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Off Topic: How to Automate Your Gas Fireplace

Home automation is a hobby of mine, and in our new home, I really wanted to automate our Heatilator gas fireplace.  However, this isn’t as straightforward as it might seem, and I really haven’t found any good tutorials out there as to how to do this.  This tutorial will show you how to connect your fireplace to your Wink Hub or any other Z-Wave controller.  I got this working and actually found that it is one of the easier things to automate.  I really like being able to set the fireplace to go on and off on a schedule.

Safety Considerations

Before you start this project, you should be comfortable with working with wiring and electricity.  If you are not, get someone else to do this.  Secondly, you will be working with wires that run near gas lines, so multiply every safety concern by at least a factor of three.  If you don’t know what you are doing, this is not the project to figure it out.  I take no responsibility for any damage or injury that may result from this tutorial.  It goes without saying that BEFORE you start cutting wires, make sure that you have either disconnected all power, or shut off the electricity at the circuit breaker. 

The wisdom of automating a gas fireplace is also debatable, however, I left the manual switch in place so you can always turn off the fireplace the “old fashioned” way using the original switch.

What You Will Need:

Remotec Zwave Dry Contact Fixture ModuleWith all that said, this really isn’t a difficult project to complete in a safe manner.  Here’s what you’ll need:

Understanding How It Works:

A bit of back story.  As I mentioned earlier, of all the things in my home that I wanted to automate, the fireplace was high on the list.  It had what appeared to be a regular switch right next to the mantle, so I thought it would be relatively easy to automate simply by replacing that switch with a ZWave switch.  I took the switch cover off and that’s where the problems began.  To use a ZWave switch, you need for the wiring to be 120V and a neutral wire in the box.  For most applications, this is no problem.  However, when I looked in the switch box, I saw that there was no neutral wire AND that the wiring to the switch was really small, like 18 gauge.  Not good.

The reason for this is that gas fireplaces are activated by a controller that sits under the fireplace.  For power, the controller uses either 2D cell batteries, or can be plugged into 120V house current with a power adapter.  Here’s the important part: to turn the fireplace on or off, has a low voltage (3V I think) circuit to which the wall switch is connected.

The relay switch takes two voltages.  The first is 120V which powers the ZWave components of the relay switch, and the second is the low voltage part which the relay switch will control.  It is very important to only connect the 120V wires to the 120V terminals otherwise you will ruin your relay switch.  

There are very few ZWave relay switches on the market at the moment.  The one I recommended works well, but does not fit nicely with any switch cover (common complaint).  Therefore, I installed it under the fireplace and left  the existing switch in place.   This has the advantage of not having to run 120V wires to your wall switch.

Step 1: Connecting the Low Voltage Wiring

The first step is to open the bottom panel of your fireplace (mine is held on by magnets) and find the wiring which goes to the wall switch.  If your installer did a good job, it will be labeled for you.  If not, just look for small wires heading out of the fireplace up towards the switch.  See the photo below.

 

IMG_0422Just a reminder to disconnect the controller and/or turn off the circuit before you start cutting wires.  Once you’ve found that wire cut it as shown in the diagram below.

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Next, you’ll connect the relay to the wires you just cut.  Connect the wires from the controller to the terminals marked LOAD on the relay.  Next, connect the wires going to the old manual switch to the terminals marked with the switch symbol.  When connecting the switch and load wires, the order of the wires does not matter.

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There should be two terminals on the relay that are marked L and N and have nothing connected to them at this point.  These are for the 120V current which you will connect next.

Step 2:  Connecting the House Current

This is the easiest step.  If you purchased a power cord, simply connect the white wire from the power cord to the terminal marked N on the relay, and the black wire to the terminal marked L.  Once you’ve done this, plug the wire into the outlet under the fireplace.  If everything went correctly, the blue LED on the relay should flash.  When you are done the relay should look like the photo below.  (I spliced my 110V wire so you’ll note that there are two wires in the L and N terminals, but if you used a power cord you will have one)

Remotec ZWave Relay Connected

Step 3: Connect the Switch to Your Wink Hub

This is the really easy part.  Once everything is connected and powered on, follow the instructions on the Wink app for installing a ZWave switch.  When it asks you to put the switch in pairing mode, just hold down the button.  It worked for me on the first try.

That’s it!  If you did this correctly, you should have a fireplace that you can control with your Wink or other ZWave controller.   Enjoy!

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37 Comments

  1. Steve Steve

    Thank you for posting this. I have followed the directions exactly…I think.

    I am using SmartThings hub for my automation. It found the relay without much trouble.

    The light on the relay turns off and on via z-wave when I turn the switch off and on. The same thing happens when I push the button on the relay.

    However…the fireplace won’t turn on. No matter which method I turn the relay on or off or turn the wall switch, I get the same result. I have checked my connections and I think they are all good.

    Any ideas would be appreciated!

    • Charles Givre Charles Givre

      Could you post a pic? It sounds to me like the relay is getting power but the wiring to the fireplace is not correct.

  2. Brandon Turley Brandon Turley

    I’m trying to connect this to a new Wink hub 2 and can’t get it to connect. I’ve tried using the add a product, z wave switch and going into inclusion mode, but can’t get it to pair.

    • Charles Givre Charles Givre

      Hi Brandon,
      I wish I could give you some advice. Mine paired with the original Wink on the first try and has worked perfectly ever since.

  3. Ryan Richmond Ryan Richmond

    My fireplace has a switch for the fire and a switch for the fan on the side of the unit (kind of old school I know). Will this be wired together or will I need to purchase a separate controller for the fan? Thanks for the tutorial.

    • Charles Givre Charles Givre

      Hi Ryan, the fireplace controller should use a low voltage controller and you can verify that by the small wires going to it. The fan on the other hand should use standard 110V AC so that will have regular wires going to the switch. So the answer is yes you probably will need a separate switch for the fan. However the good news is that you can probably just use a standard Z-wave switch to automate the fan. I’m not an electrician and I haven’t seen your setup, but that’s my uneducated guess.

      • Ryan Richmond Ryan Richmond

        Thank you. Really appreciate the response. I am trying to make sense of the wiring. Maybe you can give it a look. Its a Lennox gfp3/4

        • Charles Givre Charles Givre

          Hi Ryan, Can you post a picture of the wiring?

  4. Christopher Fox Christopher Fox

    The Remotec seems to be permanently out of stock. The other ones I am finding do not have a separate switch terminal, how can I wire the switch in parallel to ensure I have a physical switch should the relay die (for safety mostly). Thanks in advance!

    • Charles Givre Charles Givre

      Oh no! I just posted an update but here is an alternative product that looks like it will work. http://amzn.to/2ihFxp6

      • Daniel Daniel

        Is there a generic relay that isn’t Z-Wave connected that I could use together with a Z-Wave switch?

  5. Thanks for the guide!

    Two questions:

    1. Do you think this “GoControl Z-Wave Isolated Contact Fixture Module – FS20Z-1” should work just as well as the “FortrezZ MIMOlite” that you mentioned? Any downsides to using this cheaper item?

    2. I see that your fireplace has a junction box like mine — which of the 3 outlets (TRANS, REM/AUX, FAN) did you plug into? Does it matter?

    • Charles Givre Charles Givre

      Hi Phil,
      It looks like that device (http://amzn.to/2j9Zheg) should do the trick. The main thing is to make sure that the fireplace controller isn’t connected to 110V otherwise you will destroy it.
      2. Regarding the junction box, I don’t think it really matters. On mine at least, all are wired and on all the time, so the labels are just for convenience.

  6. Sebastian Goldstein Sebastian Goldstein

    Phil, Did the Go control FS20Z-1 do the job.
    I would like to do the same thing.
    Any Pics?

  7. Dave Dave

    Thanks for the instructions. I got the MIMOlight as now recommend. I paired to to the Wink 2. Shows as a “siren” I made it a short cut and linked it to my Echo. I can hear it click on but looks like the fire try to start but stops. I had on wire in “COM” and one in “NO”. Any thoughts?

    • Charles Givre Charles Givre

      Can you post a picture of the connections?

  8. Daniel Turley Daniel Turley

    Charles,

    I figured out an alternative way to get my fireplace automated that might interest you. I wanted conformity between all of my wall switches. I have been using the GE Z-Wave smart dimmers and switches throughout my house and wanted to use one for my fireplace as well.

    This is essentially what I did:

    Jumped the neutral and line wires from another switch in the same gang box to power my GE Z-Wave switch.

    Connected the wires from the fireplace to the neutral and load ports on the smart switch.

    Cut the wires under the fireplace and used the ones from the switch to power this relay that I bought at Radioshack: https://www.radioshack.com/products/125v-dc-10a-dpdt-relay

    Mounted the relay on this socket base after discarding the included relay (which is powered by low voltage): https://www.amazon.com/SODIAL-HH62P-L-JQX-13F-PTF08A-Socket/dp/B00J2N2216/

    Connected the wires from my fireplace to one of the normally open connections on the relay.

    I also took the original wall switch and placed it under the fireplace on a separate loop so that I can override the relay and connect the dry contact if my power goes out since I believe my fireplace has a small backup power supply.

    I found this to be a cheaper and more elegant solution that accomplishes everything I wanted. Let me know if you have any questions. I’d love your input.

    • Charles Givre Charles Givre

      Daniel,
      This is an interesting solution. It definitely shows that there are more than one way to accomplish this! I would have liked to have a smart switch as well, so I really like your solution. Nice work!

  9. Nick Nick

    Does the original wall switch still work with this setup or do you have to leave it in the on\remote setting?

    • Charles Givre Charles Givre

      Hi Nick,
      The original wall switch does work.

  10. Kelly Snider Kelly Snider

    Charles, I’m trying to get this to work, but I can’t seem to get power to my relay. There doesn’t seem to be a method on here to post pictures, but the power cord has a black ribbed for neutral and a non-ribbed for load. I have those connected to L and N marked sections of the relay. I have the red and white wires coming from the wall connected to the switch section of the relay. Finally I have the brown wires coming from the controller connected to the relay load section of the relay. The power switch on the wall is up, although I also tested with it down. I have plugged something else into the outlet to verify it and the other thing powered.

    I should mention I did have it working at one point, and I could hear it turning on and off but the fire didn’t start so I assumed I had the other wires mixed up. I turned the power off to correct those, and when I turned it back on is when all power was gone.

    I appreciate any help you can provide with this. I’ll be happy to send pictures as well but since there is no attach button you’ll need to provide instructions for how to do that too :-).

    • Charles Givre Charles Givre

      Hi Kelly,
      It sounds to me like something is up with the power. I would remove the relay entirely, and plug it into an outlet that you know works. Then press the button a few times and you should hear it clicking. The power switch on the wall just controls the fireplace controller and should be low voltage, so it really should have no effect on whether the relay clicks on or not. Please send a pic to cgivre@thedataist.com and I can take a look for you.

  11. MCV MCV

    If my fireplace has two manual paddle switches in the wall, one to ignite the fireplace and one to turn on the fan, could I not just replace the wall switch with a Zwave paddle switch?

    • Charles Givre Charles Givre

      Hi Michael,
      I don’t think you can do that for the reasons explained in the article. The electric current for the fireplace is a low voltage DC current (3V DC I believe), whereas the fan switch is a 120V AC. If you try to connect a ZWave switch to the fireplace switch, you’ll find that 1. It doesn’t have a neutral wire and 2. You’ll probably break the fireplace controller when you send 120V to the microvolt controller.
      Basically you need the relay because the ZWave part requires 120V AC to operate, but the fireplace requires 3V DC.

      If you take off the wall plate going to these switches, you should see that the wires going to the fireplace switch are much smaller than the wires going to the fan switch. I hope that makes sense.

      • Daniel Turley Daniel Turley

        MCV,

        You can replace the fan switch with a Z-Wave paddle switch since it’s 120V, but you definitely need some kind of dry contact relay that is actuated by 120V. You can use a Z-Wave dry contact like some on here have suggested or if you want a Z-Wave paddle switch like I do, you can follow the method I used that I described above if your wiring is setup the same way mine was. If you want more details on doing that, let me know.

  12. H Bondar H Bondar

    Charles — I found your directions, bought the stuff, followed the plan, hooked everything up … and it works like a dream! SO cool — I feel like I’m living in the future. I’m using a Samsung SmartThings Hub (love that puppy — everything works) and I created a “Routine” called “Romance” — it turns off some lights, dims others, and whoomps the fireplace to life — epic — my wife was blown away. Thank you very much for posting this solution and making it so easy to follow! You are my hero.

    • Charles Givre Charles Givre

      Thanks!! Glad you got it to work and are enjoying it!

  13. Jean Jean

    Charles, in my original installation the previous owner installed a thermostat White-Rodgers as a switch to turn on the fireplace. This prevents the fireplace from overheating I guess. Do you think I could replace it with an Ecobee?

    • Charles Givre Charles Givre

      Jean,
      I’d hesitate to give you incorrect advice and cause you to burn down your house, but I would think you could. I’d contact Ecobee and ask them if the wiring is compatible.

  14. Greg Greg

    After referring back to this post a bunch of times, getting really excited, scouting out the purchases, and finally realizing that my house was built with extremely poor access to the underbelly of the firebox (and by poor, I mean no access, which seems like a code violation if you ask me), I finally settled for what I would consider to be the ultimate cop-out solution to this issue:

    http://amzn.to/2pENbwl

    Am I ashamed? Yes. But I had to tell someone. You can take away my man-card now.

    In all seriousness, the switch is an eyesore, but my fireplace is controlled by a single switch that is almost hidden from view, so I justified it. Could work for those that don’t care about the looks, can’t access their fireboxes or aren’t too proud to admit that they are beaten.

    • Charles Givre Charles Givre

      Hey, you got the job done, so don’t beat yourself up about it!

  15. TL TL

    Hey, this looks like a fantastic guide. Quick question before I get started.

    My fireplace controller has 3 wires running to it — TP, TH, TPTH — as opposed to the 2 shown in your diagram and the 2 provided for on the Remotec relay. In researching this, I think that the TP and TPTH are actually split from the same hot wire, so I could either try to cut the wire before they’re split (ideal), or I could splice those wires on the switch and controller sides of the relay but leave them split on the terminal (some extra unnecessary wire, but should be okay).

    Do either of those solutions sound reasonable or preferred? My last thought was if one of the wires could just bypass the relay and not be cut, putting the relay in parallel.

    Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

  16. tami tami

    I’m going to attempt to try to apply this to an electromagnetic lock I have for my gate that is 12v. For your project, it seems that you used the original wall switch and connected it to the relay, is it possible for me to use the button on the remotec as the wall switch open and close the lock? thanks

    • Charles Givre Charles Givre

      Without seeing the wiring for your gate, I really can’t answer, but just check the voltage requirements for the Remotec relay before proceeding.

  17. David David

    This is awesome – ordered the parts for it! Noob question – do I need a separate hub to make this switch work? or will alexa pick it up on her own? Thanks!

    • Charles Givre Charles Givre

      You will need some sort of Z-Wave hub to communicate with the relay if you want to control it remotely. I use a Wink hub then connected my Alexa to Wink.

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