There are a half dozen residential battery energy storage systems available to homeowners today (yes, Tesla is only one of many). Before making a long-term investment in a device offering a clean source of backup power and potential electric bill saving, there are important differences between systems that you should consider. Future blog posts will present a full breakdown of those important differences including footprint, safety certifications, warranty, electrical efficiency and others, but today I want to explain one of the most important differences between systems and the piece that really unlocks long-term value and performance: control software. The software plays a critical role in the four primary functions that you should expect and demand from any battery storage system: backup power, solar self-consumption, islanding/microgrid capabilities and electric bill management.
Let’s start by briefly breaking down the different layers of software typically found in a battery system.
The software responsible for safely charging and discharging batteries, called the battery management system (or BMS) is usually pre-programmed by the manufacturer for their specific battery chemistry and cells. The user cannot adjust these settings (nor would you want to if you like your warranty and want to ensure the safety and long-term health of your system).
An inverter will also have manufacturer-set firmware and software layers that control its function, and different settings may be necessary depending on what the electric utility rules are where you live. Some inverters have an interface, either physical or app/web-based, that allows the user to adjust operational settings and monitor their system performance over time in nice graphs and charts. Typically, a user will set the inverter and then it runs that pre-set program until a user manually changes it.
A key concept to remember for both of these pieces of the system is that the hardware came first, and then the manufacturers developed the software overlay to control that hardware. Hardware first, software second.
That might seem fine at first glance, especially if all you are interested in is backup power. A pre-set inverter program to provide backup power (functioning just like a gas generator) may get you through the next short power outage well enough if you have minimal electric loads and have properly sized your electrical panels. However, in longer outages or emergencies, when you want your solar to charge the batteries and potentially power important home appliances for hours or days, that inverter’s setting won’t be smart enough – or give you the necessary control – to ensure that your solar and storage system is properly orchestrated with your appliances to maximize your available backup power.
It’s here where we jump to another layer of software that innovators like ElectrIQ Power are developing in order to bring real-time, adaptive intelligence to these systems. Whereas the battery and inverter software functionality is limited by the capabilities of the underlying hardware, an intelligent home energy management system (or HEMS) is a software application that sits above that hardware and integrates system operation with that of your entire home. In other words, not only does an intelligent HEMS monitor and manage the solar, inverter, and batteries, it can also do that for your large and small appliances.
So if the grid goes down, and your solar and battery system has an integrated HEMS platform, it will know how fast your battery is draining, how long power will last (similar to your cell phone), and then – and this is the really important part – it will actually allow you to remotely prioritize and/or shutoff specific appliances and to boost the amount of backup you have available. Even better, if your battery is DC-coupled with solar and you are able to have a true microgrid in emergency situations, an intelligent HEMS knows how much solar you can produce, estimate how many appliances you can use and still allow the battery to fully charge, and then optimize your critical appliances to make sure the system carries you through the day. No inverter will do that on its own!
Additionally, smart software allows battery and solar systems to potentially reduce a user’s electric bill. The main avenue to realize payback is through charging or discharging the battery to take advantage of the cheapest power (either from your solar or the grid) and avoid paying for expensive power. Your utility rates are changing – they are getting more complicated and more expensive. The beauty of a HEMS like ElectrIQ Power’s is that it can be remotely updated when your rate changes, and since it already knows your preferences and home energy characteristics it will automatically reprogram the solar, battery, and home energy system to minimize bills while also ensuring adequate backup power when you need it.
Everyone uses energy differently, and every home is unique. By adapting to a user’s specific goals and home energy situation, ElectrIQ Power’s intelligent IQ System empowers homeowners to maximize battery and solar energy investments.
Interested in the most advanced energy storage solution that stores energy, automates cost-reduction, provides backup power and insight with access from anywhere in the world? Contact us today to reserve your IQ System.