Because in most municipalities in the US, it’s illegal to have a device to automatically start a fire unless you are in line of sight of that fire. The minute you hook this up to a home automation system you can start the fire from anywhere, because Internet…
(edit because accidently posted early)
The reason it’s not allowed, is most municipalities follow NFPA fire code. Fireplaces are dealt with somewhere in 2144.3, and they don’t allow for starting a device unless you can see it. That said I don’t have code books available because I got out of that business a long time ago… So it may have been updated.
While you won’t likely be arrested for doing so, if something happens to cause a fire, this would almost automatically make the installation at fault and a difficult conversation with the insurance company. Also you wouldn’t likely pass subsequent building inspection making it impossible to sell.
Also, as to the fact someone makes a remote that can… Just because it violates fire code doesn’t mean people don’t build them…
See FirstAlert Z-Wave Smoke (Zsmoke/z Combo) detection devices. NFPA says smokes should be hard wired with battery backup and capable of cross alerting within the same structure. But these devices cannot… That said would you rather be in a structure with these or a structure with no smoke detection?
It’s like riding a motorcycle, how much risk are you willing to take on?
Personally, I’ll ride a motorcycle… But I’m not willing to risk my home, and financial liability of replacement or risk of human life if an automatic fireplace starts accidentally.
As far as the legal prohibitions, check with your local township. There’s no national law, it’s all based on local safety codes. There are some places where it’s not a problem, but there are many where it is. So this is one of those things where the Internet can raise a question, but you need to check local authorities to get an answer.
Assuming that it is legal in your area, then the safety questions.
If you give us the brand and model number of your fireplace we can check the manual, but I would bet a virtual pizza it’s got an instruction that it should not be operated unattended. If I remember correctly, that warning is required for UL listing, for example. I know it is for space heaters, even the ones with programmable timers.
On to smartthings issues. You’ll see several reports in the forum Every month from people reporting their lights went on unexpectedly or the garage door opened unexpectedly. Or the siren goes off by itself. We usually call them “poltergeist” events in this community. They happen sometimes, and sometimes they happen because of events in the cloud that we just have no control over.
So speaking just for myself, I don’t put anything on smartthings that I would feel uncomfortable running unexpectedly for 24 hours unattended. But that’s just me. Everyone has to evaluate this situation for themselves. Just know that it might happen. For example, many of the people who have automated their fireplaces use relays which have internal timer shutoffs that aren’t in any way affected by smartthings working or not. That way even if one of the poltergeists strikes and SmartThings Turns on the fireplace when it shouldn’t, the relay will turn itself off again after a fixed period of time. So that sounds similar to what you’re proposing.
Again, speaking just for myself, I don’t typically try to convince anyone one way or another on projects like these. I do encourage them to be aware of the issues and to contact their own local township Before proceeding.
I wouldn’t skip that step. Fire safety is one of those issues where your mistake could kill me, because I’m in a wheelchair and if we’re neighbors, a fire at your house could reach me before help arrives. This basic issue of shared vulnerability is why fire safety codes are taken so seriously in most jurisdictions.
But I won’t say it’s never legal or safe to automate a fireplace. It depends on where you live and how you do it. So it’s just a project which requires a little more research than swapping out a light switch.
To add to what @JDRoberts has stated, I have the ability to automatically have SmartThings close my garage door when I drive off from the house. Once my mobile presence is gone, I can arm the house, lock doors and close the garage door.
Now although it might be legal for me to perform this automatically, I chose not to automate the closing of the garage door for safety concerns of let’s say a child or an animal screwing around and somehow getting crushed and killed in the process of me having convenience (yes I have safety sensors but it doesn’t matter if I can’t see). So then I get to worry about my insurance company, the police Dept. and criminal charges, and the civil suit to follow. Not worth it for me to have the convenience of being lazy and irresponsible. Or should I say common sense and the logic that automation can and will go wrong at some point.
Now if I do forget to close the garage, I have a camera in the garage that I can view and with that, I can manually close it remotely while watching to make sure the entrance isn’t breached by someone. (Worst case scenario). The garage does open automatically on my return, and this might be less likely to cause as much damage to someone, there is still risk that maybe someone is messing around the garage door and get their fingers wedged in the crack (someone trying to break in) and the door begins to open and they get lifted up and crushed anyway. You might laugh and say he got what he deserved, and while that may be true, it is still my responsibility and I don’t want killing someone on my conscience.
As I have stated many times in the community, JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN, DOESN’T MEAN YOU SHOULD!
Regarding the company that you linked to, that’s two brothers who began a start up and didn’t bother to research why they would be the “one and only” Wi-Fi remote sold nationally.
Their product is not UL listed and so will never be sold in store by Home Depot or Sears. Instead it is “tested to the same standard” as a specific clause, but that’s just not the same thing as meeting UL safety standards. UL is used because it doesn’t just check the electrical soundness of a device: it looks at the probable methods of use, which is where an out of sight remote for fireplace falls down.
Finally, did you notice that they don’t have an app? At all? And aren’t planning on one. That’s a hint that some liability lawyer let them know that remote operation of a fireplace is a potential problem. So they tell you to go to the website and sign in from there and then operate the device. Which is weird, clunky, and clearly designed to try to limit their own liability.
This is a product with a huge market demand and no national companies offering the product. That’s almost always an indicator that there is either a patent issue, a physical impossibility at the desired price point, or a safety code issue. And these days there will always be startups trying to rush into that space, typically by ignoring either the patent or the safety codes.
So the fact that two guys in Maine are willing to sell you something doesn’t convince me that it’s a product that won’t void my homeowners insurance. Just Sayin’…
Thanks. I’ve emailed the code people and I’ve dealt with them in the past. What I’ve learned, though, is that what most people think is in the code (including them) isn’t necessarily there. I’ve looked in the VA Statewide Building Code (which codifies the 2012 editions of the International Building Code and the International Residential Code) and the current fire code. I haven’t spent that much time with it so could have missed it, but so far I see no limitation any way.
Assuming that it’s legal to do so, can you think of any other safety features I’d want to build in via hardware (beyond a thermal fuse rated below the operating temp of the z-wave switch and timer relay), and a timer relay to kill after a certain runtime. What automation do you think would help? In other words, what is the safest system we can design that would do this if it was legal to do?
Same way the space heaters with timers and thermostats do. They have a warning in the user manual that it should only be used when someone is present, the thermostat is just for convenience so you don’t have to get up out of your chair and go change it, just like the handheld remote that operates in line of sight.
Don’t get me wrong, the WiFi remote is stupid. Obviously I’m designing in additional safety features if I do it. Nor do I want to light it when I’m not home. I explicitly want to prevent that as much as possible.
OK, Skytech has a whole bunch of safety features for their thermostat models.
First, If you take the controller more than 20 feet away from the receiver, which breaches the “out of sight” mode in most jurisdictions, the receiver will automatically shut down the fireplace unit after two hours.
Which leads me to suspect that some of the local code treat a permanently mounted wall controller differently than they would treat a phone app. But I’m just guessing on that one.
Second, if the receiver itself exceeds 130°F, it will initiate a shut down. So that’s another safety feature you might consider adding to your project – – some kind of temperature monitor for a place in the room that you don’t expect to go above a specific temperature. It won’t stop a fire from beginning, but it will keep from adding fuel to the fire, so to speak.
Also, I see the skytech models are not sold in store at Home Depot or Sears, so my guess is they are not UL listed.
That’s a nice unit! It’s not what most people are talking about when they say they want to “automate my fireplace,” – – yours is a full gas wall furnace that is designed to look like a fireplace. That’s why it’s OK to use with a thermostat.
is a true heating appliance incorporating the traditional aesthetics of fireplace fire viewing with the controllability and fuel efficiency of a home gas furnace…
fireplace is also a certified ANSI/AGA high efficiency wall furnace
The company for your unit want it professionally installed by people licensed to work with gas appliances, and they have a set of additional safety requirements which most of the gas inserts and plug-ins don’t have. For example, it has to be permanently vented in a specific way.
The gas appliance and vent system must be vented directly to the outside of the building, and never attached to a chim- ney serving separate solid fuel or gas burner appliance. Each direct vent gas appliance must have its own separate vent system. Common vent systems are prohibited.
And it has a very specific hearth protection requirement:
HEARTH PROTECTION REQUIREMENTS: A non-combustible hearth protector is required and must extend a minimum of 14" in front of the fireplace (see Figure 1 on pg. 4 for raised hearths). We suggest installing the Mendota Fireplace 6 to 12 inches above the floor by utilizing an elevated hearth.
And they have an annual service requirement:
The following procedures must be performed each year by a Mendota approved service person. NOTE: Any adjust-pments to burner, pilot or logs must be done by a qualified Mendota service person.
So your model typically costs around $6000 plus annual maintenance fees. It’s a furnace, which is why it can operate unattended with the thermostat. A lot of people with a similar topic title are writing about the $800 unvented gas inserts they bought at Walmart. Really a different kind of appliance.
So I’ll pay up on the virtual pizza, but that’s another reminder to me to wait and get the model number before making that kind a bet. LOL!
I have my fireplace automated but this has me a bit concerned too. What if i place a temperature sensor, maybe next to or under the fireplace and set a webcore alert to alert me if the temperature is above ‘x’ (that is the fireplace is on) for so many hours (let’s say 8hrs) ? Then if the fireplace was left on for so long that would send an alert?
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