Bellfire home automation project

This article provides you with an overview and links of all articles published around the fireplace project that was presented during the Home Assistant Conference 2020.


View Automate Everything! How to make your stupid device smart on Notist.

Introduction articles

The steps

Shopping list

  1. The ESPboard: ESP8266 board or ESP32 if you also want to use Bluetooth features on
  2. The 4 channel relay board. Make sure you select the 5V version The relay: 5v relay board
  3. If you don’t want to solder order:
    – Mini breadboards
    – Dupont cables male-female

Step 5: Wire the relays to the fireplace

This article is part of the Make your Bellfire fireplace smart project that I presented during the Home Assistant Conference 2020.

It’s time to execute the final step, you can find all steps in the overview how it all going to work article.

Now everything is set. We now can connect the relays to the fireplace and light up the fireplace using Home Assistant.

The wiring

Again very basic wiring is needed.  I need to make sure that I connect the wiring to map the pinout of the fireplace.

If we look at the pin-out on the fireplace, going bottom up.

  • Pin 0 is the common circuit and need to be connected to the COM of all three relay.
  • Pin 1 wires to the Normal Open (NO) port of relay 1
  • Pin 2 wires to the Normal Open (NO) port of relay 3
  • Pin 2 wires to the Normal Open (NO) port of relay 3

See wiring details below.


That’s it! Now sit back, open Home Assistant and press the ignite button. Your fireplace will now lite up.

Step 4: Configure ESPHome to control the relays from Home Assistant

This article is part of the Make your Bellfire fireplace smart project that I presented during the Home Assistant Conference 2020.

It’s time to execute the fourth step, you can find all steps in the overview how it all going to work article.

The wiring is now ready, let’s expose three switches to Home Assistant to control the relays.

Expose pins as switches

Open ESPHome and click EDIT on your node. The ESPHome configuration editor will now show. Add following configuration in the bottom of the configuration.

  - platform: gpio
    pin: GPIO13   #D7
    name: "IN1" 
    id: IN1
  - platform: gpio 
    pin: GPIO12  #D6
    name: "IN2"
    id: IN2
  - platform: gpio 
    pin: GPIO14  #D5
    name: "IN3" 
    id: IN3

Note: The PIN name is translated from the physical D number printed on the ESP to the addressable name used in configurations and programming.  E.g. pin D7 is referred to as GPIO13, all mappings can be found in the image in the ESP Intro section.

UPDATE (thanks Petr): “Fortunately ESPHome knows the mapping from the on-board pin numbers to the internal pin numbering, but you need to prefix the pin numbers with D as in the image below in order for this automatic mapping to occur. In general, it is best to just use the D0, D1, … pin numbering to avoid confusion”

We are adding three switches of the platform type GPIO, this means that the switch will 1:1 control the GPIO pins. For every switch we define the GPIO pin that is controlled, and we provide a name and ID.

Flash the firmware Over The Air (OTA)

That’s it, now flash the firmware of the ESP with the updated firmware based on our new configuration. We do not need to use the flasher tool anymore, we can use the Over-The-Air flash feature to flash the chip with the new firmware over the WiFi Connection. It is as easy as clicking the UPLOAD button.

ESPHome will compile the new firmware, send it over to the ESP that will than flash itself. After flashing the ESP will come back online with the new firmware. It does not get much easier!

Control the relay from Home Assistant

Wait till the ESP has been flashed successful and is connected to the WiFi.

Find your device in Home Assistant, noticed that the device now has 3 entities. Click on the device and you’ll see that it has three switches, called IN1, IN2 and IN3.

Press the switches and enjoy the sound of clicking relays. Every switch should control the matching relay.

Create timing to control the fireplace

To control the fireplace I need to match following sequences with the switches:

  • Ignition, close contacts 1 and 3 simultaneously for 2 seconds
  • Fire off, clos contact 1,2, and 3 simultaneously for 1 second

We need to control the relays in these sequences with the ESP board. We can do this by extending the ESP configuration. We’ll add an Ignition switch that will execute sequences above when turned on and off.

Open ESP home and click edit on the node to go to the configuration editor.

Add a new Switch (right under IN3) with following configuration.

- platform: template
    name: "Fireplace_ignition"
    id: Fireplace_ignition
      - then:
        - switch.turn_on: IN1
        - switch.turn_on: IN3
        - delay: 2s
        - switch.turn_off: IN1
        - switch.turn_off: IN3
        - switch.template.publish:
            id: Fireplace_ignition
            state: ON
      - then:
        - switch.turn_on: IN1
        - switch.turn_on: IN2
        - switch.turn_on: IN3
        - delay: 1s
        - switch.turn_off: IN1
        - switch.turn_off: IN2
        - switch.turn_off: IN3
        - switch.template.publish:
            id: Fireplace_ignition
            state: OFF

Press the Upload to compile, upload and flash the ESP with the new firmware. Test your new switch and verify that the relay react as expected.

Now it’s time to for the last step, time to wire the relays to the fireplace.

Step 2: Flash ESP chip with ESPHome node firmware

This article is part of the Make your Bellfire fireplace smart project that I presented during the Home Assistant Conference 2020.

It’s time to execute the second step, you can find all steps in the overview how it all going to work article.

Now we need to load the configuration of your node to the ESP board. I recommend flashing the firmware from your local laptop and a USB cable, using the Flasher tool from ESPHome. Let’s get started.

Compile firmware

We need to start by compiling the firmware that we’ll use to flash the ESP chip.
In ESPHome select the menu of your node (three dots (…) in the top right of your node) and select Compile.

ESP home will now compile your firmware. After the compilation is finalized you can download the firmware.  Download and store the file somewhere you can find it later on.

Flash ESP with compiled firmware

Now we’re going to flash the ESP firmware with your compiled firmware.

  • Go to the esphome-flasher GitHub page and download the flasher for the OS you’re using:
  • Connect your ESP board with USB to your laptop.
  • Open the flasher tool
    • Serial port: select COM port where the board is connected (there is probably only one option 😊).
    • Firmware: Browse to the location where you downloaded your compiled firmware and select your firmware.
    • Click Flash ESP and wait
  • The ESP will be flashed now, you can follow the progress in the console window. When finished writing the firmware the ESP will restart and connect to your WiFi.
The ESP will be ready after it states that it’s ready for Over-The-Air Updates and that he API server is ready.

All good so far, now configure the device in Home Assistant.

Configure device in Home Assistant

Home Assistant will automatically recognize the ESP on the network and notify you about the new device found.  Click on the notification or click Configuration, Integrations. Find the new discovered device and click configure.

Provide the OTA password that you set during step 3 when you created the node in ESPHome.

Home Assistant will now add your ESP as a new device, there is not much you can do with the device as there are no entities to control.

In the next article, we’ll wire the relay to the ESP board.

Introducing ESPHome

This article is part of the Make your Bellfire fireplace smart project that I presented during the Home Assistant Conference 2020.

In the previous article, we introduced ESP boards and Relays that will help to switch the Bellfire fireplace pins of the controller. Now we need to control software that connect the ESP to Home Assistant and that can control the relays using the ESP GPIO pins. We are going to do this with an ESPHome.

ESPHome — ESPHome

ESPHome is a system to control your ESP8266/ESP32 by simple yet powerful configuration files and control them remotely through Home Automation systems like Home Assistant.

ESPHome is amazing, it’s extremely powerful and, more important very stable. It has never failed me. The integration with Home Assistant is seamless, including autodiscovery within Home Assistant and one-click configuration.

If you want, you can build advanced sensors with it. The good thing is that sensors are supported natively by ESPHome and can be used by easy configuration. The possibilities with ESPHome and Home Assistant are endless; the blocking factor is your own imagination.

Key features

  • Easy to work with, no programming needed
  • Seamless integration with Home Assistant
  • Over-The-Air flashing of the firmware
  • Supports a long list of devices.

We’ll use ESPHome to connect the ESP to Home Assistant and to control the relays using the GIO pins.

So we have Home Assistant, a relay, a ESP board, ESP home and a fireplace…. How is this all going to work together? I’m going to tell you that in the next article.

Investigating options for making the Bellfire fireplace smart

This article is part of the Make your Bellfire fireplace smart project that I presented during the Home Assistant Conference 2020.

In previous article I addressed four ways of making your dumb devices smart. Let’s jump into the journey of how I made my fireplace smart and the steps that I took through this journey.

The fireplace

Three years back I built a new house. We wanted to have a gas/propane fireplace installed in the house. While ordering I did the normal investigations and comparing different fireplace, we decided to order the Bellfire fireplace. I confirmed that it had a 433MHZ remote, making it easy to automate using a RFXcom. When the house was finished and after using the fireplace a few times, it was time for me to automate the fireplace.

1. Sniffing the 433MHZ signal

I got my good old RFXcom and started to sniff for the remote signals
Nothing happened. No signals where found.

I started investigated the remote and noticed that I had a different version of the remote. After some Googling I noticed that I had the latest version of the fireplace, which is good news, however remote communication was now build based on a Zigbee with a brand-specific layer on top. This makes it hard for me to automate. Forcing me to investigate otherways to make this now dumb fireplace smart.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy that my FIREplace uses an encrypted and more secure communication method than 433Mhz, it just made my automation life a lot harder.

Time for the next option.

2. Googling the “Bellfire homeautomation”

I start searching for “Bellfire homeautomation” which didn’t have any results that provided a solution to making the Bell fire smart.

One of the results was a Wi-Fi module that you could buy from Bellfire. This would make the device smart, but there where no open APIs or ways to integrate the fireplace with Home Assistant

Time do go one level deeper.

3. Time to open the maintenance latch of the fireplace

In the maintenance latch I located a controller. The controller was a Maxitrol from Mertik. I found the manual and it stated four pins for external operations.

Now I needed to find out what communication and interaction that connection accepted. After more research on the internet I stumbled on documentation of how to ignite and turn off the fireplace using the pins.

This manual shows that if I want to ignite the fireplace I need to close the contact 1 and 3 for two seconds.
And to turn off the fireplace I need to close Contacts 1, 2 and 3 for only one seconds.

This gives me something to work with! Next challenge how am I going to create these interactions with switches that I can control from Home Assistant. I need to get some relays!

Let’s introduce a relay is in the next article.

Ways to make dumb devices smart

When I buy a new device for my home I it to be smart. I might be pushing it a bit to far, including scales, washing machines, barbeque, toothbrushes…  But sometimes devices are just not smart out of the box.  I use the following four steps, going from easy to hard, to make devices smart and use it in home automation.

Search for integrations, home assistance has very large ecosystem, there’s tons of integrations available out of the box, there’s HACS and then there’s countless blog posts published. You can also find like minds that have similar issues and already solved issue on the Home Assistant forum and Discord server.

2 investigate the remote

If your device has a remote and you have no luck with the device name. You need to start investigating your remote and again this could be an easy solution. If it’s an infrared remote you can use an IR blaster, is it a 433MHZ signal you can use a RFXcom. Open the remote and start Googling the chipsets in the remote, perhaps it’s based on Zigbee protocol that someone already build a solution for.

3 is it a network device

Is the device is in any way smart connect with Internet using Wi-Fi or UTP cable? You can use tools, like WireShark, to sniff the network traffic on your network. This is where it gets more technical and complex. Using these tools you need to reverse engineer requests and build an integration. Don’t forget to opensource your integration so others can help you and benefit of your hard work.

build your own soltution

The final option is to build your own solution. With building your own solution I mean replacing a hardware switch with a electrical switch, a relay. Creating a smart switch that will take over the control of your device. Although this sounds really hard, it’s not. You can get great results without being heavy technical. No advance wiring, soldering or programming is required. However, it does help it you know about this.

At the end, I made my fireplace smart by building my own solutions. Read the next article on how I investigate the different ways of making my fireplace smart and why I decided to go for this solution.