How Tesla's Powerwall carried me through Hurricane Ian

By Nakatomi2010
Tesla's Powerwall carried me through the post Hurricane Ian power outage
Tesla's Powerwall carried me through the post Hurricane Ian power outage

Back in 2017, I was in a home with solar panels, but no battery backup. Hurricane Irma passed overhead, and I found myself without power for 24-48 hours. We lost all of our food as a result.

When the storm passed, I called up the company that installed my solar panels and found that adding in a battery would be cost-prohibitive, as it would require replacing the solar inverter. As my wife and I started shopping for a new home for our family, I kept this information in mind as I had planned on having solar+battery put in at the new house. I worked on finding a home that would be oriented properly to get the best solar collection capacity, and we bought it in 2018.

Once the home was bought I went through the process of getting quotes for solar + battery arrays and ultimately settled on Tesla.

Tesla was largely chosen because, at the time, the Powerwall battery had the shortest cutover time in the event of an outage. It kicks in right away, while the others took 2-3 seconds to switch over.

By the end of 2018, the array and Powerwall were installed and operational. The array has a max output of 9.425 kW using a SolarEdge SE7600H-US inverter, which has a max output of 7.64 kW, and a single Gen 2 Powerwall 2. During the design, I chose not to have the HVAC and car chargers run off the Powerwall.

As Hurricane Ian approached, Tesla's Storm Watch kicked in on the Powerwall.

The Powerwall started charging to 100% about two days before the hurricane made landfall. I debated on letting the Powerwall’s power get used leading up to landfall, but having been through hurricanes before, I opted to let Storm Watch do its thing. As the hurricane approaches it’s not uncommon for the winds to cause power stability issues. Leading up to the hurricane the power blinked numerous times.

By the afternoon of September, 28th people in the Tampa area were already starting to lose power.

At around 4:15-4:30 pm, as the winds outside were getting stronger, my wife and I decided to start making dinner for the kids. For reasons unknown, we decided to cook some things that involved the stove. At 4:42 pm the power blinked, and the Powerwall took over for about 5 minutes, putting us back on the grid at 4:47 pm. Once back on the grid the Powerwall charged back up to 100%.

At 5:03 pm on September 28th, the power went out again. After making dinner, we turned off the appliances and watched Andor on Disney+.When it was over I looked at the Powerwall’s status and found that we were now down to 91%.

Tesla's Powerwall showing the amount of energy left

There was a notice that said we had about 8.1 hours of power remaining, I started to cycle through the things in the house that consumed power and began shutting them off, either at the breaker box, or by unplugging them, intending to ensure there was enough power to keep our fridge, and a chest freezer in the garage online.

I was able to get us down to about .3-.4 kW of use before going to bed and hoped that was enough. Things that were turned off were the water heater, the dishwashers, computer gear, TVs, etc. Anything that might have vampire drain in the long run, including the internet gear.

At around 7 pm yesterday, two hours after the power had gone out, Tesla sent me an email with the VIN for my new Model Y.

I couldn't help but chuckle at their timing.

I woke up the next morning, September 29th, at around 6:30 am. I had to connect to the Powerwall directly to check the stats since I had powered down the internet gear and Gen 2 Powerwalls don’t have cellular connectivity any longer due to AT&T's 3G network being shut down earlier this year. I found that the Powerwall was down to 46%.

Tesla's Powerwall showing the amount of energy left
Amount of energy left

By this time the storm had moved beyond my area, and I went outside to start inspecting for potential property damage and such. Thankfully, we were spared property damage. The most we had was a panel that covers the service box for our internet cables get blown off the side of the house. I found it about 4 feet away and put it back on.

Others in the community I live in were less fortunate. Several smaller trees had been tipped over, some homes had shingles blown off their roof, and in at least one case a tree had fallen on top of a vehicle.

At 8 am I checked to see how many people in my neck of the woods were without power and found that the total increased from 21,2000 to 292,247 as the hurricane moved away.

The day after a hurricane is a tricky one, particularly if the hurricane is a big one because there’s still a lot of cloud cover. By around 8:38 am the Powerwall was at 36% charged and the sun was barely peaking out around the clouds, resulting in a lower power generation rate.

About 30 minutes later, at 9:10 am, enough sun was shining through the clouds for the Powerwall to start charging.

35% would be as low as the Powerwall went during this event.

As the day went on, we used power sparingly, mostly trying to ensure our mobile devices were charged. We used a microwave and a toaster oven to make breakfast, and at around 11 am I got a chuckle at my impact card showing 0% grid usage.

Tesla Solar's Impact card
Tesla Solar's Impact card

By lunchtime, the Powerwall showed Storm Watch was over, and the Powerwall was charged to 68%.

So we again used the microwave and toaster oven to make lunch and feed the family.

At around 1 pm the Powerwall started to hit around 80-85% charged, and we started running into an issue with generating power. Every time the Powerwall generated more than 5kW of power, we got an error that read “DC VOLTAGE NOT SAFE! DO NOT DISCONNECT! VDC 445.4”

Followed by another “Error code 18x40 AC Freq too high”

Powerwall charging error
Powerwall charging error

And then it would go to “Waking up…” and start a five-minute timer. Once the five-minute timer was done, the cycle would repeat, the array would generate 5 kW, give an error, and reboot.

I tried to open a support ticket with Tesla, first using the Tesla app. I started a chat session with someone who immediately disconnected the chat session saying “Weather-related issue”, as I was not on the grid.

Irritated, I re-opened the chat session and got a different person who worked with me.

Initially, the individual claimed that the issue was related to the overcast sky, however, that wasn’t the case as the inverter *does* shut down when there’s a lack of sunshine. In this case, it was shutting off every time it hit 5 kW generation. While still on chat support I used a different mobile device to call Tesla's solar number. I received different answers from the chat advisor and the representative on the phone.

Chat support said that there did appear to be an issue and advised me to schedule a service ticket, and ended the chat.

The person on the phone took the time to explain to me what was happening, and ultimately resolved the issue. The Powerwalls are limited to 5 kW of intake. As I only had one Powerwall, once the array generated more than 5 kW of Power, the Powerwall was changing the frequency to tell the array “Whoa, stop, you’re giving me too much power”, which would reboot the array for five minutes, and repeat the cycle.

The solution to this issue is rather amusing.

You have to use more power to use the excess energy that the array is generating.

Armed with this new information I turned back on the dishwasher and the water heater, and started doing dishes, taking a shower, and watching TV. We eventually found a happy medium where we were using enough power to have the Powerwall stop shutting off the array and continue charging.

From 2 pm to 4 pm we greedily used power, but at 4 pm the intake wasn’t as good anymore as the sun was starting its trek to go below the horizon.

Tesla's app shows the amount of energy remaining

After the dishwasher finished, I turned the water heater and dishwasher back off and started going back to “low power” mode as we began making an early dinner, again, using the toaster ovens, and an air fryer.

We took some time to eat our food while watching TV, catching up on Paramount+’s Lower Decks, and Disney+’s She-Hulk, and we started turning things off again.

By 6:22 pm the Powerwall reached 98%. The sun finally went low enough on the horizon for power to stop being generated.

By the end of the day when we getting ready for bed, we still had no power.

By 2:15 am, on September 30th, I awoke to go pee, then sat on the edge of the bed and decided to check the Powerwall’s state of charge. I found it to be at 45% and heard a rumbling outside the bedroom door that turned into a roar.

After initially thinking it was an Amazon plane flying overhead, I got up and checked the thermostat to find that the HVAC had turned back on again. After checking the Tesla app again I found that power had been restored.

Tesla Solar's Impact card
Tesla Solar's Impact card

Looking at the Impact card to try and see how long the outage was, I realized that Tesla’s app doesn’t seem to know how to handle an outage that’s longer than a day.

The power went out at 5:03 pm on Wednesday, September 28th, and ultimately returned at 2:17 am on Friday, September 30th. A total of about 32 hours being off-grid.

What would I do differently? Tough to say honestly.

Having to go to the garage to flip breakers to reduce or increase the power load was annoying, putting in a Smart breaker panel would’ve been beneficial, but only so long as we had internet access.

A second Powerwall would’ve been very beneficial as it would have allowed me to not have to increase the power load to ensure the Powerwall kept charging properly, as the power would’ve likely been split between them. If and when Tesla sells Powerwalls without requiring solar with it, this is an option I’ll be investigating for sure, as long as it isn’t cost-prohibitive. I’m uncertain if you can mix and match a Gen 3 Powerwall with a Gen 2 under a SolarEdge inverter.

Not having the HVAC, while unpleasant, wasn't a huge deal. After a hurricane clears out of an area, you’re generally left with a lot of cold air, so we just opened the windows for a bit. Having EV chargers was also a non-issue because we didn’t drive anywhere, and the cars only lost about 2-3% charge, mostly from me opening the Tesla app and accidentally waking up the cars while trying to scroll to the Solar card.

Why Tesla Doesn't Need a Public Relations Department

By Kevin Armstrong
Does Tesla need a PR department?
Does Tesla need a PR department?
Tesla

Tesla is a regular in the news cycle; if it's not about the vehicle, it's about the CEO. It's no secret Tesla stock is down, and investors who are long on the stock have lost a considerable amount over the past month. One of those investors is Gary Black, the Future Fund managing partner, who said in August that Tesla is the fund's largest position. Black is calling on Tesla to hire a public relations department to inform the media and the public of the positives around the brand.

Oddly enough, at the shareholders' event in August, Black said, "the thing we worry about most is not PR; it's succession." Now it seems that is what Black is worried about. He recently tweeted: People can't complain about the media if TSLA refuses to correct articles that are wrong, or worse, won't maintain relationships with TSLA beat reporters and editors so they can get TSLA's POV out when needed. Strong PR will be needed to sell FSD safety. Think long-term.

Black's stance may be understandable to some, especially those who have watched their trading account shrink, but it's implausible because Tesla doesn't need a PR department.

Musk and the Mainstream Media Don't Mix

Musk is currently using his new company to hold mainstream media accountable. In case you missed it, he's releasing the Twitter Files, a detailed report backed up with real emails to show suppression of true stories.

The Tesla CEO also regularly calls out media outlets for false stories, misleading headlines and biased reporting. Musk will not hire a team to try to steer newsrooms, something he has so little respect for, and it's unlikely legacy media outlets will listen.

Media Biased Against Tesla

Bad news generates more views and clicks and keeps the advertisers paying. Even when the news isn't bad, take, for example, a recent Reliability Report by Consumer Reports. Most, if not all, mainstream media declared Tesla as the terrible one, even though Tesla moved up four spots from the previous year. It was hard to find a mention of the manufacturers that scored less. Those included Chevrolet, GMC, Volkswagen, Jeep, and Mercedes Benz. Yes, the expensive luxury brand was dead last in reliability. That is a story.

Reporters also picked up that electric vehicles scored low for reliability. Consumer Reports said it was because EVs are new on the market. However, scoring even lower were full-sized pickups. Those have been on the market for quite a bit longer.

Tesla, which also has not spent a dime on advertising, disbanded its public relations department in 2020. That's unheard of by a company its size, especially in the automotive sector. However, Tesla and Elon have something much better — you are reading it right now. Not a Tesla App is one of several blog sites that publish news about Tesla daily. Many of these websites have writers who own Teslas. The stories are much more accurate, positive and just plain better than anything readers will find in the mainstream. Who says bias must be negative?

Word of Mouth Advertising

Now add hundreds, maybe even thousands of loyal enthusiasts who defend and promote Tesla on social media platforms. Next, throw into the mix the hundreds of thousands of Tesla owners who quite often are spokespeople for the company whenever they get out of the car. I've been sure to add 10 minutes of travel time to my drives because I'm likely to get asked some questions at the grocery store or car wash.

This kind of advertising money cannot buy, and it's the kind of positive publicity media will not share. So while Black's concerns are legitimate, a PR department is not the solution. Instead, Tesla needs to keep doing what it's been doing and let the product, its fans and the Tesla-inspired websites do the rest.

More About Tesla’s WiFi Garage Door Support, Its Cost and Features

By Nuno Cristovao
How MyQ will be integrated in Tesla vehicles
How MyQ will be integrated in Tesla vehicles
MyQ

Tesla is getting ready to introduce WiFi garage door support to their vehicles through MyQ.

Since our article yesterday additional details have emerged about how MyQ will operate, which vehicles will be supported and whether there will be a cost to use the service. This information is based on a page that appeared briefly on MyQ's website but has since been removed.

Vehicles Supported

MyQ's website stated that support for their garage door openers would be coming to the Model 3 and Model Y. While this makes a lot of sense because those vehicles don't include a HomeLink module, we'd be surprised if Tesla didn't also add support for the Model S and Model X.

Cost

Let's get cost out of the way. Although MyQ does not charge a fee today to remotely open and close their garage doors, they do plan on charging a fee to use their devices in vehicles. This could be looked at similarly to how some services are free to use on a PC but require a subscription to use on your mobile phone.

The price posted on MyQ's website was a five-year plan for $179, which is still cheaper than Tesla's $350 installation cost for HomeLink.

Unfortunately, this removes a big benefit we thought MyQ would have over buying a HomeLink module for the Model 3 or Model Y. For Model S and Model X owners who already have HomeLink included in their vehicles, it may not make as much sense.

However, MyQ does provide some advantages over HomeLink.

Integration

The good news is that MyQ integration will be very similar to HomeLink, and better in some ways. What appears to be a rendering of the feature working in a Tesla was also posted to their website which shows off a screen very similar to HomeLink.

On the MyQ settings screen, you'll have a list of supported devices on the left side, such as garage doors, gates and possibly lights, but we haven't see any evidence of the latter yet.

On the right side, you'll see options pertaining to the device selected, such as its current state, whether the garage door should auto-open or close and the distance when the device should be triggered.

You'll also be able to have the vehicle fold in its mirrors when reaching the target location.

If you've used HomeLink, this should all look very familiar since it's almost exactly the same. However, there are a couple of differences that give the advantage to MyQ.

The first is that MyQ is a smarter system and it knows the state of your garage door. So if you're arriving home and the garage door is already open, it won't try to close it on you.

The other advantage is distance. Since MyQ works over the internet you'll be able to trigger the garage door or gate from further down the driveway, giving the door plenty of time to fully open before you arrive.

MyQ supports an array of devices, but it waits to be seen whether there will be support for these additional devices such as lights and door locks.

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View the release notes for the upcoming version 2022.44.2.

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Take a look at features that Elon Musk has said will be coming soon.

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