As we advance more and more to home automation, people are finding new ways to have virtual assistants help them with their daily tasks, or to just do fun things like turn the lights on, or set reminders on their refrigerators. Almost anything that can be plugged in through electricity or connected to a network via a battery can have some sort of automation, so why not our fireplace? Having the ability to tell Alexa to “Turn on the fireplace” sounds like a great idea, but is that even possible? Keep in mind we are talking about a gas fireplace with an electric igniter and not the old-fashioned wood stoves that require you to light an actual fire first to get it going. Having your fireplace automated can be very fun, but it can also save you money on your electric bill because you will not have to run your heating unit while you and your family are sitting in the living room watching television.
Automating your fireplace is very possible, and there are actually a couple of ways to do it depending on how your fireplace is set up in your home. One way of automating it will support voice commands, while the other type of automation will still keep you having to use a remote control, but both have their benefits. The two possible ways to do this are:
Depending on how you have your fireplace done, you might be able to get away with just having to replace a light switch and program it for the word “fireplace”. If you do not have a wall switch that can turn your fireplace on, you will have to get the kit to plugin to it, so that you can have a remote to it. The programmable remote on the fireplace kit does not usually include Alexa or Google support, so you will have to stick with the remote feature, but they do normally come with a programmable thermostat so you can keep your house at a steady temperature. Almost all smart light switches come with Alexa and Google support and are the best option if you have that available, but lack being able to control the temperature. Most newer homes built with gas fireplaces which will make your life a lot easier.
Is It Dangerous?
Any time you mess with gas and electricity, there is a possibility of danger, so if you are not a huge “Do it yourself” person, I highly suggest you call companies to have them give you a quote because you will be accessing the electrical parts of the fireplace. Always shut the gas valve off when working on anything gas related, and it is a good idea to turn off the electricity to the room that has the fireplace. This way if you have any issues at all with removing wires, it will spark and start a fire, and you will not get electrocuted. Safety is always the most important thing when doing any home repairs or work, so if you do not have the knowledge of how to remove wires or shut gas off, have a licensed professional come out and help you, it may cost you more in the long run, but you and your family will be much safer for it.
Can I Do It Myself?
While this task does seem pretty straightforward, it does take knowledge of wiring and shutting off gas and electricity, so this is not for the novice do it yourself person. If you have a light switch that controls your fireplace, then the task is pretty straightforward and easy as long as you shut the power off first, and follow the directions exactly to the letter. If you are doing the fireplace kit that comes with a remote, it will require you to take the panel(s) off of the fireplace and adding extra wiring in for the controller of the unit. This is a bit trickier and can be dangerous if you do not have the power and gas shut off to the unit and room you are working in. To shut the gas off, once you take the front panel off of the fireplace, there should be a valve around the area that will kill all gas to your fireplace unit. If you cannot find that valve, there is always a gas shut off valve on the outside of your house which will kill all gas from entering the home. Be careful if you have to do this because anything that runs on gas like water heaters, stoves, and forced heat units will most likely need to have the pilots re-lit. To shut off the electricity, there is a panel on the outside of your house that has all of your breakers in it. Hopefully the breakers are marked to say what room they go to, but if they are not, you will have to turn them off one by one. This would be good time to have someone help you to make the process go faster. ALWAYS be careful when doing this type of stuff, and make sure you understand what you are doing before starting anything like this.
Is It Worth The Money?
Depending on how much you run your heater during the fall and winter, and how much you stay in your living room where the fireplace is, will depend on how much money you actually save. If you or your family watch television after dinner and can have your fireplace heat up the room instead of turning on the whole house unit, you will end up saving quite a bit through the cold months. Gas is normally 3 to 4 times cheaper than electricity, so it is normally more cost effective to run your fireplace for a few hours than it is your heater. If you buy the control unit that comes with a remote, it will also have a programmable thermostat in it that so you can set it at a nice temperature and it will stay there. The Skytech 3301 can be found HERE, and is a great product for this task. In my opinion, it is well worth the money and has paid for itself in the time I have used it.
Smart Light Switches
If you decide to go with a smart light switch, I highly recommend the Gosund smart switch found HERE. It is very easy to wire in and has Alexa and Google controls on it which integrate very nicely into your smart home, and hub. This is what I use in my house, and absolutely love it because I can be sitting on the couch and tell Alexa to “Turn on the fireplace”, and within a few seconds I am enjoying the heat from my fireplace. The one downside to this is that the light switch does not have a programmable thermostat built in, so when you are feeling too warm, you have to tell Alexa to turn the fireplace back off. In my opinion, this is a small trade-off for me, and I have my fireplace set to low so it does not push out a ton of heat at once, so my living room does not overheat. If you like the idea of a controllable temperature like your home heating unit thermostat, I highly suggest getting the fireplace unit. The smart light switch can be installed in around 15 to 30 minutes depending on your skill level, and only needs to have the electricity shut off while doing the job. Almost all novice do it yourself people are up to this task, but I cannot stress enough to READ the directions very carefully and do not skip any installation steps.
Can I turn On My Fireplace With Alexa?
Yes, you absolutely can have Alexa or even Google turn on your fireplace if you get the right equipment. Having this option work requires you to have a light switch hooked up to your fireplace to turn it on. If you do have a light switch, then all you have to do is order the smart switch and install it. After you are done installing it, you only need to go into your smart home hub, or Alexa settings and add the smart switch in and call it “Fireplace”. Once you do that, you can tell Alexa, “Turn on my fireplace”, and she will have the light switch turn on for you. If you do not have a light switch hooked up to your gas fireplace, then you will not be able to use this function unfortunately and will have to go with a remote control unit.