UPS Battery Backups
One thing we learn from hurricanes and other events that cause power outages is to look at our UPS systems (not our shipping service, but battery backup systems!). Here are some things you should consider in purchasing a new UPS battery backup system and caring for your current systems.
What is a UPS battery backup system – A UPS (uninterruptible power supply) maintains electrical power to devices during short-term electrical outages.
Why should I have a UPS? A UPS system has may functionalities:
Battery backup – A UPS system can keep equipment such as phone systems, data switches and routers operation during short-term electrical outages.
Prevent electrical surges – UPS provide constant electrical power and eliminate most fluctuations of power such as electrical surges or brownouts that can damage electrical equipment over time.
What kind of UPS system should I get? There are several types of UPS systems to consider:
Standby – this is the least expensive type of system. These are not very effective and in most cases do not adequately protect your equipment.
Line Interactive – This type of UPS constantly monitors line voltage and very quickly switches power to the batteries if it senses voltage drop. This switchover is quick enough to keep most electrical devices from shutting off.
Online – This is the most expensive type of UPS. Online UPS’ run the protected equipment on batteries all of the time. This is a more expensive approach, but is much better for electrical equipment since the voltage provided is always clean, smooth and does not change.
How large of UPS do I need? How long of runtime do I need?
This is a matter of personal preference. Most power outages are only 5-10 minutes, so a UPS system does not need to be large. However, if you have applications (such as a phone systems) that you need to keep up for longer periods of time, you may need 1-4 hours of runtime.
Sizing a UPS requires that you add up the listed WATTS consumption for each device you will plug into the UPS, and make sure the UPS system you buy is large enough, and also has room for growth.
UPS Maintenance and Considerations
Electrical outlet – depending on the size of your UPS and runtime needed, you may need special electrical outlets. Normal electrical outlets are 120 Volt/15 Amp, but some variations of UPS systems may require a much larger outlet.
Shutdown – it is best to never run UPS batteries completely down. This damages the batteries and they may not take a full charge again. If you are in the middle of an extended power outage, or know one might occur (e.g. a hurricane), shutdown all of the equipment plugged into the UPS, and then shutdown the UPS system to avoid draining the batteries.
Battery Replacement – UPS systems can last for years, but the batteries must be replaced periodically (every 3-5 years). Batteries are relatively inexpensive. A typical battery degrades by 10-20% a year even without being used, so a UPS system that could keep your equipment up for 30 minutes when you buy it, may only keep it operational for 24-27 minutes after the first year.
An unplugged UPS is a dead UPS – I often see customers who store un-used UPS’ in a closet where they are unplugged. As mentioned, when UPS batteries are allowed to go completely dead they are often damaged and will not charge or hold a complete charge. If you are going to store UPS systems, make plans to have them plugged in and charging, or plan on replacing the batteries when you redeploy them.