Question Was thinking of getting a UPS but have questions after reading some stuff about them and surge protection

Mar 20, 2021
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When I first started looking it was just for UPSs since I was just looking for something to get my computer shut down properly and save anything I may need to at times the power goes out. Some time we have to happen frequently in the spring and other years only 2-3 times a year so I guess it's not always that big of a deal, but still liked the idea of having one (I've recently moved to having a desktop pc vs just a laptop for the past decade or so and am not fond of not even having a few min to save stuff and shut down normally). I also seen some UPSs listing surge protection slots so then was more for getting one. I've never had anything noticeably damaged by such a thing, so it wasn't something I had even thought of getting, but most of my life/time is on my computers and the new one was expensive so adding another layer of protection sounded great.

Then I started reading about different brand of UPS and various things about them, got into reading several discussions people had and a lot of debates and now I'm just unsure of what I want. From everything I read it seemed like maybe the surge protection in the affordable range UPSs (<~300$ for me (are ones of that price range even worth while?)) weren't worth much and that if you wanted any protection there then you should just get a good surge protector strip or something along that line. Although a a hand full of things I ready made it see like plugging a UPS into a surge protector would would fine as a combo solution, a lot of other things I read made it seem like it's just a case where you have to choose of have either surge protection or the short time of backup power the UPS gives, hardware protection vs unsaved data, with no way to do both.
As I said, based on past experience I've been fine so far with out the surge protection and having a bit of remaining up time when power goes out has been the only seeming relevant concern for me, so I think maybe the UPS is still what should be looking at. But now after al that I'm a bit paranoid/over protective of my hardware and thinking well, maybe I can keep dealing with not having a few min of power to finish up and maybe I should just go full/only surge protector even if I may never need it just I don't ever have to find out the hard way that I did since the results of damaged hardware would be a way worse result than occasionally dealing with some unsaved data loss and improper shut down.

So what I'm now wondering is....

Is surge protection in UPSs of that price range really not worth much of anything?

Is combining them actually fine?

Is it really one or the other?

Any suggestions for brands/models of either UPS or surge protector for I have can have some good options to start with once I figure out the above questions and what I'm getting (currently have a pc with a 750W PSU though not used at full load as I left a lot of room for upgrades)?

Any other advice?
 

BogdanH

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Sep 21, 2020
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I wouldn't complicate too much. Most better quality UPS's have some basic surge protection built in. With "basic" I mean, to protect against normal/expected spikes that could happen in power line. To make it more clear: if lightning hits power line close to your house, then no surge protection will help you (yes, plug off PC entirely from the wall is the only protection in this case).
UPS is one of the components that you will use for many years and so it's worth to pay a bit more. Yes, they all use standard 12V lead batteries (at least affordable ones) -the difference is in electronics inside, which should be reliable and long lasting.
Two brands I would recommend are APC and CyberPower (btw. I'm using APC). You should look after UPS having "declared" power above 900VA, which should have 12V 9Ah battery inside. Such UPS will give you few minutes to shut down your gear properly.
Pricing.. well, depends on features you might (not) need... for example, is nice having an status LCD, but every UPS has LED status indicators anyway (and you can connect it to PC via USB for more precise monitoring).
Also keep in mind, that you will need to replace battery every 4-5 years (APC is not very user friendly in this regard, but can be done), regardless of brand. Needless to say, battery quality also matters.
 
Also I'd add some information : When first bought a UPS, that device should not be stored somewhere in a corner for a long time because many types of batteries doesn't deal well being depleted for long time.
This is my own experience because the company I work for have done this mistake with two UPS, and the batteries completely destroyed (physically cracked in the weakest spot in the corners).
 
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Paperdoc

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I agree with lots above, but will add thoughts.

Since you have never experienced power line surges, the probability for the future is low. So what is already part of the UPS may be sufficient, even though it may not be the best. If you still want to be SURE, you certainly CAN buy a separate surge protector to go ahead of the UPS. That is, wall outlet > Surge Protector > UPS > computer. If you do that, look for the spec of JOULES - that is the amount of energy in the surge that this unit CAN handle and still protect your equipment. Higher is better, but more expensive. Second item is response time in ns (nanoseconds) - how fast it will detect the surge and divert it safely.

Design of the unit can be important, depending on your situation. The very simplest design uses what is called a MOV, or Metal Oxide Varistor, connected between the Hot and Neutral lines. This device is a VERY high resistance under normal circumstances so there is a VERY tiny leakage current though it. But if the voltage across it exceeds some threshold - like, maybe 300 V - it suddenly becomes almost a direct short across the lines and diverts all the current of the surge, thus protecting the load. However, that sudden power flow thorough it destroys the MOV - it's a sacrificial component - so it can never do that job again. But your system still WILL be receiving power, just not being protected from a further surge. So you need some way to check whether the protection is still working. If not (after a surge has done the damage), you need to replace the unit. Other more expensive devices are built with very different components that can survive many surges and continue to offer protection. In your case, OP, since you anticipate very few surges, the less expensive simple design might be quite sufficient as long as the max Joules rating is OK.

Many surge protection devices also offer sockets for use with telephone lines. These are for connecting a computer add-on like a modem or even a network cable that is fed from a standard telephone land line, because those lines MIGHT be struck by a voltage surge although not often. IF your internet and/or telephone service is by an optical fibre, however, this is not so important because such a line does not carry voltage surges. In the one unit I had like this years ago, the protection devices for the phone lines were simply very low-value tiny fuses (about 0.1 A rating) in each phone wire. Again, these are sacrificial units - they blow when there is a small current surge to protect your phone line, but then they are dead, and you get NO further phone line function until you bypass the protector or replace it.

Three specs are important in choosing a UPS: maximum power, switch-over time and length of power maintenance in an outage.

Max power involves two specs that can be confusing. The always tell you the VA rating - Volts times Amps. We all understand that Watts = Volts x Amps, so we assume they are the same. But for reasons I do not understand, that is NOT true in UPS systems. Those systems also should specify the max WATTS rating separately, and it is always much less than the VA number. It is the WATTS that can be supplied, compared to the likely Watts power consumption rate of your system, that should be matched.

Switch-over time is the brief time when actual power feed to your computer system will sag when the source power (from the wall outlet) fails, and before the UPS replacement power comes on fully. The shorter the better. Most computer PSU's can tolerate a short power sag, but if the PSU does this poorly OR the UPS is slow, the computer can "see" a power failure and reboot. So the shorter the switch-over time the better. One thing closely related to this is the basic design of the UPS circuit, and this had a big impact on price. The simplest type contains a battery that is being re-charged all the time from the wall outlet. That powers an inverter circuit that can produce the normal 120 VAC power supply your computer PSU needs. But under normal circumstances, actual power to your computer is fed directly form the wall outlet, by-passing that battery/inverter system. There is a power failure detection system that monitors power from the wall, and when that fails, it switches to having power fed from the battery/inverter. But this change-over takes time, typically half to two cycles of the 60Hz source power. That may cause a power sag long enough to affect your computer - depends on its load and the PSU tolerance for sags. The more complex system does not use a by-pass. The battery and inverter still are there, but power to the computer is ALWAYS being drawn from them, and never directly from the wall outlet. So there is no switch-over time. This requires heavier components, so costs more.

Running time under load is important, and SHOULD be part of the UPS specs. It really is a spec of how long the unit can continue to provide full output after the wall supply fails, and that certainly depends on what the actual load in Watts is. The best form of spec I've seen is a quote of run time in minutes for SEVERAL possible load values, up to the max output load for the unit. For example, a unit might provide full output at at load of 700 W for only 2 minutes, but 500 W for 5 minutes, or 300 W for 9 minutes. Very large and expensive systems can provide power for much longer, but those are rarely used outside of major data centres. You need to decide how long you will need your system to keep going once the wall outlet fails. If the failure always will be detected immediately and you can save data and shut down quickly, 5 to 10 min might be enough. If failure detection might be delayed, or shut-down is longer and complicated, more run time under your actual estimated load is needed.
 
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BogdanH

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Max power involves two specs that can be confusing. The always tell you the VA rating - Volts times Amps. We all understand that Watts = Volts x Amps, so we assume they are the same. But for reasons I do not understand, that is NOT true in UPS systems.
-yes, can be confusing and deceiving... but not misleading: because there's a reason why VA (specification) and Watt (unit) exists.
For example, a 1000VA PSU will work properly for load up to 1000W. However that doesn't mean it can deliver 1000W power for time period of one hour. Watt is time based unit (power per hour).
So what's "actual PSU power" as we (consumers) understand it? What power can 1000VA PSU deliver during 1 hour?
Result has nothing to do with VA specification. The only thing that matters is battery inside PSU, which in this case is usually 12V 9Ah. You notice it's "9Ah" (9A per hour) and so we get 12x9=108W. Means, PSU is capable to deliver 108W power during one hour. That's theoretical power of course -reality is closer to 50-60W (because of voltage conversion losses, etc.).
Now imagine we see PSU having specification of delivering power of 50W -not really appealing, huh?
But! 50W is also 100W for 30 minutes, 200W for 15 min, 400W for 7 min , 800W for 3 minutes... And here story ends, because we become limited by VA specification (and by battery rating).

All above are just approximate values taken for sake of simplicity.
 

carocuore

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Unless you get a really cheap UPS everything will be fine, do try to look for one with a lithium-ion or lead-carbon battery rather than a VRLA or regular lead-acid battery.
The basic MOV surge protection will be enough if your mains power is mostly stable and not a rollercoaster like mine :crazy:
 
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carocuore

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Aside from watching out for battery type, what would consider too cheap?
You know... stuff you can find on sites like Aliexpress or Ebay even for less than $100, go for a known brand like APC, CyberPower, Eaton, Schneider, etc, it'll be more expensive but at least it won't come with the link software written in chinese or poor quality outlets, the batteries on those are pretty bad in general too, I've recycled a few
 
Mar 20, 2021
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You know... stuff you can find on sites like Aliexpress or Ebay even for less than $100, go for a known brand like APC, CyberPower, Eaton, Schneider, etc, it'll be more expensive but at least it won't come with the link software written in chinese or poor quality outlets, the batteries on those are pretty bad in general too, I've recycled a few
Ok, yea have mostly been looking at the APC and CyberPower ones on amazon so sounds like I should be good. Thanks.
 

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