How to Automate Your Gas Fireplace

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How to Automate Your Gas Fireplace
by Charles Givre

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

With all that said, this really isn’t a difficult project to complete in a safe manner. Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. Remotec ZFM-80 Zwave Dry Contact Fixture Module
  2. A lamp power cord. Something like THIS
  3. Wire Stripper. Something like THIS
  4. A Phillips Head Screwdriver

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 110V 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 2 D cell batteries, or can be plugged into 110V 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 110V 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 110V wires to the 110V 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 110V 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.


Just 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.

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.


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 110V 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)


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.