Using environment variables

Setting a node property

Any node property can be set with an environment variable by setting its value to a string of the form ${ENV_VAR}. When the runtime loads the flows, it will substitute the value of that environment variable before passing it to the node.

This only works if it replaces the entire property - it cannot be used to substitute just part of the value. For example, it is not possible to use CLIENT-${HOST}.

As nodes provide their own edit dialog, not all properties will provide a text input that can be used to enter the env-var string. In that case, you may consider hand-editing the flow file to set the property.

Using the TypedInput widget

TypedInput Environment Variable

TypedInput Environment Variable type

Within the editor, the TypedInput widget can offer ‘environment variable’ as a type. When this type is selected, its value will be evaluated as follows:

  • if there is no ${} present, uses the whole value as the name of the environment variable. For example, "FOO" will be replaced with the value of process.env.FOO

  • if ${} is present, it will substitute the corresponding environment variable into the result: For example, given the value "Hello ${FOO}" and the env var FOO is set to World, this results in the value "Hello World"

JSONata Expressions

Environment variables can be accessed in JSONata expressions, such as in the Change node, using the $env function:


Function node

Within a Function node, environment variables get be accessed using the env.get function:

let foo = env.get("FOO");

Template node

Since Node-RED 3.0

The template node can access environment variables using the syntax:

My favourite colour is {{env.COLOUR}}.

Subflow Instance properties

Since 0.20, Subflows can be configured with instance properties. These appear as environment variables within the Subflow and can be customised for individual instances of the subflow.

For example, given a REST API that provides access to different types of record, a subflow could be created to access the API and handle the response, using an environment variable to identify which type of record should be accessed. Individual instances of the Subflow can then be customised for those particular types.

Flow/Group level environment variables

Since Node-RED 2.1

Environment variables can be set at the flow or group level. This is done in the appropriate tab in the edit dialog for the flow or group.

Accessing nested environment variables

When accessing an environment variable in a subflow, Node-RED will search the subflow properties, then the flow containing the subflow (which could be a subflow itself).

In some cases it is useful to access the ‘parent’ levels environment variables without reference the ‘local’ value. This can be achieved by prefixing the variable name with $parent..

Running as a service

When Node-RED is running as a service having been installed using the provided script, it will not have access to environment variables that are defined only in the calling process. In this instance, environment variables can be defined in the settings file by adding:


placed outside the module.exports section. Alternatively, variables can be defined as part of the systemd service by placing statements of the form


in a file named environment within the Node-RED user directory, ~/.node-red.

Built-In Environment Variables

Since Node-RED 2.2

Node-RED defines a set of environment variables for exposing information about the nodes, flows and groups.

This information helps “locate” the node in your workspace. Nodes in your workspace exist as part of a flow. Likewise, a node may (or may not) be part of a group. Nodes, flows and groups are each given unique IDs that are generated by Node-RED.

Nodes, flows and groups all support the name property, which you can change when editing properties.

The following environment variables can be used to access this information for a given node:

  • NR_NODE_ID - the ID of the node
  • NR_NODE_NAME - the Name of the node
  • NR_NODE_PATH - the Path of the node. This represents a node’s position in a flow. It is / delimited IDs of the flow, enclosing subflows, and the node.
  • NR_GROUP_ID - the ID of the containing group
  • NR_GROUP_NAME - the Name of the containing group
  • NR_FLOW_ID - the ID of the flow the node is on
  • NR_FLOW_NAME - the Name of the flow the node is on

Note that while the IDs generated by Node-RED are guaranteed to be unique, the names are not. If a node, flow or group does not have a given name, the corresponding environment variable will be an empty string. If a node is not part of a group, its group id environment variable will also return an empty string.