UPS (Battery Backup) FAQs

Q. What is a UPS?
A. An Uninterruptible Power Supply is a device that sits between a power supply (e.g. a wall outlet) and a device (e.g. a computer) to prevent undesired features of the power source (outages, sags, surges, bad harmonics, etc.) from the supply from adversely affecting the performance of the device.

Q. How can it help me?
A. A UPS has internal batteries to guarantee that continuous power is provided to the equipment even if the power source stops providing power. Of course the UPS can only provide power for a while, typically a few minutes, but that is often enough to ride out power company glitches or short outages. Even if the outage is longer than the battery lifetime of the UPS, this provides the opportunity to execute an orderly shutdown of the equipment. Advantages:

Q. How long can equipment on a UPS keep running after the power goes?
A. That depends on how big a UPS do you have and what kind of equipment it protects. For most typical computer workstations, one might have a UPS that was rated to keep the machine alive through a 15 minute power loss. If it is important for a machine to survive hours without power, one should probably look at a more robust power backup solution that includes a generator and other components. Even if a UPS powers a very small load, it must still operate its DC (battery) to AC converter (the inverter), which costs power. A rough extrapolation from APC's documentation, leads me to guess that its 2000 VA UPS can operate its own inverter (with no extra load) for just over 8 hours. A 1250 VA UPS could run its converter for about 5. These are very rough guesses based on information provided by one vendor for one vendor.

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