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Black Box Explains…Sizing a UPS

The power delivered by a UPS is usually expressed both in volt-amps (VA) and watts. There’s often confusion about what the difference is between these figures and how to use... more/see it nowthem to select a UPS.

VA is power voltage multiplied by amps. For instance, a device that draws 5 amps of 120-volt power has a VA of 600. Watts is a measure of the actual power used by the device. VA and watts may be the same. The formula for watts is often expressed as:

Watts = Volts x Amps

This formula would lead you to believe that a measurement of VA is equal to watts, and it’s true for DC power. AC power, however, can get complicated. Some AC devices have a VA that’s higher than watts. VA is the power a device seems to be consuming, while watts is the power it actually uses.

This requires an adjustment called a power factor, which is the ratio of watts to VA.

AC Watts = Volts x Amps x Power Factor

Or:

Watts/VA = Power Factor

Simple AC devices, such as light bulbs, typically have a power factor of 100% (which may also be expressed as 1), meaning that watts are equal to VA like they are with DC devices. Computers have had a much lower power factor, traditionally in the 60–70% range. This meant that only part of the power going into the computer was being used to do useful work.

Today, however, because of Energy Star requirements, virtually all computing devices are power factor corrected and have a power factor of more than 90%.

Which brings us around to how to use this information to select a UPS. The capacity of a UPS is defined as both VA and watts. Both should be above the power requirements of the connected equipment.

Because of the computers that had a low power factor, UPSs typically had a VA that was much higher than watts, for instance, 500 VA/300 watts. In this case, if you use the UPS with a power factor corrected device that requires 450 VA/400 watts, the UPS won’t provide enough wattage to support the device.

Although UPSs intended for enterprise use now normally have a high power factor, consumer-grade UPSs still typically have a lower power factor—sometimes even under 60%. When using these UPSs, size them by watts, not VA, to ensure that they can support connected equipment.
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Black Box Explains...Power problems.

Sags
The Threat — A sag is a decline in the voltage level. Also known as “brownouts,” sags are the most common power problem.

The Cause — Sags can be caused... more/see it nowlocally by the start-up demands of electrical devices such as motors, compressors, and elevators. Sags may also happen during periods of high electrical use, such as during a heat wave.

The Effect — Sags are often the cause of “unexplained” computer glitches such as system crashes, frozen keyboards, and data loss. Sags can also reduce the efficiency and lifespan of electrical motors.

Blackouts
The Threat — A blackout is a total loss of power.

The Cause — Blackouts are caused by excessive demand on the power grid, an act of nature such as lightning or an earthquake, or a human accident such as a car hitting a power pole or a backhoe digging in the wrong place.

The Effect — Of course a blackout brings everything to a complete stop. You also lose any unsaved data stored in RAM and may even lose the total contents of your hard drive.

Spikes
The Threat — A spike, also called an impulse, is an instantaneous, dramatic increase in voltage.

The Cause — A spike is usually caused by a nearby lightning strike but may also occur when power is restored after a blackout.

The Effect — A spike can damage or completely destroy electrical components and also cause data loss.

Surges
The Threat — A surge is an increase in voltage lasting at least 1/120 of a second.

The Cause — When high-powered equipment such as an air conditioner is powered off, the excess voltage is dissipated though the power line causing a surge.

The Effect — Surges stress delicate electronic components causing them to wear out before their time.

Noise
The Threat — Electrical noise, more technically called electromagnetic interference (EMI) and radio frequency interference (RFI), interrupts the smooth sine wave expected from electrical power.

The Cause — Noise has many causes including nearby lightning, load switching, industrial equipment, and radio transmitters. It may be intermittent or chronic.

The Effect — Noise introduces errors into programs and data files. collapse


Black Box Explains...Why you should consider a UPS.

Downtime is unacceptable and often costly. But it’s impossible to get 99.9% uptime when you plug your hardware into an AC outlet.

Power problems are the most common cause of network... more/see it nowinterruptions. According to an IBM® study, the average system is hit by 120 power disturbances per month.

Have you ever had to reset the clock on your VCR or seen the lights dim for a moment when the refrigerator kicks on? These are common occurrences that are insignificant at home but can cause a shutdown in your network. Many power disturbances are so short they’re invisible to the human eye, but they can make a router lock up or a switch require rebooting. Power problems are actually more common than you may know. For instance:
• 34% of network downtime is because of bad power (IBM study).
• 99% of power problems are brownouts (low voltage) or blackouts (complete outages). Only a UPS protects against those.
• It takes 90.87 seconds for switches in non redundant networks to recover from power interruptions.
• 45% of all data loss is caused by power problems.

For a small fraction of the cost of your networking hardware, you can purchase a UPS that protects your network from blackouts, brownouts (low voltages), and surges—even lightning strikes!

To prevent power disasters before they happen, more than 70% of servers are protected with a UPS. Network managers know that having a server down brings many operations to a halt. Although the loss of a single hub or router may not bring the entire corporation to a standstill, it can result in zero productivity for entire workgroups or remote offices.

How can you tell if your system is suffering from power problems?

See if some of these symptoms are familiar: damaged hardware, numerous service calls, erratic operation, unexplained problems, unreliable data, system slowdown, damaged software, system lockups, and more.

If you’ve experienced some of these problems, you need a UPS. It will keep power flowing, giving you enough time to shut down safely during a power outage. It will also regulate your power, smoothing out dangerous overvoltages and undervoltages, spikes, surges, and impulses that often go unnoticed. These power anomalies can be caused internally by nearby machinery, fluorescent lights, and elevators, as well as externally from nearby transformer problems, lightning strikes, downed power lines, and more.

Data and equipment losses from power problems are preventable. Eliminate system downtime and increase profitability and productivity with a UPS.

When looking for a UPS, consider these steps:

1. List all the equipment you have that needs protection. Remember to include monitors, terminals, hard drives, external modems, and any other equipment in the critical path of potential power or surge sources.

2. Add up the total amperage ratings of your equipment. This information is probably imprinted on the back of each device.

3. Multiply this total amperage figure by the operating voltage (typically 120 VAC in the U.S.) to obtain your total volt/amp (VA) requirement with a safety margin.

4. Select a UPS with a VA capacity at least as high as the amount in Step 3. To accommodate for future expansion, it’s wise to order a device with an even larger VA rating.

5. If you have questions about which UPS is right for you, contact Tech Support. collapse

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