their entire automation as a flow, composed of interconnected nodes that represent different actions or conditions. For a bedtime routine, you can have nodes to dim lights, turn off specific switches, and play ambient sounds. This setup provides a clear overview of what the automation does at a glance, making it easier to understand and adjust. In contrast, achieving the same with YAML requires writing and managing lines of code, which can be less intuitive and harder to visualize the automation's overall structure.

Drag-and-Drop Interface

Node-RED's drag-and-drop interface enables users to easily add, remove, or reconnect nodes to modify their automation flows. If you decide to add another device to your bedtime routine, such as closing smart blinds, you can simply drag in a new node and connect it to the existing flow. This hands-on approach is much more straightforward than editing YAML code, where adding a new device involves manually updating the configuration file, ensuring correct syntax, and possibly dealing with indentation issues.

The joy of Node-RED

Beyond its practicality, Node-RED injects a sense of enjoyment into the process of setting up flows. Personally, I find it far more engaging than writing YAML and eagerly anticipate crafting solutions to problems using Node-RED's nodes.

Integrating Home Assistant and Node-RED: The best of both worlds

Integrating Home Assistant and Node-RED offers a powerful combination for creating a dynamic and responsive smart home system. This integrated approach leverages the strengths of both platforms to achieve a level of automation sophistication and flexibility that might be difficult to accomplish with either platform alone. Here's an expanded view of how these two systems can work together to enhance smart home automation:

Centralized Device Management with Home Assistant

Home Assistant excels as a centralized platform for managing a wide array of smart home devices. Its extensive support for different brands and types of devices makes it an ideal hub for connecting everything in your smart home ecosystem. By using Home Assistant as the central point of control, you can easily add, configure, and manage devices through a unified interface. This centralization simplifies the task of device management, making it easier to keep track of the status and control of various components in your smart home.

Node Red Home Assistant 05

Logic and Automation Sequences with Node-RED

While Home Assistant provides robust tools for creating automations, Node-RED shines when it comes to designing and implementing complex logic sequences. Its visual programming interface allows users to create detailed automation flows that can include conditional logic, and timers. By handling the more complex automation tasks, Node-RED complements Home Assistant’s device management capabilities, allowing for intricate automations that are both powerful and visually understandable.

Seamless Integration Between Home Assistant and Node-RED

The seamless integration between Home Assistant and Node-RED is facilitated through the MQTT protocol or a direct websocket and REST API connection. This integration ensures that devices and states managed in Home Assistant can be easily accessed and controlled within Node-RED's flows. For example, Node-RED can trigger automations based on device states in Home Assistant or send commands back to Home Assistant to control devices based on the logic defined in Node-RED.

Simplified vs. Complex Automations

For routine tasks and simple automations, Home Assistant’s built-in automation editor and scripting tools provide a straightforward and efficient way to set up automations. These might include turning on lights at sunset or sending notifications based on sensor readings. However, for more complex scenarios that require advanced logic or integration with non-standard devices and services, Node-RED becomes the tool of choice. Its ability to visually map out automation logic makes it easier to conceptualize and implement sophisticated sequences.

Monitoring and Control with the Home Assistant Dashboard

The Home Assistant Dashboard offers a visually appealing and customizable interface for monitoring and controlling the smart home. It can display real-time information from devices, show the status of ongoing automations, and provide manual control options. When integrated with Node-RED, the Lovelace dashboard becomes even more powerful, as it can reflect the outcomes of complex automations designed in Node-RED. This gives users a comprehensive view of their smart home's status and control capabilities, all from a single interface.

Node Red Home Assistant 08 Edit
A screenshot of a Home Assistant dashboard section with controls for 'Lights' and 'Media'. The 'Lights' panel includes sliders for 'Office lights', 'Desk' with a colour selection bar displaying a purple hue, 'Ceiling', and 'Window', each with a toggle switch icon. The 'Media' panel on the right has a control labelled 'Office' with a microphone icon and a text input field for 'Text to speak…', along with a 'Send' button. The interface has a dark theme with a clean and modern design.

Recommendations for Beginners

To those new to the field, starting with Home Assistant (as opposed to Home Assistant Core) is advised for easier integration with Node-RED. Experimenting with both platforms will enable you to find the approach that best fits your automation needs.

In summary, combining Home Assistant and Node-RED can offer a balanced and effective solution for managing smart home automation, allowing users to leverage the strengths of both platforms for a comprehensive and efficient setup.

A portrait photo oif Liam Alexander Colman, the author, creator, and owner of Home Assistant Guide wearing a suit.

About Liam Alexander Colman

is an experienced Home Assistant user who has been utilizing the platform for a variety of projects over an extended period. His journey began with a Raspberry Pi, which quickly grew to three Raspberry Pis and eventually a full-fledged server. Liam's current operating system of choice is Unraid, with Home Assistant comfortably running in a Docker container.
With a deep understanding of the intricacies of Home Assistant, Liam has an impressive setup, consisting of various Zigbee devices, and seamless integrations with existing products such as his Android TV box. For those interested in learning more about Liam's experience with Home Assistant, he shares his insights on how he first started using the platform and his subsequent journey.


  1. You can do a lot of this out-of-the-box in Apple’s Siri shortcuts / macOS Automator too.

    And even more powerful, you can also use iPhone/mac events as triggers.

    I use it in conjunction with Node-Red / Home Assistant and it’s insanely powerful since Apple give you so many automation options. macOS / iOS is an insanely powerful automation system.


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