How do Amber for Batteries' control features work and when would I use them?


This explainer covers:

1. The different control options within SmartShift, incl.

  • What they allow you to do
  • Scenarios in which you might use them

2. Key considerations when using manual controls, incl. 

  • What exactly happens when you request to take manual control
  • Time delays

3. Common reasons manual controls might not work - or appear to not work

  • Trouble shooting common manual control issues

4. Non-SmartShift related reasons why you might not be able to take manual control

  • Scenarios in which your ability to take control might be limited by factors outside of Amber's control


1. Manual control options in SmartShift

With Amber for Batteries, your battery will be automated using our SmartShift automation technology. However, you will also have the option to manually control your battery if you choose, using the Amber app. 

These manual controls can be run for a pre-selected time period e.g. 30 mins, 60 mins, 90 mins. Note: For reasons explained further below, it is normal for manual control requests to take around 3-5 minutes to be executed from the time that you tap the button in the app.

Your manual control options include: 

Dispatch battery:

  • By opting to dispatch your battery, you are directing your battery to discharge energy. The goal of this is to export energy to the grid. Any energy dispatched during your manual intervention will be sold to the grid at the current market rate, unless your home has enough energy demand at that time to use the discharged energy, in which case it will be used by your home.

Example use case: You’ve seen a price spike in the app and you want to sell your power to make an extra buck. Hit dispatch and watch your earnings tick up! 

Charge battery: 

  • By opting to charge your battery, you can top up your battery’s reserve levels from the grid at times when you need some extra power. 

Example use case: You’re having some friends over for a Sunday lunch in the winter time. You want them to feel warm and cosy, so you decide to keep some extra power in your battery for use to keep the electric heater going when they arrive. 

Preserve battery: 

  • Hit Preserve Battery to ensure that your battery’s stored energy doesn’t dip below the current level for a certain period of time. Preserve Battery essentially cuts off your battery from your home and solar system, ensuring all excess solar gets sent to the grid, and you use grid energy for any home energy usage during that period. 

Example use case: Perhaps you’ve seen some bad weather on the horizon, and you’re nervous there could be a blackout, so you want to maintain your battery’s current level of charge. Alternatively, it’s early morning and you want to send your excess solar generation to the grid and get a higher FiT, rather than later when they may drop as the amount of solar in the grid rises. 

Another use case is for those with EVs, who can use Preserve Charge to avoid their EV draining their battery when it charges. Preserve Charge allows you to stop the energy in your battery getting transferred to their EV during charging, so you can instead choose to charge your EV from the grid when it’s green and cheap. 

Consume battery: 

  • Consume Battery stops SmartShift™ from charging your battery from the grid or discharging it to the grid. In other words, it makes your battery operate in self-consumption mode - its standard mode of operating. If your household energy consumption is greater than your solar generation, you’ll consume your battery power. If your solar generation is less than your energy consumption, your solar will get stored in your battery.

Example use case: Select Consume Battery if you don't want to charge from the grid, or discharge to the grid, but you still want to use your battery.

Note: After you deploy any of these control features, your battery will revert back to its daily automation plan. However, the plan will now dynamically adjust to take into account the impact of your intervention, ensuring that the new state of your battery is taken into account as it looks for the best way to minimise your energy costs for the rest of the day.

2. Key considerations when using manual controls:

Generally, SmartShift will automate your battery in line with your solar generation forecast, energy usage habits, and wholesale pricing to come up with the optimal times to charge and discharge your battery. 

Tapping one of SmartShift’s manual battery control buttons in the app is a request to override SmartShift’s automation plan for your battery.

From the moment you tap the control to when the action is executed, a series of events then occur to enable this override of SmartShift’s plan for your battery to take place. 

This includes SmartShift communicating your control request from the app to our integration partners (Tesla, Sungrow, SolarEdge, AlphaEss), who then pass on the command to your inverter, which may itself then take time to action the request. 

This series of events impacts the time to action - with manual controls generally taking 3-5 minutes to be executed from the time that you tap the button in the app, to when you will see the requested action having an impact. 

Here’s what happens behind the scenes 

When you manually override SmartShift and request to charge, discharge, preserve or consume your battery, this is what is actually happening. 

  1. You tap the button in the app requesting to take manual control. At this point your request is in progress. 
  2. Amber’s system does an instant API call to your battery manufacturer
  3. Your battery’s manufacturer, e.g. Tesla or Sungrow, sends a command to your inverter to increase or decrease its power level, depending on which manual control you’ve requested 
  4. Once your inverter takes the action you’ve requested, data will be sent back to us to confirm this. It’s only once we’ve received this data that we can let you know it’s happened via the app. 

How this impacts the time it takes for an action to be carried out 

At each stage of your command’s journey, there are small lags where it takes some time for data to be transmitted and actions to be taken throughout the chain: from app to battery to inverter to app. 

  • Sending the command from Amber to your battery manufacturer is fast - less than a second. 
  • The time for this communication to be sent from the battery manufacturer to the inverter can take a bit longer - around two minutes on average, though in some cases we’ve seen some people’s inverters take up to 10 minutes to respond. 
  • We can only let you know your inverter has taken the action you’ve requested via the app once we receive data from the inverter. It can take up to a minute for this data to be returned to Amber, adding to lags before you see your command has been actioned. 
  • Amber receives new data from your inverter once a minute, meaning that depending on when you open/refresh the app, it could take up to two minutes for you to see the result of your manual control request. 
  • Once we’ve received this data and your app’s user interface has been refreshed, you will see the impact of your manual control request in your Amber app. E.g. You’ll see a charge in your Power Flow - the direction in which energy is flowing to or from your system and a forecast of earnings/cost.

3. Common reasons why your manual controls might not work

  1. Have you removed any battery app settings that might interfere?
    Please remove any type of pre-programmed scheduling you may have enabled for your battery via its device app as these will conflict with the SmartShift™ automation. For Tesla batteries, your battery must be set to “Self Powered” in the Tesla app. Unless you ensure this setting is selected in your Tesla app, Amber for Batteries will not be able to fully-optimise your battery and you will not be able to make the most of the manual control functions.
  2. Are there any external control devices enabled?
    The same applies to external control devices that are also accessing your battery data. These will also interfere with SmartShift™ commands so please request for any external control to be disabled and/or removed.
  3. Does your system have a strong wifi connection?
    When control actions don’t happen this might also mean that the SmartShift™ technology has lost connection to your inverter. The main reason this may happen is an interruption in your wifi connection. If this is the case, we recommend moving your wifi modem close to the inverter or installing a wifi extender to boost the strength.
    Please also ensure your Amber app is updated to the latest versions, as this may also be causing the issues. 
  4. Is the battery level below 20%?
    SmartShift™ won't automatically discharge to the grid if the battery energy is below 25% which is a safety threshold set to protect the battery health and due to some brands' API limits. While you can still manually discharge the remaining 5% down to 20% via the manual control buttons, below that manual controls won’t work either. You can however still self-consume the remaining battery energy down to your minimum reserve level as set in your battery app.

4. Non-SmartShift-related restrictions on your ability to take manual control

Note: not all manual control requests can be completed

It’s worth bearing in mind that there are times when your request to override SmartShift with a particular manual control action cannot be completed for reasons unrelated to SmartShift. 

For example, there may be instances where you tap the battery discharge button and your battery is not capable of exporting the power you’ve asked to the grid, so nothing will happen. 

This may also be the case with a request to charge. In most homes there's a 63 amp limit on how much energy you can draw from the grid. If you’re running a lot of appliances and then request to charge your battery this might not be possible due to this limitation. 

Other common scenarios where a manual control request might not be actioned include seeking to charge your battery when it is already fully charged, or discharge your battery below 20%.

We will be building out this list of scenarios in more detail soon! 

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