As part of our preparations for winter, my wife gently reminded me last week that she’s been asking me to fix the gas fireplaces in the house for months. But as a geek’s geek, I can’t just fix a fireplace, I have to upgrade a fireplace!
We have three gas fireplaces in our house — two of which weren’t working. The repairs were straightforward and inexpensive (especially since I did them myself): the living room fireplace needed a new thermopile millivolt generator (and I threw in a new thermocouple while I was in there anyway), and the entry fireplace just needed some wall switch rewiring. But who wants to have to hit a wall switch to turn on a fireplace?
Enter Skytech Systems — purveyors of fine wireless control kits for gas fireplaces. I set my sights on the grand-daddy of their current line-up: the SKY-5310. The 5310 is a back-lit LCD touchscreen remote transmitter that allows you to control your gas fireplace within 20 feet, although my testing worked at more than double that distance. Unlike a standard infrared TV remote, the Skytech 5310 transmits via RF (radio frequency), meaning you don’t need to point the remote at the fireplace, nor do you need direct line of sight for it to work. The remote runs on four AAA batteries (included) and has 1,048,576 security codes, meaning the chances are slim that an unintended RF transmitter will start your fireplace unexpectedly.
Installing the SKY-5310 was easy. I plugged a two-prong 110V AC receiver unit plugged in to the outlet box behind the access panel of my fireplace (most modern gas fireplaces have these outlets already installed), then connected the two red lead wires on the receiver (which were already terminated with piggyback spade connectors) to the TH terminals on my gas valve. It literally took me longer to unpack the box than it did to install everything.
After installing the included batteries in the remote, I was ready to light things up. A simple touch on the top section of the LCD screen and my fireplace delivered that satisfying “whoomph” of gas igniting safely. The touch screen interface was simple (you can try a demo of it here), with basic functions of ON, THERMOFF, and OFF. The ON and OFF are obvious. THERMOFF mode will automatically turn off your fireplace if the thermostat inside the remote reaches a user-selected temperature, and then turn the fireplace back on again when the temperature drops below that preset. Essentially, this allows your remote to act just like a furnace thermostat.
With the unit in the ON or THERMOFF mode, you can also enable a countdown timer from anywhere to 15 minutes to 9 hours, so that your fireplace automatically turns off when the timer reaches zero, regardless of the temperature settings.
On-screen icons tell you when the remote thinks the fireplace is lit (a good safety idea) and when you need to replace batteries. You can also enable a child safety lock-out feature, so junior doesn’t accidentally start your fire while you’re watching Dr. Phil.
MSRP for the Skytech 5310 is $254.99, but you can find them easily for around $190 at many online retailers. Since I was buying three of them, I was able to get them for slightly less.
Bottom line: these units are admittedly more expensive than some simpler fireplace remotes out there (and Skytech themselves actually make some of those less expensive units). But if you’re the kind of caveman that likes to “make fire” in the most technologically advanced way possible, the Skytech 5310 is for you. It sure beats rubbing sticks together.