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But, before we start, we need a big disclaimer here:
Follow this guide at your own risk. If you're not completely comfortable with what you're doing or don't have a full understanding of what you're doing, please just don't do it. Neither the author nor anyone at CocoonTech takes any responsibility for anything that may go wrong if you implement this.
The scary part... This technically wouldn't pass code as far as I know. The reason: mixing high voltage and low voltage in the same electrical box. Absolute worst-case scenario, if somehow you were to short your low voltage wires into your high voltage wires, you could potentially send 120V down into the control box in your fireplace creating sparks and/or fire in an area with a gas line.
If you're not comforable with any of this, there are plenty of other remotes and things of that nature that work with a Millivolt setup.
Options in Control
There are lots of ways to accomplish automating this type of setup. All you have to do is find a way to touch the two wires together in an automated fashion.
Here are some options:
- Using an output/relay off your alarm/automation panel. You connect each lead of the Millivolt contacts to the relay (C and NO Sides). When that relay is activated, it connects the wires lighting the fireplace. An Elk or HAI Output with a relay would accomplish this just fine. Even a GlobalCache device with the relay outputs would've worked.
- PCS and SAI both make output modules in which you could connect the two wires in an output and have UPB control. This just means running new wires to the controls. The other lighting protocols have similar modules available.
- You can also buy an off-the-shelf Millivolt wireless controller and follow this article's instructions for automating the wireless remote.
- You could get an automotive 12V relay and an old wall wart plugged into an appliance module that when turned on activates the automotive relay and turns on the fireplace.
When we had an extended power outage a few weeks ago, I discovered that my fireplace still functioned even without power. I don't know the details on the Millivolt setup, but flipping the switch worked... and if I had already automated all of this using a relay, I probably would've lost the manual override function. As a result, I completely reconsidered my control options to include a method of manual override.
For any relay setup, that can be as simple as wiring your new relay in-line with your existing control, leaving the existing control's connections passing through the NC side of the relay so it'll still function as well. I did something similar you'll see below, but added protection from my 2yr old who had a habit of controlling the fireplace whenever she wanted. This override also gives me an option of disconnecting the fireplace from the control as well; which could be smart on vacations, etc.
With all the warnings and other options, why choose this method?
Pretty simple for me - pure laziness and ability to completely remove it in the future and put it back to 100% original without a single hole to patch, wire to fish, etc. Resale factor is a whole different topic, but I prefer to be careful about my automation and make sure that anything I do can be undone when I sell the house, or would be a desirable feature that a new owner would welcome and not be intimidated by (security for example).
I wanted to work completely with what was there already, including the controls that are on an exterior wall and can't be fished to. I also want everything to look finished; so no new exposed wires, etc. I know the risks and mitigated against them the best I could and feel perfectly comfortable with this solution.
What I had to begin with was a house that was pre-wired for a blower (not installed though) and had the Millivolt fireplace control installed and run to the switch you see here. In this picture, the top switch is wired to an outlet inside the firebox designed for an optional blower. The bottom swith is just a standard Leviton Decora light switch, but it's not actually controlling 120V; it's being used as a simple contact switch to connect the two low voltage Millivolt wires to ignite the fireplace
First I found the blower - inside the fireplace I found the model and google quickly turned on a compatible blower at fireplaceblowersonline.com... installation is amazingly simple - just slide it into place and bend two metal tabs up to hold it in place, then plug it into the switched outlet.
Next, In order to automate the fireplace, I needed a way to power a relay which would connect the two wires in the Control switch. What I decided to go with was a Simply Automated US2240 dual load controlling switch. The first load will be the fireplace blower, and the second load is the 120VAC relay to turn on the fireplace. The added benefit of the 2240 is that it has the timer on both loads, so I can set the fireplace with a max time... and in fact, that's why I went with the fancy switchplate - so the 4 buttons could be different preset timers.
** Normally I'd be the first one to tell you to NEVER hook a dimming switch up to an outlet!! Look at my write-up on UPB and I say a little more about it and link to a thread where people talk about the concerns.
The reason I violated my own advice here is because the outlet is as close to a permanently-installed fixture as you can get... the outlet is completely inside my fireplace box as the picture below indicates. I feel pretty safe that my maid or house guests won't open up the fireplace panel to unplug the fireplace blower and plug something into that outlet (and technically only the bottom plug is UPB controlled; the top one is still hard-wired anyways).
Here is the wiring diagram I ultimately wanted to accomplish:
With the above in mind, I decided I wanted to use the 120VAC relay to connect the fireplace leads, and also to have a 3-way switch as an override so I could get manual control or totally disable the fireplace (say if UPB goes crazy). Of course, I could just turn off the gas at the fireplace too.
I went with a key-switch instead of a regular rocker specifically because my oldest kid is 2yrs old and she could reach it - and would turn the fireplace on/off whenever she wanted... so with a keyswitch with removable key, it can be put in any position and have the key removed, and I know she can't override it.
If I didn't have the kid factor, I probably would've left the manual switch with my relay hooked in parallel so either option worked.
Building the Control
Here are the basic parts I went with:
- 120VAC relay
- Project Enclosure
- Wall-Plate - Decora Blank Style
- An assortment of stranded wires - 16-18 gauge.
- 120V LED Indicator Light
- 3-position key switch
I used a meter to validate the configuration of the key-switch, then got to soldering. Since you can't put it into the enclosure with everything soldered, I put the leads on the keyswitch first then threaded it into the project box, then I got the leads as close as I could and soldered into the relay as well. I was very careful when soldering to know which direction I was routing the wires so the 120VAC would go a different direction than the LV wires, and get out of the box as quickly as possible.
With things as tight as they were in that project box, I needed all the wires going off to the side, not the bottom. I also notched the box in a new spot just for the 120VAC wires for more separation. At the end of it all, I did heat shrink on the keyswitch contacts to protect them, and on the relay I coated the bottom and all the contacts with liquid electrical tape, then let it sit overnight. The next day, I did a bunch of testing with the meter to ensure everything was operating as expected, then used a hot glue gun to really lock everything in place and let that sit for a day.
Here are some pics of the work:
Obviously I didn't get the cover back on the project box but I'm ok with that - my bigger concern was knowing that everything was in a fixed place and wouldn't move or short.
Everything is soldered; this is a test-fit. After this I pulled the relay back out, coated the contacts in liquid electrical tape and let dry overnight. Look closely at the key and you can see an Apple logo on it; I wonder what these were left over from?
This is with everything glued together with hot-glue to make sure nothing moves - ever! The red wires go to the milivolt setup; and black/white are the 120V leads.
This is a test-run of the switch. I realize I'm getting a little too comfortable lately sticking bare wires into electrical outlets to test things. I used my meter to test more than once; since this is the final operation with everything glued together, I wanted to make sure that nothing shorted still.
I intended to use romex for the in-wall part between the boxes - and I'm sure it would've been better/safer... but I didn't think I'd have the room for that in the box, we're only talking about 3" inside the walls... so I just fished the long leads I left into the top box and hooked them directly into the 2240's second load.
That is against code I'm sure having unprotected 120VAC in the wall like that - but you can see how close the two switches are together. I wired the primary load to the outlet, then i went into upstart and programmed everything. The rockers control fire/blower separately (both with the 4-hour timer on); and the buttons are currently the following:
- 30 Mins Fire/Blower (for quick warm up in the morning)
- 1Hr Fire/Blower
- 3Hrs Fire/Blower
- 3Hrs Fire only (For ambiance without noise).
[attachment=4878:FP_FinishedProduct.jpg]It's taken me 2 months to get the pictures off my camera and write this article; in that time we've been using this quite often without a hitch. It's also nice that on a cold day if we have the fireplace running, then we all head up for a family nap - I don't have to think about it.
I just hit the "downstairs off" button and everything turns off, including the fireplace. Or if I'm feeling lazy I can use the iPhone or iPad to turn things on from the couch. I also added a button to trigger the 30 minute fireplace/blower on the scene controller by the entry to the room so you don't have to walk over to this switch if you don't want to.
Once I automate my thermostats, I'll likely run a timer to cycle the fan upstairs occasionally to distribute the heat rather than let it accumulate in the Master Bedroom which is directly above; and where the upstairs thermostat is located.
Anyway, enjoy - and if you have any questions or comments, please post them in this thread.
- Dec 27 2017 06:30 PM
I'm getting older, and since having kids, my memory isn't as good; so if you see anything inaccurate, let me know and I'll update the article.
To be honest, that decision was made several years ago and I don't remember all the reasons, but I know the basics. First off, why UPB: At the time, Z-Wave wasn't as mature as it is now, and I've read about issues with having to retrain the switches to understand their routing path; that seemed like a pain, plus Z-Wave isn't as well suited for starting small as I understood.
With UPB you could literally add 2 switches on opposite ends of the house and be fine.
Like others, I also saw the flexibility of the US240 switch and liked it - and I also read other peoples' opinions of Simply-Automated having a better "feel" to them. Plus, their pricing is much better than others - and they have sales all the time. At that point, I went with SA - and once I had their products, I decided to standardize... I want all the same lights and options and for everything to match.
My gut feel was just that they were a good company with a good product so I went with it - and I'm perfectly happy with that decision.
Gen I vs. Gen II
Simply-Automated switches are Gen I. I believe PCS and HAI are Gen II. If you want something like the Simply-Automated switches, but want Gen II, Web Mountain actually takes the SA switches and sells them with Gen II firmware.
This process isn't something users can do; there's no way for an end-user to upgrade firmware on any of these switches because of the special equipment required.
Normally you might think newer must be better, but in my reading of forum posts, I basically got the idea that YMMV and different people noticed different results. I'd suggest researching this topic if you're worried about it.
My house is good sized and I have never had noise or reliability issues and I like the flexibility that the SA switches have and I had read opinions that they had the best "feel" to them when using them.
There's a good statement from SA at the bottom of this page about Gen II. This recent post comes to mind where PCS offered their opinions, and other members shared theirs as well.
SA switches currently come in a few different models. There are:
- US1130 – Single Rocker Dimmer (discontinued – this unit uses Green, Red and Orange lights)
- US1140 - Single-Rocker Dimmer
- US240 - Deluxe Dimmer Controller with a variety of faceplate options
- US2240 - A Dual-load deluxe dimmer (It can control two circuits ie; light/fan, or two different lights)
- USR40A - This is a dedicated remote switch that can be used with any of the above switches on a 3 or more way circuit, plus some other uses.
- UCQT40 - A 4-button Scene controller with separate status lights. This can only be used to send links; it can not control a load directly.
- SA Does not make a Relay switch; other manufacturers do. That means you should never use a SA switch to control an outlet! There are people better qualified than me to explain this; but basically if someone plugs the wrong kind of load into an outlet it can cause a lot of damage and hurt the switch or burn your house down. I'll cover some tips/tricks for working around this in a follow-up with hookup examples. Here’s a thread that talked about the issues.
- The SA switches all have an option to disable dimming. According to SA, in this mode they’re safe for any load that doesn’t exceed what the switches are rated for; including motor loads, etc. You must use this mode if you’re controlling anything that isn’t a dimmable lighting load – generally speaking, incandescent loads or lights designed to be compatible with them. They do say that they're only for control of permanently installed fixtures, which I read as anything other than an outlet of a known load.
- All switches seem to be available in White, Almond, Light Almond, Ivory, Black or Brown. The color kits can be changed any time.
- SA switches have a configurable delay from the time you press the button until the light is activated. This is to allow time for a double-tap – but throws people off if they’re not used to the delay. With the SA switches, you can configure this from 300 to 750 milliseconds to reduce the delay. For some people, this delay really hinders the WAF. When sending a Link vs. controlling a local load, this is even more noticeable.
- The US1130, US1140, US240, US2240 each have an LED on top. This LED is actually pretty configurable; Here’s a screenshot that shows all the options for the light on the US2240 (Which is the same for the 1140 and 240; the 1130 list looks the same, but with green, red, and orange as the color options).
I discovered some new behavior just recently, and I'm not sure if it's Gen I behavior or UPB in general, but it's fairly important to consider as it can impact how you install/program your switches. It turns out that the switches don't appear to have any real collision-control when talking on the network. What that means is, if I press two switches at once, the communication generally won't go through (status, links, etc).
Where this matters - In a lot of my rooms, I have more than one light-switch and I'll often hit them both at once (desk light and ceiling light; table lamp and overhead; vanity and bathroom cans; ceiling fan and light). With mechanical switches this doesn't matter - but with these it does. If the two switches are both load-controlling (1140's) then the loads will generally perform as expected, but status won't update correctly. If one or both is a 240 or is working in link-only mode, either neither or only one switch will perform as expected (that is, the links won't activate).
In my bedrooms, most have a ceiling light and a controlled outlet; for those I wired the ceiling light as normal to a 1140, but I also capped the outlet to full-time power and put another 1140 in that's not wired to any load; that then sends a link to control a lamp dimmer module on a table or desk lamp (the only safe way to get dimming from a wall switch to a non-permanent fixture). When I press both buttons upon entering the room, the ceiling light always activates; the table lamp never does. In a bathroom that's all 240's and virtual links, if I press two together, neither activates.
In a lot of situations, I've found a workaround for this.
Take the bedrooms for example - if I want both switches on or off, I just set the outermost (closest to the door) so that single-tap is on/off of its own load; double-tap is all-on/all-off for that room. So now, instead of hitting both switches on the way out, I have to double-tap the one. This works in most places for me. This should make more sense when you read the details on the differences between the 1140 and the 240, and the tricks you can do with the 1140. US1140 Single-Rocker Dimmer
This is my default switch for all installations. Originally I went into this thinking that because the US240 could be configured with any faceplate, including the standard rocker, that it was the better choice - with ultimate flexibility. The reality is, there are some good reasons why it's not a smart choice.
- The 1140 has a built-in timer (the 240 does not), a configurable light (green/blue) and can dim loads up to 900W.
- You don't have to program a single transmit or receive action with the 1140's. They can directly control their own load (unlike the US240 which needs a link to control the local load) and can be addressed from any controller just by their Unit ID.
- You can still make the rocker actions totally separate from the sent/received links if you want (make them work more like a 240 with a single-rocker).
- The 240's don't have the Rocker Switch tab; they do everything through Send/Receive – which means you get the same fade rate for on and off; with the option to snap on/off on a double-tap. With the 1140's, you get a tab for Rocker Switch that gives you much greater control – including the ability to set different ramp/fade times for single/double tap and for up/down; plus separate control for the timer (another example is my garage – on a 20-minute timer, unless I double-tap – then it turns on without the timer). This screenshot should show how flexible this can be:
- Because of how the 1140's have direct attachment to the load vs. having to both send and receive a link, the 1140's feel more responsive. The time to send and receive a link seems to add about 150ms (non-scientific estimate). More details below.
- Controlling the attached load and sending links are two separate events that can be used individually or together. The US240's can only send/receive links as a switch is pressed; so there's no way to get two separate functions out of a switch.
If you want to get tricky with your switches, you can set it up so that you get double-functionality out of them. Take my Kids' bathroom for example, in the vanity area there's one light switch that controls the vanity lights. There are also two more switches in the Bath area, controlling other lights. By setting custom actions on the Send tab, I can have it turn off all the bathroom lights if I double-tap Off on my way out. To anyone who didn't know about this, the house would operate exactly as they'd expect when they press a switch in a room. See this example of programming in UPStart:
There are limitations to this – The primary load/action (single tap action) must be what's wired into that switch. You can't use this to activate two difference links (scenes).
- Dec 27 2017 06:26 PM
The product specifications are as follows:
- Dual 550 Watt Load Controls (this is a change from the initial product documentation. Initial product specs were 600 watts per channel, but this was reduced due to UL testing/compliance requirements)
- Interchangeable 'Universal' faceplate assemblies: use any of 13 style faceplates for your custom configuration (faceplate ordered separately)
- Intuitive rocker/button action
- Timer Function
- Automatically turns off load(s)
- 15 presets, locally or scene-link controlled
- Manual Scene-Link Modification with Rocker/Buttons
- Add or delete devices from scene with 7 or 8 taps
- Adjust linked devices?€™ light level and save with 7 taps
- Thermal overload protection
- Aesthetically pleasing Blue/Green Dual LED indicator
- Dedicated Remote Switch (Model USR) connections: provides inexpensive 3 or more-way control option
- Standard Faceplate Colors: White (W), Almond (A), Light Almond (LA), Ivory (I), Black (BK), Brown (BN)
4.2"H x 1.7"W x 1.6"D, and about 1 ounce heavier at 4.9 oz.
Before receiving this unit I was wondering if I would need to wire two separate inputs to the switch, but opening the box and unpacking the switch there was only one set of input wires making installation less complicated, then expected.
As for wiring you have:
- Black AC Line
- White AC Neutral
- Brown Load 1
- Red Load 2
- White/Brown Traveler 1
- White/Red Traveler 2
You have separate tabs in UPStart to configure the links for each channel.
Here you either need to know which channel was what (as the wired are labeled LOAD 1 and LOAD 2, but the software calls it Channel 1 and 2) so I took a stab at it assuming Load 1 was Channel 1, and I was correct.
They did combine the transmit channels into one tab, as found on single load switches.
One thing I did notice while there are 2 status LED?'s there is only 1 configuration setting for the status light but is not configurable per channel. You have the option of no status light, Blue or Green. The LED color like other Simply Automated switches can be configured to be either of the three options when the load is on or off. But that configuration once set is the same for both channels.
Dimming can be configured per channel so in my install I configured one channel as dimmable (light) and the other as not dimmable (ceiling fan).
This unit also has a timer function, which automatically turns off the switch after a preset time period elapses (15 preset selectable times can be set from 1 second all the way up to 4 hrs. Configurable in UPStart, the timer function can also be turned off to act as a standard ON/OFF switch. You can also adjust the local response time, allowing you to eliminate the delay between activating the switch, and the load turning on.
I also had a bit of confusion while in UPStart (and this is a problem with UPStart not the US22-40). If either channel is turned on, it is indicated in the UPStart software by making the switch appear yellow, if both channels are turned on the indication is the same, if ONE of these loads are turned OFF, UPStart indicated it by removing the yellow coloring which may not the case ONE load can still be on. This may be fixed in a later UPStart build, but currently there is not another version available on the SAI website, if not lets hope it is on the radar as I was confused why it was showing the switch was off but I knew it had one output still turned on.
Overall I was impressed with the product. I personally can see this switch be very useful for existing single gang installations where you would like to have local control of multiple loads. Otherwise in a new installation it is just as easy to install a double gang box and two US2-40 switches.
The only downsides I see to the product is the single Status Light configuration, some people may want to configure each load separately.
User Guide: 452_0022_0101RevB_US22_40_UserGuide_090114a.pdf ( 504.82K )
Data Sheet: Datasheet_US22_40_090114.pdf ( 419.47K )
- Feb 08 2013 09:52 AM
- by mustangcoupe