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[Review] Alpha-ESS Smile5 Energy Storage system


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This will be my little review or thoughts I want to share after having used this system for about half a month. I hope this can help someone researching and deciding to buy this system or somehting else.

I live totally off-grid, no Eskom line to my home. The system I installed includes the Alpha-ESS Smile5 Inverter, 2x Alpha-ESS Smile5 Battery 5.7kWh, and 12x Sharp 330W Poly Solar Panels.

I mainly went for this system, which is more expensive (at least on the Inverter side) than something that would not have grid-tie capabilities because it looked simple to install and nice, clean and modular. I actually started off with just one battery but soon decided to add another as I did not want to have power problems if it happens to be very cloudy. I am a freelance video game programmer so my days are spent behind a computer.

I mainly run my computer, fridge and some LED lights on it through the day. I can toast some bread, boil the kettle or run the electric pressure cooker, microwave oven, and washing machine just fine. My power tools like the grinder and circular saw works just fine too. I do use these quite a bit since I am still setting up my home, building a chicken coop, etc. That was before I got the additional battery too.

I mainly use gas for cooking and boiling water and also for hot water during a shower. My pressure pump and borehole pumps are on separate gel battery and panels so they are not drawing from my main setup.

Overall it has been providing me with enough power and I was even surprised to find the panels giving 500W, and later over 1kW, of power to charge the batteries during a cloudy morning. This is the first time I dealt with anything solar so I am still learning.

I've had load shedding one morning after a cold front came over. It seems to have happened just as the batteries was about to start charging and power was out till around the afternoon when the batteries warmed up enough. They went into a protection mode because it was so cold and the system is installed in the garage area. I've since build an insulated box around it with vents and door I can control to prevent this kind of problem in the future.

Now for some negatives,

Something that really disappointed me is that this Inverter has not been able to start my 1800W air compressor even though my neighbour's 5kW Kodak is able to start and run the compressor. My Inverter simply resets when I try to start the compressor on it. I talked to a representative from ESS and they say that the in-rush current might be too high during start up. I'll have to do a test next time I am near a grid to see just how much this current really is.

The Dashboard requires an Internet connection to function. There is no way to check the status without going through www.alphaess.com to do so, except of course for using the LCD to check the SOC, and so on there; but no graphs.

For some reason this setup totally ignores all the power my panels can generate and keeps drawing from the batteries after they are fully charged. So for example, while I am typing this I am on 90% battery since they were fully charged just before 12 this afternoon and the system stopped drawing from the panels and have not touched them once since then. It has been a clear sunny day the whole day. Why has it not been drawing from the panels and kept the battery for when the panels can't generate enough power? I hardly needed anything with the average through the afternoon being around 0.15kW. It might be that the system ignores the panels when the draw is not high enough because I do see in the graphs that it would draw from the panels when I used the washing machine or microwave during the day and then the batteries even got a little and went up in charge for that duration. Very strange one this but I know too little to know whether this is normal for this system or whether something is not set up correctly. Certainly nothing related to this in the settings I have access to. I've attached an image to show just how ridiculous this is. The spike you see in late afternoon is when I was using the microwave.

Hope this info is useful to someone considering this system. I'm guessing if you were to use it on-grid as a backup and is looking for a nice looking system then most of the negatives are moot. But if I were to buy again I would not go with this Inverter as an off-grid solution.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

dashboard.jpg

Edited by Leslie
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13 minutes ago, Leslie said:

Something that really disappointed me is that this Inverter has not been able to start my 1800W air compressor even though my neighbour's 5kW Kodak is able to start and run the compressor. My Inverter simply resets when I try to start the compressor on it. I talked to a representative from ESS and they say that the in-rush current might be too high during start up. I'll have to do a test next time I am near a grid to see just how much this current really is.

Induction motors typically draw a peak of 5 times their nominal rating, so about 9kW. As I recall the Voltronics can do 200% Pnominal for a short while (probably about a second), that is to say your neighbour's Kodak is just BARELY avoiding a shutdown with that thing. Chances are your neighbour's machine is just barely better than yours... at least in that one department.

18 minutes ago, Leslie said:

For some reason this setup totally ignores all the power my panels can generate and keeps drawing from the batteries after they are fully charged.

This could be the battery BMS. Some BMSes disable charging when the battery is full (the send a maximum charge current of 0A over the CAN-bus connection). The effect of that is that all chargers are disabled and the battery actually starts discharging until it is low enough for the BMS to re-enable charging. Ideally one would want to just use the PV directly, as you say. Would be interesting to know the topology of these inverters, if the PV ties in on the high voltage DC bus (like on the Goodwe), there should be no reason why it cannot use the PV directly.

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7 minutes ago, plonkster said:

Induction motors typically draw a peak of 5 times their nominal rating

Wow, did not think it could reach that high. I understand now why it would reset the Inverter.
Luckily I do not need the compressor often and was more a convenience for doing some spray painting or cleaning out a computer.

 

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33 minutes ago, Leslie said:

Wow, did not think it could reach that high. I understand now why it would reset the Inverter.

My 3kVA Victron Mutiplus is the same, it can handle 200% Pnominal for about a second. It is strong enough to start my 1.5kW pool pump, but the gnashing of teeth as it starts up that load is something to behold... 🙂

 

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3 hours ago, plonkster said:

Induction motors typically draw a peak of 5 times their nominal rating,

Depending on the make and design, they even reach 7 times. When I design a system, I use 7 x in my calculations, there are so many cheaper imported Pump motors that still reach the 7 x mark .. 

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23 minutes ago, Jaco de Jongh said:

Depending on the make and design, they even reach 7 times. When I design a system, I use 7 x in my calculations, there are so many cheaper imported Pump motors that still reach the 7 x mark .. 

Which is why I am trying to get as much as possible "smooth/soft start" motors where possible, but yeah, they are more expensive. Unfortunately only found out about this type of motor after I got my aircon...

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I have an LG Smart Inverter air-con.  Got this type of unit since I read it would consume less energy and is hoping it will not have a big startup draw like I assume normal aircons have. Still have to get it hooked up but not really a priority during winter so I will see come summer.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 2020/06/22 at 9:14 AM, Leslie said:

I have an LG Smart Inverter air-con.  Got this type of unit since I read it would consume less energy and is hoping it will not have a big startup draw like I assume normal aircons have. Still have to get it hooked up but not really a priority during winter so I will see come summer.

Let me know how that works out for you - I would like to put my aircon on my backup circuit once I have PV installed. In summer my main bedroom is poorly insulated and get quite warm and two hours of loadshedding is enough to make me wake up due to heat...

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Hi. My Alpha Ess Smile5 is connected to the grid, I had a situation where the grid (utility side) switched on and off 3times quick succession while the Alpha was in UPS mode. After that the Alpha Ess failed to feed to the Load until I came to restart it and it carried on working fine. In all of this there were no breakers tripped, Inverter was still on. I want to know why possibly the inverter never restarted itself and carryon feeding the loads as UPS as before these utility trips, also can the inverter be restarted remotely? 

 

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Little update on the issue I had with panels not being used.  They can supposedly push an update that would resolve this but since I am not on a grid the update can not be applied.

@Pelican it would probably be best to ask your supplier to get in touch with the people at AlphaESS with your questions, or at least make a new topic with your question so it is not buried in my thread where someone with an answer might not see it.

 

 

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An annoying thing started happening. The power will go off and on twice in quick succession. It will then stay on for a while and then do same again...... until I unplug the Inverter from my network! This happened some time last week and again today.

The Internet LED is blinking (it is normally solid on) so that is why I suspected it is related to something with the Internet connection and disconnected the Inverter. This seems to work since the power has not gone off again. When it happened last week I did the same and unplugged it.  Later that day I plugged it in again but the LED was still blinking and not long after the power went out again. So I unplugged from network and put it back on the next day and it was fine till today.

Not sure what is happening but it could be that it is trying to do an update o, which would be very strange, reset cause it is struggling to connect to a cloud server.

My Internet works fine and I was actually browsing the web when this happened. There was not any high loads with just my computer, fridge and a light on - same as every morning. The batteries were above 50% and it was nice and sunny with the PV charging it.

Of course now none of the stats are recorded since this thing needs to be connected to the Internet to get access to the monitoring site.

I suppose if I was on-grid with it then this would not be an issue.
Basically, if you want to go off-grid, stay away from Smile5.

 

 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have the AlphaESS smile 5 , also sort of off the grid and yes , the alphaESS is not meant for off grid situations as confirmed by their head office in China . 
 

I contacted them because my system “blinks “ every day Twice a day at exactly the same time . By blinking I mean the voltage dips for a second then returns. A few seconds later same story . This goes on for a minute or so. The guy who installed it hasn’t finished the full installation and is now ignoring me. AlphaESS tech guys said they can’t test the system until there is a Eskom connection into the inverter . Basically a catch 22. It’s a nice system ....except for the Daily voltage drop Which results in a bit of a disco effect in the rooms where the lights are on.

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On 2020/06/22 at 10:40 AM, Fuenkli said:

It looks like AlphaESS is using Goodwe inverters 🙂.

They are very similar in topology yes.

Main issue for me on them, something which may improve over time with software, is the response of inverter while running on grid. its in no rush to start carrying the load or backing off when a load is released. not an issue in this case of course.

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16 hours ago, Gimpex said:

I have the AlphaESS smile 5 , also sort of off the grid and yes , the alphaESS is not meant for off grid situations as confirmed by their head office in China . 
 

I contacted them because my system “blinks “ every day Twice a day at exactly the same time . By blinking I mean the voltage dips for a second then returns. A few seconds later same story . This goes on for a minute or so. The guy who installed it hasn’t finished the full installation and is now ignoring me. AlphaESS tech guys said they can’t test the system until there is a Eskom connection into the inverter . Basically a catch 22. It’s a nice system ....except for the Daily voltage drop Which results in a bit of a disco effect in the rooms where the lights are on.

Least we know what to avoid for off grid applications besides its also very pricey for what it is.. sadly you got a little burnt.

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  • 1 month later...

Guys, From Australia here and just researching the AlphaESS Smile 5 system here - possibly 3 of them in a 3phase deployment. I have been told by the distributor today that the Smile 5 that they sell in Australia is not using the GoodWe inverter but rather their own rebadged chinese knock off.


They do have another inverter/battery combo in the Store range - which is just really confusing - and it does use the Goodwe inverter - on paper looks like a better unit than the Smile 5 - BUT it is only using the GW-GW5048-EM which limits the current to 50a max to and from the battery system.

they do have a unit - the ALpha ESS Store with the GW5048D-ES but it looks like they are not bringing that into Australia.

Has anyone been able to test modbus access or api control of the Smile 5 system with the Alpha inverter ? This is critical to my application but Alpha ESS in Australia have told the distributor they will not release the API

 

Craig

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On 2020/07/05 at 1:47 PM, jykenmynie said:

Let me know how that works out for you - I would like to put my aircon on my backup circuit once I have PV installed. In summer my main bedroom is poorly insulated and get quite warm and two hours of loadshedding is enough to make me wake up due to heat...

@jykenmynie I finally got the aircon hooked up and it is working fine. It is this unit if you want to have a look at the specs.

Will be running it through the week to see what power consumption is like. Although, I live in a converted shipping container (tiny house) so the area to keep cool is much smaller than in a typical houses.

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On 2020/09/08 at 8:55 AM, curto said:

Has anyone been able to test modbus access or api control of the Smile 5 system with the Alpha inverter ? This is critical to my application but Alpha ESS in Australia have told the distributor they will not release the API

I was sent their Web Monitoring API document by accident but unfortunately cannot integrate it as Alpha ESS in China won't sent me access credentials for my app.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Craig, how much were they charging you for the system? I am also in Aus, have had it installed for a week now and it is great. By coincidence we had a blackout today, only wish I connected more  to the backup circuit as it is no where near its max load. Got my 10.4kw and hybrid inverter for just 7k.

 

The Alpha Ess Hybrid Inverer is the Goodwe Inverter just rebadged.

 

J

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 2020/09/26 at 1:04 AM, Jay1234567 said:

Craig, how much were they charging you for the system? I am also in Aus, have had it installed for a week now and it is great. By coincidence we had a blackout today, only wish I connected more  to the backup circuit as it is no where near its max load. Got my 10.4kw and hybrid inverter for just 7k.

 

The Alpha Ess Hybrid Inverer is the Goodwe Inverter just rebadged.

 

J

I am lookkng at around $28K all up - still mulling it over and in no rush now that the Fed Govt has extended the business tax write off for another 6 months. Can you confirm if your system has the GoodWe inverter and if it is the ES instead of the EM model - the EM only outputs 2.5KW max, whereas the ES does 5KW.

Unfortunately is appears that OneStopWarehouse is the only distributor in Australia and they confirm they will only sell the EM model.

This is in the Alpha Store ESS line.

In the Alpha Smile 5 line - they have a 5KW inverter - but it is a Chinese knock off and they will not reveal any details re the modbus interface and control of the unit except through their App and basic control through Time of Use etc.

 

Craig

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