Skip to content

Category: Home Automation

Home Automation Update

One of my most popular posts is a tutorial I wrote two years ago about automating a gas fireplace and I get a lot of questions about home automation, so thought I’d write an update to that tutorial and review some products I’ve bought in the last two years.

My Original Goal

When I originally started seeing all the home automation products that were coming out, my original interest in them was to see what kind of data these devices gathered about their owners and I ended up giving two presentations on this topic at the Strata Conferences in New York and London.  With all that said, for my research I wanted to be able to control the functionality of my home with my phone.  After buying a bunch of devices, I was really disappointed.  At the time, I wasn’t able to automate any lighting because my home was built in the 1920s and none of the light switches had a neutral wire–a requirement for Z-Wave switches.  After we moved to a newer home, and I started automating lights and installing other automation devices, the thing that really frustrated me was the difficulty in getting all the devices to work together.  I had high hopes for IFTTT, (and still do) but at the time, it seemed like it was a half-assed workaround.

I also was very disappointed with the available security systems.  At the time, the choices were pretty much limited to systems which required you to pay rather steep monthly “monitoring fees” to some company and use rather low-tech devices, or half-baked products that did appear promising but seemed to be MVPs at best.

So what changed?  I can answer that in one word: Alexa.

1 Comment

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: