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
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.
Black Box Explains...Power problems.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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