Weekend Project: Z-wave Fog / Snow Machine remote

Tis the season! After pulling out the fog machine for Halloween, and wife is now pulling out the Christmas (including snow machine), I decided it was time to integrate my snow/fog machines into my HE by adding a Z-wave relay to my remote.

Looked at several relay options including Zooz Zen16, Enerwave dual relay, and Qubino Flush. Deciding factor came down to size and fit. Rather than adding to the machine itself, I wanted to add it to the AC remote switch so I could use it on either machine. While I have a new snow machine with DMX remote, both my older fog machine and older snow machine use a standard AC remote. I have two manual switch remotes, an RF remote control, and a timer control that work with either machine. Details are in the sections below.

Overview

I chose the Qubino Flush:

https://www.amazon.com/QUBINO-Flush-ZMNHBD3-Z-Wave-relays/dp/B06XFC2V6M/ref=asc_df_B06XFC2V6M/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=242124331408&hvpos=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=17116992393709005859&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9011558&hvtargid=pla-486661299584&psc=1

as it fit within my older Lite F/X Pro DJ remote perfectly.

This remote has a momentary switch spring loaded to return to off. It also uses a simple AC light, and is hard wired rather than an LED indicator with printed circuit board such as the one below. This provided the room I needed to put the Qubino in the remote like I wanted.


Unfortunately Lite F/X (formerly a Party City brand) appears to be out of business, and while you can find their smaller, popular 1741 fogger on Ebay for around $50, that switched remote appears smaller. I owned the larger Pro DJ fogger until it clogged up and I replaced it, but kept both the switch and timer remotes. A search this weekend did not reveal either the remote or fogger available online.

A search online reveals how Lite F/X remotes were wired slightly differently from many other brand fogger remotes. This site: Modd3d » Make Timer & Wireless Remotes Work On Lite F/X Fog Machines
Details the main difference. For our use case, simple switch remotes work with either scheme. It is timer remotes that may cause an issue based on how power is supplied to the remote control.
NOTE: disregard the NEUTRAL / LINE / OPERATOR nomenclature in the diagram. Those refer to how each of the lines in the AC line level remote are used. Specifically, the LINE level "O - OPERATOR" is actually the NEUTRAL line in the plug.

In my diagrams below, the plug and socket nomenclature for the remote is based on normal traditional usage: WHITE - NEUTRAL; BLACK - LINE or LOAD; GREEN - GROUND. The female socket on the fogger/snow machine reverses L and N to the male plug on the remote to keep N to N; L to L. Cord color scheme (black/white/green) can help keep you straight regardless.

In both remote cases, the line level (either NEUTRAL or LOAD) comes in on the G - GROUND connection, and is switched to the NEUTRAL connection in the remote cable. The LINE connection brings in the other side (neutral or line) to power the remote.

Whether the neutral or line side is switched depends on your machine. In my fog machine, the operation is switched on the NEUTRAL side. My snow machine switches it on the LINE side. Good news is that it doesn't matter. You just need to wire the relay switch through the NEUTRAL/GROUND side (NEUTRAL to LINE on the relay, Q1 to GROUND); and the LINE side to NEUTRAL on the relay.

The Qubino relay can be powered by line level AC or by DC. For our purposes we are powering it with line level AC through the remote. While it appears we are swapping the NEUTRAL and the LINE, we are simply wiring the constant side the NEUTRAL on the relay module, and the switched side to the LINE side of the module. Again, the module doesn't care which way it is connected, which is why it will work regardless of the wiring used in your machine.

Fog Machine Schematic

The typical fog machine circuit is slightly more complex as it first heats up the fogger, then can only be activated once the fogger has reached operating temperature. This is accomplished through a normally closed thermal switch which closes the heater circuit and bypasses the remote circuit. Therefore the remote is not powered while the fogger is heating up. Therefore the Z-wave module will not be powered up and connected to your network (or set to pair with your network) until the fog machine has heated up. Additionally, each time the fogger goes into a heating mode, the module will disconnect. This could create issues depending on your z-wave mesh network, but it worked fine through a distant hop to my garage during testing. Specifically I paired the module near my hub on my snow machine, then moved it to my fog machine on my garage workbench for testing. Once the fogger reached operating temperature, it connected to my hub through a single repeater with no problem.

Note that the NEUTRAL is tied directly to the remote GROUND connection, and is switched to the NEUTRAL side of the remote and to the pump. The LINE side is both fuze and thermally protected and powers the heater and provides power to the LINE side of the pump. Additionally, when the thermal switch is open, the circuit goes through the heater first then to the remote (and the relay module) which did not pose a problem during testing.

Snow Machine Schematic

The snow machine is a much simpler circuit. Mine does not have a master ON/OFF switch like the fog machine, but the machine is OFF until the remote is switched ON. The snow machine is simply a pump which pumps the soap/snow solution to a fabric sock which a fan blows air through to launch dry soap / 'snow' flakes. Therefore the remote is always powered, and the pump and fan are either ON or OFF. The LINE in this case is connected to the remote GROUND, and switched to the remote NEUTRAL connection. NEUTRAL is tied through the remote cord to the LINE connection to power the NEUTRAL side of the relay module.

Z-Wave Remote

The lamp is lit when the remote has power (and the Qubino module by extension). This is primarily for the fog machine use, which tells you when the machine has reached operating temperature. The switch simply connects the GROUND to the NEUTRAL side - GROUND supplying the power (either LINE or NEUTRAL) and the remote NEUTRAL side going to the operating side of the fogger or snow machine. The module is powered through the LINE side (to NEUTRAL on the relay module), and the GROUND side (to LINE). The Q1 PIN goes to the NEUTRAL side to return the switched operation back to the machine. I1 (manual operation) is connected to the manual switch. This is used for manual operation as well as pairing for the Qubino Module (3 fast clicks (on/off) initiates manual inclusion or exclusion).

While the Qubino module has 2 separately relays, we are only using the Q1/I1 side. We use Q1 vice Q2 as the z-wave inclusion is triggered through I1 in line level powered mode. The manual inclusion/exclusion switch is only used during DC operation, the manual warns NOT to use it during AC powered operation.

Operation

I tested the remote with my snow machine. Before including in my z-wave network, the remote worked as I would have expected. It was off when first plugged in, and the snow machine was activated when I toggled the momentary switch (returning to off each time). Once included, however, the machine turned on and stayed on, then would turn off when activating the switch.

Pairing/including in my network was not difficult, and it included fine on the second try. However the settings took some trail and error to determine what worked best. I only used the settings available through the Qubino 2 Relay Module driver and haven't looked at or tried changing any other parameters. The relay module driver has settings for relay operation (normally open/normally closed) and switch type (toggle or momentary). I soon realized the module is designed to integrate into a three-way type switch network where the switch works to change the state of the relay (off to on or vice versa) rather than setting the state of the relay. There could very well be a parameter which changes this, however I haven't looked any deeper.

Changing the relay from normally closed (default) to normally open, reverses the ON/OFF relay state (OFF - machine was on / ON - machine was off).

I found that changing the switch to MOMENTARY and keeping the device type NORMALLY CLOSED (default) worked best. In this case the momentary switch toggles the device ON or OFF. It acts as a relay toggle, rather than running the machine only when pressed. Click the switch - device comes on; click switch again - device goes off. The ON/OFF controls on the device turns the machine on or off as you would expect.

When trying a TOGGLE mode, which I would have expected to work like the traditional remote, the TOGGLE switches the device from normally ON or normally OFF when you switch the relay. This may work better with a toggle type remote rather than a momentary switch, more work to do.

WAF: LOW based on time spent this weekend taking apart fog machines, snow machines, and remotes. TRENDING HIGH since she wants to provide my mother-in-law a southern GA white Christmas!

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Thanks for sharing your project. Your wife is so supportive. Mine always says 'you 're not going to burn the house down are you? ' when I do my HE DIY projects :slight_smile:

love HE and the support.

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I’m curious, what snow machine do you use?

I have two. The first one is a small Froggy’s Fog, this is the one that works with this remote and that I used for testing.

I just purchased the following 1500 W model, but this uses a DMX style remote.

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My solution to living in Ga was to move! :rofl:

:rofl: We did! To Florida...

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Now reading this thread I decided to show one of those snow machines to my wife.... That was a mistake, now she wants one for our xmas decorations on the porch... Damn it!

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And here I am shopping for a snow blower to get RID of snow...

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I'm lucky, I only have 50' of sidewalk to clear at the new house... Can usually be done by hand in a few mins.

:rofl:

Wife's vision: White Christmas, Bing Crosby singing 'Snow Snow Snow', gently falling flakes with 2-4" of the white fluffy stuff accumulating around decorations on the front porch in 70 deg GA weather.

Reality: somewhat gently falling 'soap bubbles' with loud fan noise in the background and no significant accumulation that blows away in the slightest breeze.

Solution: Larger 1500W snow machine with variable output (fan speed control) = even louder fan with 'soap bubble cannon' effect...

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Cat GIF

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