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Installation in a flood zone

Notadog

Member
Jan 26, 2021
48
4
SF Bay Area
I live in a flood zone where all the living space is on the second floor, with the whole ground floor designated as a garage (we also have power outlets in the garage).

Tesla was supposed to come out today to do my solar + powerwall installation. The guy saw that my main utility panel was on the second floor so it gave him some doubts as to whether they could install the powerwalls, gateway and inverter on the ground floor as designated on my design plan. He contacted the Tesla design team and they got back to him saying that he could not. They will need to be elevated 12 feet up (above the flood line).

I'm very confused by this situation because prior to the install, they had approved permits and we also had a Tesla guy come out to survey the house and take pictures. How could the city approve the design permit if they didn't think it would pass inspection?

As a solution, he suggested that they might need to rent a lift and install everything on a bare piece of wall on the second floor. However, wouldn't this mean that I would not be able to flip the power switch on the powerwalls? I also won't be able to see any indicator lights on the inverter since they would be out of reach on the second floor unless I used a long ladder to get to it.

Worse case scenario, if they did install on the ground floor and it got flooded by a 100-year flood, how would it affect me? Would I still be tied to the grid anyways?

The whole situation doesn't make sense to me. Right now I'm waiting for the design team to get back to me on a new design.
 

BGbreeder

Member
Jun 19, 2020
293
180
Bay Area
Worst case? A Powerwall shorts out as the water begins to rise and catches fire. The fire department can't get to your place due to flooding and the whole house burns down. How likely? Beats me. Possible? Definitely.

I know that I wouldn't want to be ankle deep in water with a Powerwall even partially immersed anywhere near me, but perhaps that's just me. If it were me, I would buy the ladder.

It is a trade off.

All the best,

BG
 

arnolddeleon

Supporting Member
Jul 21, 2012
839
909
SF Bay Area
You definitely will see the LED light since it is a strip that runs the length of one side. I'm not sure I've ever looked at mine.

How often do you think you will need to flip the switch on the Powerwall itself? In general, that is only needed during provisioning steps of the Powerwall (e.g. proving you are onsite when trying to connect to the setup UI). The breakers controlling them will be somewhere where you can access them easily (I'm pretty sure that is code).
 

Sunnyboy

Member
Apr 6, 2021
11
0
New York
I too am in a flood zone and my first floor is 10.5 feet above sea level. I have an unfinished basement that has my boiler and HW heater sitting on blocks on the floor. My main breaker panel is also in the basement as high on the wall as close to the ceiling as it can be. I intend to move this panel to the first floor into my laundry room and have the power walls installed on the outside of my detached garage. I discussed all this with the guy who came to do the sight survey of my property and he said that it would work.
I have a suspicion that there will be a few changes before it actually gets done however.
I am following this closely. I'm sure the building codes and flood levels are different in our respective locals.
 

jboy210

Supporting Member
Dec 2, 2016
5,189
3,231
Northern California
On the one hand, I wonder if Tesla is being overly cautious. On the other hand, we know that sea-level rise is happening and what didn't use to flood often will flood more often in the near future.
 

BGbreeder

Member
Jun 19, 2020
293
180
Bay Area
If they now think that the design plan wasn’t according to code, how were they able to obtain permits in the first place?
Permit reviewers are human. Lots of things could get missed, like, say, the fact you are in a flood zone.

It is also possible that in your area, it is permitted per code to put main service panels, batteries, and unsealed wiring at ground level, below the expected flood level. Just because it is permitted by code doesn't mean that you want to do it that way, or that there aren't trade offs to doing it that way, e.g. like having to replace your Powerwalls and service panel every time it floods. Also, just because the planning office says to do it a certain way doesn't mean that their way meets your needs.

Tesla specifications for the wiring portion of the Powerwall is IP56, which is dust resistant, but not dust proof(5), and water resistant to large jets of water, but not immersible(6), but the battery and power electronics are rated IP67, dust proof(6), and immersible to the depth of 1m(7).

I can almost guarantee you that if your Powerwall is covered with water, it will not be connected to anything. Tesla's installation guide doesn't suggest wiring the Powerwalls in a waterproof manner. So if it floods, it is unlikely to be functional. As to whether your house remains connected to the grid, and whether the local grid is up is dependent on lots of things like where your local transformers are (pole vs ground mount, vs underground). If I was planning to rely on solar plus Powerwalls during a flood event, I would mount the Powerwalls as high as I could.

I really think that it is in your best interest to put the Powerwalls 12' up, per Tesla.

All the best,

BG
 
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holeydonut

Supporting Member
Jun 27, 2020
1,853
1,231
East Bay NorCal
If they now think that the design plan wasn’t according to code, how were they able to obtain permits in the first place?

My house is actually in a flood zone (don't get me started about how stupid this is... but it's something I cannot blame on PG&E). I am 1 foot into a plane of "poor drainage" where my garage could be hit with a 100 year flood.

The County and PG&E never pulled any hazard data on my address. Nobody would have known my address was in a flood zone except me... and I made sure to tell Sunrun. Of course Sunrun's designers originally had my PW's planned to be sitting on the garage slab because they don't give AF. Luckily my installer had the jack necessary to mount the PW's up a few feet and problem solved. If I needed to put them 10 feet up I can imagine how that would be a huge problem since nobody would have noted the requirement on the design.

But honestly, I can't imagine anyone at the County inspector's office noticing I'm in a flood zone either. It's one of those things that only comes up on a deep dive inspection of my address and title.
 

Notadog

Member
Jan 26, 2021
48
4
SF Bay Area
My house is actually in a flood zone (don't get me started about how stupid this is... but it's something I cannot blame on PG&E). I am 1 foot into a plane of "poor drainage" where my garage could be hit with a 100 year flood.

The County and PG&E never pulled any hazard data on my address. Nobody would have known my address was in a flood zone except me... and I made sure to tell Sunrun. Of course Sunrun's designers originally had my PW's planned to be sitting on the garage slab because they don't give AF. Luckily my installer had the jack necessary to mount the PW's up a few feet and problem solved. If I needed to put them 10 feet up I can imagine how that would be a huge problem since nobody would have noted the requirement on the design.

But honestly, I can't imagine anyone at the County inspector's office noticing I'm in a flood zone either. It's one of those things that only comes up on a deep dive inspection of my address and title.

What is the base flood level for your area?

I wonder if it would be an acceptable compromise to allow me to install the powerwalls and inverter on the ground floor, but have the gateway installed next to the main panel on the second floor. This way, if there is a flood, I could just go out to the gateway and disconnect all the equipment downstairs from the rest of the house? Would that work?

The county also currently building flood levees around my town that would prevent 100-year floods, to be completed in the next 2 years, so that is why I'm not that worried about flooding in general.
 

holeydonut

Supporting Member
Jun 27, 2020
1,853
1,231
East Bay NorCal
What is the base flood level for your area?

I wonder if it would be an acceptable compromise to allow me to install the powerwalls and inverter on the ground floor, but have the gateway installed next to the main panel on the second floor. This way, if there is a flood, I could just go out to the gateway and disconnect all the equipment downstairs from the rest of the house? Would that work?

The county also currently building flood levees around my town that would prevent 100-year floods, to be completed in the next 2 years, so that is why I'm not that worried about flooding in general.

The AGS says my flood plane is 742ft. My garage is 741ft above sea level. Friggin AGS…
 

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