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Old 12-14-2006, 05:02 PM   #1
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Any UPS experts out there?

If so, a few questions:
  1. What kind of inverter do they have? Full sine wave? Modified sine wave?
  2. What kind /voltage batteries do they have?
  3. Would it be possible to charge the batteries directly from a DC source?

Depending on the answers to these questions it might be useful to use a UPS as an 'inverter' for electronics (computers, TV, satellite receiver, DVD, etc.)

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Old 12-14-2006, 05:16 PM   #2
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You've asked some pretty broad questions, and I'l give some general answers, advice like mine is worth what it costs.
There are UPS which are full-time UPS, and there are "backUPS" which provide unprocessed AC until the mains fail.
You can get just about what you want, if price is no object.
It's kind of like a like a tow vehicle, one size does not fit all.
And the sine-wave or modified sine wave output also is a customer-type question.
What sort of load is being protected? (light bulbs have a minimal effect on the operation, except for drawing current but motors have quite an effect)
What is the amount of energy that the UPS is expected to provide?
BEST power systems used to have a good reputation, I would look at their web site.
I'd get with the nearest University and see if one of the professors would mind explaining it all.

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Old 12-14-2006, 05:16 PM   #3
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1. Depends on the quality of the unit. Most use a modified sine wave converter. The label may state what type. But generally, modified sine is fine for most electronics these days.
2. Generally gel cells. They are sealed and more durable. The charging requirements are a little different for gel cells as opposed to flooded led acid batteries so they are not always interchangeable. UPS's usually have a built in trickle charger only to maintain the battery charge as it is expected that the power will be available most of the time.
3. Yes, but why? As stated above, UPS's have a built in trickle charger.

I am not sure what you are looking at doing but I will use an example here. I have a 1500 VA UPS for one of my computers. It is big and heavy. If it were only running a TV and DVD player, it would only run for about 1/2 hour before shutting down. I an not sure that they would make a good alternative for everyday use. They really are designed for temporary short term use, usually just long enough to shut down your gear in any outage longer than a few minutes.
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Old 12-14-2006, 05:18 PM   #4
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UPS designs are for dependable power in business applications, they are not efficient both on no-load and loaded. Typically they are MSW, and most big-box retail store models run off 12V but they are commonly found up to 48VDC. If you have excess power or just want to have a hobby with renewable energy they are fun to play with, large server farm backups usually sell cheaply on eBay because shipping is extremely high from battery weight & vendors don't want to hassle with removing the likely dead batteries before boxing them up. Most standby inverters will switch fast enough that devices won't be affected, I have a $360 12 year-old Trace 2500w marine inverter that does perfect UPS duty...
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Old 12-14-2006, 05:22 PM   #5
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Sorry about that. I just tried to look up BEST power systems... they are out of business. And to think, I've only been retired a year.... sigh
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Old 12-14-2006, 05:44 PM   #6
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I have a Belkin 1200va, 24V batteries. They have a really great monitor that tracks the input and output voltage and frequency. I would use one just for that feature. It will tell you if the campground connection is giving you low voltage.

The problem is the batteries don't last very long. I need to replace the batteries in mine for the second time in four years.
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Old 12-14-2006, 06:31 PM   #7
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If you want my kind of expertise - aka "An Expert is a former drip, now under pressure" here it is.

I run Answer Center a 24/7 answering service and off-site receptionist service and we've got a UPS that will keep about 20 computers, lights and fans going for up to 4 hours after we lose power. It takes 8 batteries that weigh about 70 lbs each. We've been in business for 27 years and our first computers were an Apple 2-C and a Tandy HD-6000 (affectionately known as "the son of the trash-80")... That sucker was so old it actually had an 8.5 inch floppy drive.

Because we answer for medical and hazmat companies, we cannot go down. Interestingly, during Hurricane Isabel we stayed up and functioning while the 911 rooms for both Virginia Beach and Hampton closed! (still snickering... woosies!)

We back up the UPS with a Honda EB-11000 gasoline generator that weighs 405 lbs empty and is 34.5 inches wide on it's wheels - so that we can pull it out through the front door before we start it up. Our generator feeds back into our operations room via a large battery charger and the UPS which takes out any current fluctuations that the Honda doesn't clear itself.

A UPS for your laptop really isn't necessary. Pull the plug and it will go to it's battery without a hitch. For a desktop business model, you've gotta have one or you will go down hard in a power failure. For about anything else that draws current, especially a microwave or a refrigerator I wouldn't even rely on a UPS. The high draw will drain one down VERY fast -in 5 to 10 minutes in fact. And what's the worst that can happen if your popcorn stops popping?

If you want to carry a generator of sufficient size you can restart your microwave or refrig. without trouble or losses.

Most small UPS (uninterruptible power supplies) are designed to protect only critical systems like computers which don't draw much current, presuming you have a flat screen, not an old CRT. The downside to a UPS that a lot of people don't realize is that the battery life is pretty limited, the batteries are expensive and heavy, and if you have them inside you need the gel ones that don't off gas acid fumes.

I've gone into many businesses and found UPS's with batteries that are dust dry and have been dead for years without anyone knowing it. You've got to check your batteries at least once every six months, and you can count on needing new ones every two years. It rarely happens, but if a battery discharges completely it can actually explode. We had a friend in the answering service business who had a "no host weenie roast" at his service when a battery exploded and started a fire in his computer room! He was down for almost 72 hours - and got back up that fast only because his system vendor moved heaven and earth to get him replacement equipment and emergency downloading of data from his fried hard drives.

If you are using a computer for recreation and communication rather than for your business, the worst thing that can happen is that you lose power in the middle of a long e-mail and lose every precious word you've typed. Long e-mail? Who Me?

Data loss is the big bugaboo during a power loss, doing regular backups of your data is probably more important than having a UPS. Also test your backups to make sure they will reload AND keep more than one. We keep seven days rolling PLUS an end-of-month backup that goes back two years.

Even for a home computer have at least one off-site backup. If your house burns and your backup disk sits next to your computer....

Simply backing up to a flash drive, CD or DVD regularly and putting it in your car, or your Airstream, etc is a lifesaver.

Most small under the desk UPS's are really designed to let you do an orderly shutdown in a blackout or get you through a momentary outage.

The most important thing you can do about prolonged power outages is think, plan and practice for them. We do a generator drill once a month. How will we refill the generator if all of the power is out for 10 days and the gas stations don't have working pumps? Well, we do have 100 gallons in gerry cans and we were confident that we could siphon from our cars until someone here told me about the anti-siphon devices in new cars.... so we've now bought some extra cans and may bury a tank in the back yard. I have customers who maintain gas station equipment so maybe they could help us by manually pumping gas up from a station's tanks.

Long and short - space and weight are at a premium in our Airstreams. Carry a generator if you want, but rely on common sense before you just start loading stuff in that doesn't serve any real purpose but takes up that space and weight. How many people lived in their Airstreams for weeks or months after Katrina. How many had the sense to hitch up and head north as it was getting ready to hit?

Paula Ford

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