Those of you who’re plugging your computers and peripheral equipment directly into a wall receptacle or a power strip (even one with surge protection)…you know who you are…need to read my next sentence very carefully and take heed. Small, offline standby uninterruptible power supply systems (UPS) are, in my opinion, a mandatory part of your computing environment. They will protect your computer against power surges and drops as well as power failures and allow you to have time to shut down your computer in an orderly manner rather than have it crash when the power is lost. Why should you care about your house power abnormalities? The electronics (circuit boards, processors) are extremely sensitive to power fluctuations, and at best will fatigue and wear out sooner, or at worst will fail immediately. If your disk drive happens to be writing or reading at that split second when power is lost, it could cause physical damage to the heads and disk. By the way, you can and should use a UPS to protect that expensive wide-screen TV you’re so proud of. It has circuit boards and other electronics that are also problematic with “dirty” power or a power loss much like your PC.
These devices are the size of a shoe box or a PC mini-tower and contain a battery, an AC/DC inverter, surge protector, and power receptacles. You can expect to spend from US$59 to $150, depending on how much protection, in terms of watts consumed, that you require. For example, a good unit that sells for $59 will backup equipment that consumes 300-350 watts of power and allow you to run on battery power for 15-20 minutes after the house power fails. However, these UPS systems range to over 1,000 watts of power capacity.
How much wattage capacity do you need? That depends on how much equipment you want to protect and how much wattage each consumes. You can find the wattage consumed for each piece of equipment (PC, printer, display, etc.) on its specification plate or owner’s manual. Then add up all the wattage requirements before you go shopping. Most of the good UPS systems allow you to use a set of receptacles for battery backup and another set for surge protection only. This can save you money if, for example, you don’t require battery backup for some of your devices, by allowing you to purchase a unit with lower capacity and therefore lower price.
UPS systems work by providing “clean” power to your equipment during periods that you have power in your home by using surge protection electronics. Then, when you lose power, the UPS system converts to battery power to provide electricity for your equipment. This will give you time to power down your devices in order to avoid damage. Some of the best UPS systems will monitor the battery status during a power failure and power down your devices for you. A good UPS system will protect your investment in your computer equipment…what’s not to like?
If I haven’t convinced you of the value of UPS systems yet, let me refer you to sentence two above. 😉
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Remember, home computing is a blast…keep it productive and enjoyable.