Once again, it has been ages since my recent post, and once again I’m writing here from a completely new reality I have to live in. My country is at war and I’m stuck somewhere in between my home city which is being heavily bombed and the border I cannot cross simply because of being unlucky to be born here with Y chromosome and being aged 18 to 60 and not having a diplomatic passport. Anyway, I live in a place that at least allows me to experiment with alternative energy sources, so I got a bunch of solar panels and some ways of storing this energy, including this little guy, EcoFlow River Mini.
Initially, I was aiming at Nitecore NES300, but you can imagine how hard it is to get something like this when all power-related stuff almost immediately gets bought by the military or volunteers to help it. So, River Mini was the only option for me in the similar price range. In terms of just being a portable power station, i.e. a very large powerbank with a 240V AC inverter and 12V DC output as well as three usual 5V/2.4A USB ports, it does its job fairly well, and I don’t have any complaints about XT60 solar input either. It’s all fine and dandy until you realize this thing, as well as other units from EcoFlow River series, is WiFi-enabled.
Yes, it supports WLAN. What for? Well, I found out you can update the firmware, tweak some output parameters and disable the annoying beep that confirms all the button presses on the unit. The latter is what got me interested, but then there is another problem. It requires a smartphone app to operate. Not a big deal, I thought. But then, I found out it requires an account. So, as it turned out, the overall picture is similar to Xiaomi devices: the unit creates an ad-hoc access point that you use for initial configuration, then it connects to your home WiFi and you can control it via the account in the manufacturer’s cloud. Sounds familiar, been there, done that.
So, I had played around with it for sometime: updated the firmware, disabled the beep, ensured there was nothing else interesting and decided to disconnect in from the home network. And found out I just… couldn’t. Whenever I pressed and hold the “IoT Reset” button, the WLAN icon started flashing, but it still was connected after restarting the unit. On top of that, the account cancellation process also takes weeks, so I had to register a new one from a different email just to be able to resume my efforts. Finally, I found out the correct sequence of actions to turn off WiFi in EcoFlow River Mini while you still have your EcoFlow account registered:
- Disconnect all power sources from the unit. Press and hold the “IoT Reset” button until the icon starts flashing.
- Connect your device (smartphone/tablet) to the temporary access point of the device, as if you were setting it up first time. The app should display the AP selector and password entry field, and “Use without internet” link under it. Press “Use without internet”.
- Fiddle around the options for sometime, ensure that you can control the unit via the direct access point.
- Without reconnecting to your usual network, unlink the device from the settings. Then reconnect to your usual network or disable WiFi on the smartphone/tablet.
- Press and hold the ON/OFF button on the unit until the unit turns off.
- Now you should be able to turn it on normally and see no WLAN icon. Hurray! Now you can cancel your account and do whatever you want to.
Now, what to do if you accidentally pressed the “IoT Reset” button and the icon started flashing again? Just disconnect all power sources, turn the unit off and then back on. It’s that simple.
I hope this helps someone and I guess the process is similar in other River models. You may call it a design flaw (EcoFlaw?), but I think it was all intentional. All of it. Starting from the requirement to have a frigging smartphone AND a cloud account to just be able to turn off the beeper on the River, ending with everlasting cancellation process and making it increasingly harder to turn WiFi off once you’ve set it up. Oh, and having that beeper turned on by default to make the process more likely unavoidable. It’s like a direct message “You must stay connected and sell us your bandwidth and privacy for your own convenience”. Which is pretty much the essence of all this “smart appliances” hype as of now. Good job, EcoFlow. Next time I’ll go with something dumber.