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Smarten up Your Gas Fireplace This Winter

Smarten up Your Gas Fireplace This Winter

Every winter in Colorado, our household makes good use of our natural gas fireplace. And every winter I think, “I really should automate this.” How nice would it be to settle in under a blanket and turn the fireplace on without getting up? Maybe also turn on the HVAC blower and a ceiling fan to help distribute the heat better? This winter, I finally decided to do something about it.

Device Requirements

The nature of a fireplace means this project required some extra thought around how to implement it. After all, we’re talking about fire here. A lot of gas fireplaces, including mine, have a wall switch to turn them on and off. The problem is that this wall switch is usually just opening and closing a low voltage circuit. Since typical smart home wall switches require line voltage to operate, they won’t work for a fireplace wall switch. With this in mind, I asked myself the following questions when considering a device to use:

Smarten up Your Gas Fireplace This Winter
Typical low-voltage fireplace wall switch
  1. What happens if the power goes out?
  2. What happens if the internet goes out?
  3. How is it powered?
  4. What voltage can it control?
  5. Can it be manually controlled?
  6. How easy is it to install?
  7. What is the price?

I found a couple of Z-wave devices that would work with my SmartThings hub, such as the Remotec ZFM-80 or Qubino Flush 1D Relay. While researching which device would best address these needs, I reached out to our contacts at The Smartest House. They offered to send us their new Zooz ZEN16 MultiRelay to try for this fireplace project and report.

Installing the Zooz MultiRelay

Disclaimer: If you aren’t comfortable with basic wiring principles, tracing wiring, and doing some wire stripping, you may want to hire a professional for a project like this. Also check your local laws and regulations.

The Zooz MultiRelay comes with an excellent set of instructions in the box. It includes several wiring diagrams for common applications, including a gas fireplace. While my particular gas fireplace insert is an Intermittent Pilot Ignition (IPI) system (instead of a millivolt system as noted in the included diagram) the same wiring applied. And since the Zooz MultiRelay can be powered by a USB-C cord, powering it very easy. I followed to steps below to install the Zooz unit in my fireplace insert. Your installation may vary.

  1. Gather your tools. I used a flat head screwdriver, wire strippers, 1.5′ USB-C cord, and USB wall adapter
  2. Take the screen off the front of the fireplace insert so you can see the wiring underneath; mine is held on with spring-loaded magnets at the bottom and lifts off
  3. Unplug the IPI controller (if applicable)
  4. Remove wall switch plate and pull wall switch out
  5. Trace wiring from the wall switch to the fireplace
  6. Cut the existing two wires for the wall switch
  7. Wire in the cut wires per the included diagram and tighten down—wall switch side of the cuts wires to the switch 1 terminals and the IPI controller or millivolt valve side to the relay 1 input terminals
  8. Install the SmartThings device handler (if applicable)
  9. Put your Z-Wave hub into pairing mode
  10. Install the USB-C cord and USB wall adapter
  11. Pair to your Z-Wave hub
  12. Plug fireplace back in (if applicable) and test!

Thanks to the included wiring diagram and USB-C power option, installation of the Zooz MultiRelay was a breeze.

Configuring and Automating the Zooz MultiRelay

Smarten up Your Gas Fireplace This Winter

The Zooz MultiRelay comes with many configuration settings via its Z-Wave parameters. This makes it very flexible to meet the needs of any particular application. It also enables Zooz to address most of the initial project concerns I listed at the start of this post. For this installation, I chose to have the relays turn off after a power failure. This way if the power goes out while the household is asleep, the fireplace doesn’t unexpectedly turn on in the middle of the night. I also chose to use the auto turn-off timer. That way, the fireplace will turn off even if the hub is offline or the internet is down.

Now for the fun part: Automation! Connecting the fireplace to your favorite voice assistant is the obvious first step here (and sure to be a fun party trick). It’s also a good idea to turn off the fireplace as part of your Goodbye and Goodnight scenes. This way, it will shut off when leaving the house or turning in for the night.

In my house, the fireplace is only 20 feet from our thermostat. This causes the other rooms in the house to get cold in the winter while the thermostat stays plenty warm. To address this, I added an automation to help distribute the warm air better. Whenever the fireplace is on, my HVAC fan and ceiling fan turns on to help distribute the heat better. I also added a notification here to make sure people are aware it is on. Ten minutes after the fireplace turns off, the HVAC fan returns to auto mode, and the ceiling fan turns off.

In conclusion, this project turned out very well, while addressing safety concerns. Our home’s gas fireplace can now be controlled by voice. Furthermore, now we can use it, along with our other smart home devices, to keep the house more evenly heated. If you’ve considered adding a smart control to your gas fireplace, the Zooz MultiRelay may be just what you need to complete your project!