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Thread: Tesla PwrWall/Gateway shutdowns

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    Tesla PwrWall/Gateway shutdowns

    We have a recent (2018) Tesla Powerwall /Gateway setup with 21 panels and it works about 99% correctly. We are essentially "off grid." We have grid but it is not full-time connected to the gateway. So we are normally running on the battery, which is charging correctly during daylight hours, the panels go off and on according to the battery %, and if we don't get enough sunlight, we can switch on the grid for 2--3 hours, and that will power the house and charge the battery at the same time. ALL THAT WORKS CORRECTLY, and has been working consistently for over 3 months now. The app shows readings consistent with our observations. I'm not trying to blow my horn here, just want to state at I am an engineer (industrial) and am pretty well familiar with household electrical operation and I understand volts, amps, watts, kilowatthours, etc.

    The 1% incorrect is the battery either shuts itself down or is shut down by the gateway at various erratic times. We are not overloading the system according to the app, and the shutdown is NOT load-independent, can happen at any time of the night or day under light (0.6kw) or heavy (~5kw) load. Then the system generally resets itself within a few seconds or a few minutes and the power returns. How do I know this? Both my wife and I have seen the whole house go dark for a brief time, then all the lights go back on, and the log file in my computer's UPS confirms the AC failure and resumption time and date. We'll get up in the moring and all the digital clocks in the house will be blinking, meaning there was a overnight power failure, usually in the UPS log as well. Weeks can go by without this happening and then there will be a burst of these, 7-8 within half an hour. Tesla cannot fully explain this, and the installers are even less informed.

    So the question is: is anyone else having a similar issue? If so, how, if at all, did you resolve this?

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    Sounds like something Tesla needs to address.

    My one question is whether you have the grid connected when it does this. The reason I ask is to narrow down whether the issue could be due to the Powerwall being too slow to switch over when the grid goes out, or perhaps having sync difficulties with an unstable grid. If the grid is definitely not connected when it happens then it's probably just a Powerwall internal issue. Your post is a little vague about the grid connection; are you manually controlling whether the grid is connected, or just letting the Gateway do its job, or some combination of both?

    Since you say it's happening at night it is presumably not something being triggered by the solar inverter.

    Sorry I have no experience to share.

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    PowerWall Issues

    Thanks very much for replying to my post.

    No, the grid is not full-time connected to the gateway. There's a breaker I can throw to feed it to the gateway, which we do now and then, if, say, my wife has been running the electric clothes dryer late in the afternoon, like after 2pm and there is little or no sunlight so the battery doesn't recharge. In that case, we switch on the grid feed breaker to the gateway after sundown, it powers the house and recharges the battery, and after 2-3 hours the battery is well-charged, sometimes full, and we switch off the grid feed with the breaker.

    If we don't disconnect the grid, then the gateway will try to feed power back to the grid once the battery is charged. We don't have a net metering system, nor do we want one for several substantial reasons. But attempting to 'back feed' the meter results in an error message at the meter, probably readable from the power company's office, since they can read the meter remotely. I think they use some sort of X10 technology. That's the main reason why we don't leave the grid connected. According to Tesla there is no way to turn off the 'back feed' but tech support folks have told me controlling the grid like this is a perfectly valid way to use the system.

    We generally don't use much grid, sometimes for weeks at a time. We get enough sun to enter the evening hours with the battery at nearly 90%, it will lose some 35% from sundown through overnight and into the morning, running two refrigerators, and recharge fully by noon next day if there is a reasonable amount of sun. Even running the dryer once won't drain the battery enough to use the grid if the dryer is run earlier while sunlight is bright. Our 21 panels are rated at 5.2Kw and I've seen that much output many times in the Tesla app.

    The system just 'burped' as I have described twice while I was writing this. The dryer was running and the load, according to the app, was 5.0 - 5.2kw, dipping down to 4.x at times, which is within spec I believe. After each burp it restarted in about a minute, then we turned on the dryer and everything is running fine right now. This happens at least 10x more often when there is little load, according to the log file on my computer's UPS, which records AC Failure, so I'm inclined to believe it is not load-related. Either the battery shuts itself off, or the gateway shuts it off, not sure where this gets initiated, then it restarts itself within minutes, sometimes seconds. At any hour of the night and day, loads or no loads, solar or no solar. Whether there is some 'hand-off' from the panels to the battery I can't say but even when the panels are inoperative (night time) this happens so such a 'hand-off being the problem sounds pretty speculative. I can't say I've observed this while the grid is connected, but as I said, we don't use much grid, and not every day, so that question remains unanswered.

    What's really crazy about this situation is that the system functions perfectly about 99.99% of the time. The battery runs the whole house, the panels charge the battery when they should, and the grid usages shows up on the app and corresponds to what we know to be true about usage. This 'set/reset' business is the one and only issue we have.

    I had a long conversation with a supervisor at the Tesla PowerWall support team, and they now say I'm the only one reporting this. Before, they said others were having this issue, so that sounds a yellow alarm to me, but if true, it points towards a defective or improperly setup/coded battery and/or gateway here. That's a distinct possibility, as you point out, and that's my suspicion, as well. I don't think it's a wiring error or we would have very different problems. The installers are sending out their techs who will troubleshoot this setup with Tesla, so we'll see what they find, and I'll keep you in the loop on this.

    Your input is greatly appreciated and I'm sorry if I was less than clear with my first post. Hopefully this one will clarify things for you. Please add whatever your think is relevant.

    Jeff

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    Quote Originally Posted by caribconsult View Post
    ...Our 21 panels are rated at 5.2Kw and I've seen that much output many times in the Tesla app.

    The system just 'burped' as I have described twice while I was writing this. The dryer was running and the load, according to the app, was 5.0 - 5.2kw, dipping down to 4.x at times, which is within spec I believe. After each burp it restarted in about a minute, then we turned on the dryer and everything is running fine right now. This happens at least 10x more often when there is little load, according to the log file on my computer's UPS, which records AC Failure, so I'm inclined to believe it is not load-related. ...
    I'm assuming you only have one Powerwall unit. So here is one thing that could happen: If you are running off-grid with a load larger than the 5kW output of the Powerwall, and the battery is charging and then reaches full charge, then the Powerwall will knock the solar system offline (by small frequency shifting, I believe), and suddenly you will not have enough power for the load and the Powerwall would also have to shut down. This is a shortcoming of the Tesla product, and it has to be this way because the their design has no way to throttle the solar output when the battery can't absorb it. For this reason you really can't expect to run loads greater than the Powerwall nameplate output when off grid, regardless of how much solar you have. Now if you also have the grid at those times, then the grid can absorb whatever excess you have and nothing needs to shutdown. So that could have happened in your description of this one event.

    Now I hasten to add that this explanation doesn't suffice for low-load or nighttime issues. It's possible there's more than one thing going on though. I do wonder if there is some high load that you have that might switch on automatically that would overload the Powerwall.

    Either the battery shuts itself off, or the gateway shuts it off, not sure where this gets initiated,
    The gateway doesn't have much brains, so it's the battery inverter that's shutting down. (If you only had problems that correlated with connecting or disconnecting from the grid, that might point to the gateway. Your problems point elsewhere.)

    I had a long conversation with a supervisor at the Tesla PowerWall support team, and they now say I'm the only one reporting this. Before, they said others were having this issue, so that sounds a yellow alarm to me, but if true, it points towards a defective or improperly setup/coded battery ...
    I'm mostly inclined to agree based on the information you've shared.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jaggedben View Post
    ..Now I hasten to add that this explanation doesn't suffice for low-load or nighttime issues. ..The gateway doesn't have much brains, so it's the battery inverter that's shutting down.
    Can thermal issues cause battery auto shutdown?
    Thermal runaway with harmonic motor loads.
    Appliance exhaust, or hot-water line heating the wall / floor in contact with battery?
    Last edited by ramsy; 04-29-18 at 01:22 AM.
    Roger Ramjet NoFixNoPay

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    Quote Originally Posted by jaggedben View Post
    I'm assuming you only have one Powerwall unit. CORRECT.

    So here is one thing that could happen: If you are running off-grid with a load larger than the 5kW output of the Powerwall, and the battery is charging and then reaches full charge, then the Powerwall will knock the solar system offline (by small frequency shifting, I believe), and suddenly you will not have enough power for the load and the Powerwall would also have to shut down. This is a shortcoming of the Tesla product, and it has to be this way because the their design has no way to throttle the solar output when the battery can't absorb it. For this reason you really can't expect to run loads greater than the Powerwall nameplate output when off grid, regardless of how much solar you have. Now if you also have the grid at those times, then the grid can absorb whatever excess you have and nothing needs to shutdown. So that could have happened in your description of this one event. EXCEPT: the event that just happened yesterday doesn't fit this scenario. The load was 0.2 watts above nameplate...that's not really an overload, especially since the dryer heating elements cycle on and off, making the average load somewhere down in the 3+w range. Also the battery was charging at the time, so there was no shortage of extra solar but you say the system can't exceed nameplate so the extra solar means nothing. Got it. But after the two shutdowns, we restarted everything, the load was back up to 5kw, and all ran fine. The computer UPS did not report the two power failures, but it does show that AC line voltage from the battery dipped down to 113v during these two shutdowns. So maybe this wasn't truly a shutdown, just a sort of 'brown out' sufficient to shut off the dryer and a TV. Tesla had fuzzily mentioned something about a "frequency" not either not being sent or received correctly and this could be the inverter signaling the panel array to shut off, but we have seen that shutoff many times, usually around noon or noon:30, the panel output drops to zero when the battery reaches full charge and thereafter the system goes into a 'topping off mode' where the panels will switch on briefly if the battery goes below 95%, top it off to 98% and then switch off. This happens repeatedly from about 3pm till sundown and I don't recall shutdowns concentrating in this time frame. Shutdowns are seen at night, at 8am, at 2pm, 6pm and 8pm,approximately.
    This happens at random times during the day, when the battery should be charging. So while I understand overloads will shut down the system, I doubt that's the source of the problem. Also there are no other high loads that run automatically to jack up the load at odd moments. No hot water heater, no electric stove, no A/C, etc. I do have a table saw with a 3hp motor but it hasn't ever been used since the Tesla was install end of January, 2018. We do have waterpumps that will pull 5a at 220, but these have never been on (we can hear them) during one of these losses of power.

    Now I hasten to add that this explanation doesn't suffice for low-load or nighttime issues. It's possible there's more than one thing going on though. I do wonder if there is some high load that you have that might switch on automatically that would overload the Powerwall. No, there is nothing else on our house wiring. This is key...if it were



    The gateway doesn't have much brains, so it's the battery inverter that's shutting down. (If you only had problems that correlated with connecting or disconnecting from the grid, that might point to the gateway. Your problems point elsewhere.) OK, this sounds possible. I had assumed the gateway made the decisions but you say triggering off the solar could cause the inverter to issue the shutdown command. But that collides with the fact that this happens at night or day, when there is no solar output, the one and only source of power is the battery. Connecting to the grid had never cause this problem, nor have we seen it during the limited times we use the grid. For example, it was on for 3 hours yesterday after a few dryer runs and little late sun. We turned the grid on when the battery showed 50% at sundown, left if on for just under 3 hours. Loads were ~0.7kw. After 3 hours, the battery was at 88%, we shut the grid off and we stayed up till about 11pm watching tv, then shut every light and tv down, and went to bed without incident. It ran perfectly during the night. HOW DO WE KNOW THIS IS HAPPENING, AKSED TESLA ? 2 ways....we see it visibly as the lights and other appliances or tv's go dark, and the UPS log file generally show A/C power failure at the same time. I think that's enough, even though Tesla claims not to see all this from their end.; I told them they rely on some sort of vpn over AT&T wireless, and AT&T has been very erratic here since the storms 7 month ago. We had them for cell/internet and cancelled our service for this various reason. What I did say to the Telsa guy was "if you think I'm making this up just to give you problems, don't go there. DON'T GO THERE, repeated in my best NY voice. This is not our imagination.



    I'm mostly inclined to agree based on the information you've shared.
    Thanks again for you very thoughtful input. The installer crew is coming this week to do some testing under the direction of TESLA and my meter is finely calibrated. What these dimwits don't do is to listen carefully to the symptoms and try to find a scenario that fits all of them. I've heard many pie-in-the-sky theories from them (like unexpected loads) that don't hold water. I don't mean to blow my horn hear but I am a graduate engineer and have been dealing with, repairing and building electronic equipment since I could hold a soldering iron, including meters, 'scopes, so I'm conversant in watts, amps, volts, loads and the like. I know BS when I smell it. They will get to the bottom of this at some point, the question is are they going to heed some of what I tell them as the 24x7 observer of this system, or are they going to take the long road and test every piece, whether it controls the system or not. I need good troubleshooters, and I'm not sure these are the guys. The good side is I still owe the installers serious money and they're not getting it until this is fixed. Period. Non-negotiable. And since this is still going on after 3 months, I made use plan B, and put a time limit on this and just tell them if they can't fix it in 30 days, then they can remove their stuff, give us back our money (not in that order!) and we will go elsewhere. I have spent way too much time on this and I don't remember seeing anything in the sales contract where I volunteered to be their beta-tester or trouble shooter.

    More to follow after the tech guys have a look. If they can't find anything, then I may go to plan B. Thanks again for your time and analysis. You made some good points and I will quiz them on the battery inverter vs. the gateway issue.
    Last edited by Little Bill; 04-29-18 at 02:37 PM.

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    I was wondering and please don't fault me.
    Have you left the grid tie breaker closed to see if the problem goes away or is diminished?
    I know you don't want to send power back to the grid. If it stops the shutdown problem then it might lead to the solution you desire.

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    What is your set up

    KW solar panels
    Inverter size
    How many power wall- we assume only 1

    I assume this is a electric clothes dryer? what is the actual wattage?
    Many electric dryers are rated well over 5kw I just looked at some GE specs and they show 5.6k.
    Some dryers if you leave the clothes in them they will occasionally cycle to keep the clothes from wrinkling.
    Thanks
    Last edited by Sierrasparky; 04-29-18 at 01:05 PM.

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    Tesla consumer stuff is mostly crap and hype, and as most dont know, Tesla is mostly funded by US govt, aka, taxpayers!
    the days of lithium powered cars and trucks will soon be gone, just go look at what Toyota is doing. Tesla was on a high short wave, the thinkers are on that not so high wave that goes for a very long time. i find it so funny that Musk puts future in lithium when lithium itself is very very limited and hard to dispose of. Musk has pockets full of purple coolaid flasks, ready for you at a whims notice.

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    Quote Originally Posted by caribconsult View Post
    ... The good side is I still owe the installers serious money and they're not getting it until this is fixed. Period. Non-negotiable. And since this is still going on after 3 months, I made use plan B, and put a time limit on this and just tell them if they can't fix it in 30 days, then they can remove their stuff, give us back our money (not in that order!) and we will go elsewhere. I have spent way too much time on this and I don't remember seeing anything in the sales contract where I volunteered to be their beta-tester or trouble shooter. ...
    I don't think that's particularly fair to the installer. Their responsibility is to ensure they didn't make errors in the install (which might include improper clearances for thermal dissipation a la ramsy's question above, but I think that's pure speculation at this point). If the system's not behaving as it should then that's Tesla's problem. Also, residential micro-grids are pretty cutting edge, and as you have stated it works 99% of the time. You are not going to find an alternative that can do the job for anything close to the same price.

    I do think that running an electric dryer on a single Powerwall unit is not the greatest system design. It's very borderline on spec. Even if the dryer nameplate is under 5kW, system behavior could be pretty susceptible to a little voltage drop due to a poor termination somewhere on the circuit. It's important to understand that UL listed inverters typically have a hard stop on their maximum output current. A second Powerwall unit would fix that possibility, but of course I'm sure you don't want to be told you have to pay for that.

    I think it's quite possible that if Tesla were simply to replace the Powerwall unit (or some part of it), all would be well. But in light of what I said in my last paragraph, I can understand why they would be hesitant to do so without really eliminating the load as a cause of the problem. I also wouldn't be surprised if replacing the unit fixed the nightime and low-load problems but still left you susceptible to the occasional shutdown due to a high-load control issue like I described in my last post.

    Quote Originally Posted by FionaZuppa View Post
    Tesla consumer stuff is mostly crap and hype, ...
    Let's not even go there. I'm no big fan of the company, but I have to admit they have the best design for residential scale ESS and micro-grid. It has a couple shortcomings but those are outweighed by the shortcomings of the closest competitors. I'd debate the taxpayer's money question with you if it had anything to do with solving the OP's problem, but it doesn't.
    Last edited by jaggedben; 04-29-18 at 04:36 PM.

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