NodeMCU + LIFX cover
Wed, 03/09/2016 - 15:30

LIFX bulbs are great, but when you just need to turn them on, off or just change brightness, it can be not very comfortable, to do this simple task by app. So I decided to create much simpler way to do this. And then I came across NodeMCU, small development board similar to Arduino with integrated Wi-Fi, with cost of about $5. I'll describe here, what I've done to make it work.


I want to control chosen LIFX bulb without smartphone, just by waving my hand. Change intensity by moving towards/away from sensor.

This is what I achieved

How I've done it

Diagram of route from sensor to bulb. LIFX + NodeMCU + WiFi + RAspberry Pi conection

Shopping list

Setting up Raspberry Pi

I'll just assume you LIFX bulbs are already installed, nothing to write about there.

Of course you can use anything else than RPi, Even RPi A should do the job. Raspberry Pi will do the job of server between NodeMCU and LIFX. I'll skip OS installation, I've got xubuntu, anything will, where you can compile an install nginx will work.

lightsd - compile and configure

Now you need to download, compile and install lightsd service. This service will provide API to communicate with LIFX bulbs via json-rpc over local network, this will give you quick responses. Open terminal and go to folder where you want to download repository.

You'll need first to install git, cmake and libevent.

sudo apt-get install git cmake libevent-dev

Then download and compile lightsd.

git clone
cd lightsd
cmake .
make install

This will take a while, and if make install fails, run it with sudo.

Now you should have lightsd service ready. Next I've modified lightsd systemd service, to listen on port not only pipe, this I needed for nginx proxy.

You can see if lightsd is running and where is its daemon file by running

systemctl status lightsd

My location is /usr/local/lib/systemd/system/lightsd.service, I modified it to look like this:

Description=LIFX WiFi smart bulbs control service

ExecStart=/usr/local/bin/lightsd -t -u pi -s /run/lightsd/socket -c /run/lightsd/pipe -l localhost:8447


Setting up nginx

This is optional, everything should work also without this step.

First I modified /etc/nginx/nginx.conf, for easy addition of TCP streams. Add these lines

stream {
        include /etc/nginx/conf.d/*.stream;

This will load extra configuation from /etc/nginx/conf.d folder.

Next create file /etc/nginx/conf.d/

server {
    listen 8449;

Restart lightsd and nginx.

systemctl daemon-reload
systemctl restart lightsd
systemctl restart nginx

NodeMCU wiring

Nothing complicated, just connect pins like this

Vcc VU
Trig D5
Echo D6

NodeMCU + HC-SR04

Now you can connect NodeMCU with microUSB cable to your computer and flash latest stable nodemcu-firmware. You can get custom build from Choose master build and select these modules node, file, gpio, wifi, net, tmr, cjson. You'll have to wait few minutes, till the build is completed. In the meantime you can prepare for flashing firmware, ESPlorer for uploading files and get code for light control.

Flashing firmware

Clone esptool repository or just download from

git clone
cd esptool

And follow installation instructions.

When you download firmware (float version), flash it, by something like this:

sudo ./ --port /dev/ttyUSB0 --baud 115200 write_flash 0x00000 /PATH/TO/FIRMWARE-ROM.bin

nodemcu-lightsd configuration

Clone nodemcu-lightsd repository

git clone

Open file in src/config.lua.default and change it to suit you needs, you'll find explanations in file. Then save it as config.lua.

This is example:

SSID = 'MyNetwork'
PASSWORD = 'StrongPassword42'
LIGHT = 'Lifx1' -- light name
MINDIST = 0.2 -- in meters
MAXDIST = 0.5 -- in meters
MAXRANGE = 0.2 -- in meters
IP = ''
PORT = 8449
TRIG = 5
ECHO = 6
DEBUG = false

I recommend setting static IP address, then connecting after restart is much faster, you can control lights just after under 5s after restart.

Uploading files

Download ESPlorer from Extract it, navigate to extracted folder and run Esplorer.jar, on linux by running

sudo java -jar ESPlorer.jar

Choose communication port where NodeMCU is connected, e.g. /dev/ttyUSB0, set baud rate to 9600. And upload all .lua files via Upload button, you'll have to do it one by one. After last file is uploaded, reset module (with Reset button in ESPlorer or RST on NodeMCU module).

Now you are done. And here is another video

Bonus task

Print nice case for you NodeMCU and HC-SR04. I've used this model Ultrasonic Sensor Housing and added mount so I could fit it on headboard.

Links to code and tools