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What is a UPS, what they protect against, the different types

& choosing the right one?

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What is a UPS?

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A UPS or Uninterruptible power supply is an electrical device thats main purpose is

to provide backup power to a computer or other electrical equipment in case mains
power fails for whatever reason. Batteries contained within the UPS are used to
provide protection from power interruptions by converting the DC (direct current)
energy stored in the batteries to AC (alternating current) mains power instantaneously
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when the need arises.

UPSs differ from auxiliary power systems or generators as these do not provide instant
power fail safes.

The size of a UPS within any given type is usually depicted by its volt-ampere (VA) and
sometimes Watt (W) rating. A volt-ampere (VA) is the unit used for measuring apparent
power in an AC circuit, in DC circuits, true power is measured in watts (W). The higher
the rating, the more power it can provide and the longer the runtime will be
(depending on load levels).

The battery run time for most UPSs is relatively short (approx 10 mins depending on
load) but should be suf cient to either power down the computer safely or give you
time to start up an auxiliary power system such as a generator.

Typical UPS in varying sizes

UPSs can also provide protection against the following power abnormalities in varying
degrees, depending on type. Knowing the different power conditions will give you a
better understanding of how the correct UPS is vital for your electrical equipment.

Blackout: Term also known as a power outage is when there is no power. This is either
due to a fault, natural disaster (storm) or by the electricity provider turning off supply
to do maintenance.

Brownout: Is a term used to describe a voltage drop when the mains supply is not able
to provide the rated power typically for a very short period (under a second). Anything
longer than that is known as Undervoltage.

Brownouts tend to occur during periods of high power usage such as summer or
winter. Many people may be using air conditioners or heaters and this puts a strain on
the mains supply. Drops in voltage can cause burnout for many electrical devices,

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reasons being to compensate for the drop in voltage, the device needs to draws more
current and high current leads to failure in devices not designed for it.

Surge: Term used to describe an increase in voltage that naturally causes an increase
in current or vice versa. External power surges are typically caused by lightning strikes
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but can also occur internally caused when motors startup or shut down. Surges can
also occur after the mains power comes back on after a blackout.

Surges can also travel
over phone or TV cable services. An ADSL modem not properly
protected can also cause damage to a computer if physically connected with an
Ethernet cable.

Other power issues UPSs can correct include line noise (sometimes caused from other
devices on same circuit), harmonic distortion (change in expected AC waveform) or any
other frequency instabilities.

Different UPS types:

There are many different types of UPS and the way they operate but for this article I
will focus on the three major types, standby, line interactive & online.

Standby: This is the most common type and has the most basic features typically used
for personal computers or where low cost is required. During normal operation, the
protected devices are connected to the main power supply and switches over to the
battery if the primary power source fails or alters outside the acceptable range. The
inverter, which is required to convert the DC battery power to AC only starts up when
the power fails, ie standby.

The switchover time from mains to battery can be up 25 milliseconds depending on

the UPS and its circuitry. The UPS then continues to provide power until the mains is
recti ed or the battery goes at.


Low cost
Small size
Simple design


Next to no power conditioning

Slow change over time from mains to battery
Battery charger may shorten battery life
Limited functionality

Block Diagram of a standby UPS

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Line interactive: This type is completely different and is more advanced in comparison
to the standby UPS. It does away with the battery charger, inverter and change over
switch and replaces them with an inverter/converter hybrid device which can both
charge the battery & provide output power. The main advantage of always being
connected to the output is that it can provide extra protection against power issues
and allows for faster response in the event of a power failure. During times when
power is normal, the inverter is operating in reverse which charges the battery. If the
mains power fails, the inverter switches direction.

Line Interactive UPSs also contain whats called an autotransformer. This allows the
UPS to handle undervoltage brownouts and overvoltage surges without consuming
battery power. It instead automatically selects different power taps on the
autotransformer compensating for the increase or decrease in the input voltage to
provide stable output power. This leads to greater reliability and less premature
battery failure.


Low cost
Proper Sine wave output
Better output power regulation
Ef cient
Surge, Brownout & other power conditioning


Load protection is minimal

Change over time still slow for sensitive equipment

Over time protection components can degrade

Block Diagram of a line interactive UPS

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Online: With this type of UPS, power change over switches arent necessary and the
batteries are always connected to the inverter. If the mains power is interrupted, the
batteries keep the output power steady and the recti er is removed from the circuit.
When mains power comes back up, the recti er cuts back in and resumes as normal
providing most of the power and charging of the batteries. Online UPSs main
advantage over standby or line interactive UPSs is that its able to effectively provide
electrical isolation or rewall from the mains power.

Online UPSs are necessary for equipment sensitive to power uctuations and provide
outstanding power protection.


Zero Change over time, ie nonexistent

Constant voltage output
Excellent power conditioning and surge protection
Provides electrical isolation


More expensive
Larger & heavier
Ef ciency is low
Higher heat output
Batteries have to be replaced more often

Which type is right for me?

Now Im sure you have a better understanding of what a UPS is and how the types are
different from one another. Choosing the correct UPS is dependent on the situation
and what equipment its protecting. For a home computer, a standby UPS is ne, for
business use whether it be a workstation or server, a line interactive UPS would be a
better choice. Then for critical equipment, sensitive to power uctuations, an online
UPS would be the one to go for.

Once you have decided which type of UPS you need, next is to determine is the size or
VA rating. Its a good idea to work out what is critical to keep operating & whats not

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then make a rough calculation of the power requirements so a UPS big enough to
supply power to those devices is purchased.

As an example, devices that can or should be connected are:

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Network switch
Other critical devices

Devices that should not be connected include:

Laser printers or scanners

Any other non critical device to save power

Unless the UPS is large enough to handle it, laser printers and scanners should only
be connected to surge protection only outlets (if applicable) due to the high power
draw when they start up. This can overload smaller UPSs and cause damage.

For you need help deciding on a UPS for your system, CKP Computers is here to help
you. Talk to us now for advice and how you can better protect your equipment. Our
number is 0447 619 397 or you can send us an enquiry, either through our contact
page, by Facebook or by email, helpme@ckpcomputers.com.au.

By admin | October 17th, 2016 | Blogs, Solutions, Uncategorized | Comments Off on What is
a UPS, what they protect against, the different types & choosing the right one?

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