Unravelling the ELV MAX! heating control system protocol

A German company called ELV has a new heating control system since a few months – it’s called MAX!.  With this system you have the ability to control your heating system via Smartphone, Internet and local PC (oh, and manually of course). The MAX! radiator thermostats seem to have all I need: flexible daily switching programs, auto/manual/holiday mode, temperature can be set between 5 and 30 °C in steps of 0.5 °. Other components of the MAX! system are wall switches for Eco mode, window sensors and wall thermostats. Prices are good too; very good actually, when you compare them to alternatives.

The interface for all these wireless devices is the MAX! Cube LAN Gateway; with this you can control, configure and adjust all your MAX! components. Cool..

Not so cool is the web portal that has to be used when you want to control the MAX! system from outside your own house (e.g. via Internet, with your smartphone or whatever). Some people, and I’m one of them, don’t like being forced to use a web portal controlled and secured by a 3rd party; I prefer making my own solution for these kind of  things, especially since every website seems to be hack-able these days and leaking all kinds of information… No, if someone is leaking information about me/us, it should be me doing that, not some company..

Last week someone posted some details about the MAX! Cube LAN Gateway on the Domoticaforum Europe. It seems possible to connect to port 80 of the Cube and even communicate with it. OK that’s a start, now all that’s left to do is finding out how the MAX! Cube works, which can be a tough job. The protocol that’s being used is another proprietary one and therefore nothing has been (and probably never will be) published about it. Time for some good old packet inspection – and for that, it’s better to have a MAX! Cube and a Radiator Thermostat at my disposal, so I bought those 2 items last weekend. After that I started searching for more detailed information about the protocol – but as expected, without result.

I reread the ELV MAX! topic on the Domoticaforum and looked at some lines of MAX! communication that were logged by a member called blb. At first sight I could not tell what it all meant, although I did see some lines that had Base64 characteristics: all characters were more or less human readable and they were ending on 1 or 2 ‘=’ characters. And yes, it’s Base64 encoded; I decoded one of the logged lines and it revealed a url pointing to a portal on the elv.de domain, another decoded line revealed the location and name that forum member blb probably assigned to one of his Radiator Thermostats. Finding out how the temperature had to be set wasn’t hard either. There still are some bytes unknown though 😉

Nevertheless, this is what I call a good start; so as soon as the ELV MAX! stuff I ordered has arrived, I’m gonna start dissecting the protocol, bit by bit – exciting!

Update: I posted some protocol information on the Domoticaforum. Enjoy!

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2 Responses to Unravelling the ELV MAX! heating control system protocol

  1. phant0m says:

    Hi,

    I have been following your blog for quite some time now, and certainly enjoy reading your posts.
    I would be happy to participate on that ELV MAX reverse engineering.
    I just ordered two thermostats with a cube and will try to integrate this in my homemade HVAC.

    Is there a particular place where we can exchange on this ? (domoticaforum ?).

    Thanks,

    • Hi,

      Of course you can participate, the more people the more hardware and knowledge to get to know all the details about the protocol. My suggestion would be to register on the Domoticaforum Europe and post your finding, questions there. Eventually, when all goes well, we’ll create a topic with all the protocol specs we’ve discovered. I received my Cube and 1 radiator thermostat today, so my evening will be spent well 😉

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