Winter energy challenges - UPS for home use?

eightiescalling

Regular Contributor
Deviating a bit from the educational and entertaining thread on turning kit off regularly to save power, I was wondering on another risk with the potential power challenges ahead we have in Europe this winter.

I'm not familiar with plans across the continent but certainly here in the UK there has been discussion on the chances of power outages, fluctuations etc. And to be honest given every country in Europe appears to have the same back up plan of import from their neighbours it's going to be an interesting few months...

Reddit has a certain amount of FUD about corrupted OS', hardware failures etc when power isn't reliable but I wondered on thoughts of those here with more experience on whether a small home UPS would be a worthwhile insurance investment this winter. I'm less worried about keeping things running but certainly the chance for a coordinated shut down of a range of things.

Was anyone else considering home UPS more seriously now and if so any recommendations?
 

ColinTaylor

Part of the Furniture
Bear in mind the type a power interruptions/reductions that might possibly take place. They would be announced well in advance and coordinated. This is not the same as say someone who lives where the power infrastructure is of poor quality (e.g. third world) or a situation where there is an unexpected area wide electrical fault (e.g. local substation is flooded).

Consider also the kind of devices you might want to put on a UPS. If they're low power devices like routers then they will have a switched mode power supply that can cope with a very wide range of mains inputs voltages. So if for example the mains voltage dropped from 240V to 220V, or even 110V it doesn't matter.
 

CaptainSTX

Part of the Furniture
As a another option look at what they market as a solar generators. What these devices actually are is an inverter with a built in deep cycle battery. While it can be charged using solar panels they also can be charged using line voltage from the mains or from your automobile.

I have a model EB3A made by Bluetti. It can provide up to 600 watts of purse sine wave power from the 12 ah battery and is rated to deliver 268 watt hours before needing recharging. It has a built in UPS function. While the Bluetti has very quick switching not all solar generators with a UPS function do.

My network equipment draws 74w. The Tripp Lite UPS I have rated for 325 watts with a 4 ah battery can only run my network for 20 minutes. It has a lead acid battery which really isn't designed for deep cycling. The Bluetti has a LifePO4 battery rated for 2,500 charge cycles and can run my network for approximately 3 1/2 hours.
 

OzarkEdge

Part of the Furniture
Reddit has a certain amount of FUD about corrupted OS', hardware failures etc when power isn't reliable but I wondered on thoughts of those here with more experience on whether a small home UPS would be a worthwhile insurance investment this winter. I'm less worried about keeping things running but certainly the chance for a coordinated shut down of a range of things.

Was anyone else considering home UPS more seriously now and if so any recommendations?

The case for using a UPS is not new and is recommended wherever you want to protect sensitive hardware and data from the negative affects of bad/no power of short duration until it passes or until you can execute a controlled shutdown.

There are many considerations for selecting and using a UPS that varying with the scope of the application, from point-of-use battery backup to whole home backup power generation (which may not respond fast enough).

I venture to suggest that the typical home is best served by deploying a few modestly sized battery backup UPSs to protect the few most critical loads like the network, desktop computers and data storage, VoIP phones, media center equipment, and any other critical devices like home medical equipment. Let miscellaneous peripherals, printers, etc. and regular appliances fend for themselves.

Limit the application to the minimum run-time required for the given load to survive power events of short duration and/or to execute a controlled manual or automated shutdown... to limit the cost of ownership/size/weight/deployability.

Try to standardize on one battery size to simplify battery replacement/spares... lead-acid batteries die every 3-5 years and a UPS will die suddenly/eventually and leave its still-good-battery on your spares shelf.

For me, this has been a UPS with a 9 amp-hour battery (~750VA for 20 minutes) for most applications; if a larger load (media center equipment) requires a larger UPS/battery, I size up to a UPS that uses two of the same standard battery size.

Co-locating certain loads can help to minimize the number of UPSs required and simplify their deployment.

OE
 
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elorimer

Very Senior Member
For routers, switches and laptops rolling brownouts and rolling blackouts aren't much of an issue, I think. I would venture that is what Europe might face. I'd start with medical equipment for runtime.

The story is completely different for long term outages like a hurricane.
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture
You turning off the power to your devices is much different from the power company turning off their supply.

The surges and brownouts that will be present on the wires (even for a few milliseconds each time) will pulverize your electronics, over time.

What I would do in Europe today is power off all my equipment, unplug them from the wall AC outlets, and turn off the main site breaker too, when you know the power is going to fluctuate, or otherwise be variable. Even if I had a UPS on each one.

A UPS is still (always) suggested for electronics (even over an extended warranty, if the choice is one or the other). Because what it catches is variable power that is not scheduled (or we can't be there to prepare for it then).

A warranty doesn't do much good when you need to get online at 2 AM, 7 PM, etc., for whatever reason.

And leaving devices plugged in over an entire winter of the power company turning grids on/off is sure to kill countless devices in the next few months. Or at best, make them much less reliable when all is said and done.
 

eightiescalling

Regular Contributor
Thanks for the feedback everyone.

@L&LD Has hit the nail on the head with the reason for my question. For me, this is about preventing a foreseeable/reasonable chance cost - whether that be $$$ or time. (Or likely both in this case.) I'm not really bothered about everything running for 20 minutes - just additional protection on the quality of power and a chance to catch a power outage and work through a rapid controlled shutdown rather than have data corruptions and hardware replacement parts (not to mention the sanity of a peaceful family - my kids go feral at the thought on-demand streaming services might not be available!).

Good feedback from @OzarkEdge on aligning UPS models/battery types - obvious when stated but easily missed in a home environment.

Chances are I'm looking at about 150W or so reasonable peak of power covering router, switch, NAS and a small RPi cluster. The "NAS" being a DIY running on old hardware (it does double duty as a desktop machine) would be the real pain if that suffered as I'd be looking at a minimum Mobo, memory and CPU in one go.

So, the other question - any brands recommended or to be avoided?
 

BreakingDad

Very Senior Member
The op must be up North. Only power outages I've known were in the 70's and during a couple of storms.

Cards over candle light, No Internet, happy days.
 

OzarkEdge

Part of the Furniture
A UPS is for all power events, whether they are scheduled/foreseeable or not. You could run around and unplug UPSs for scheduled power events, but since they are designed for bad/no power events, I would say doing so is a waste of your time. Instead, just shutdown the loads for schedules power events and turn OFF the UPS... when you can... most of the time you won't know it's going to happen... that's why you have a UPS in the first place.

So, the other question - any brands recommended or to be avoided?

I'm avoiding APC these days and trying CyberPower. I have no idea what you can source in your area... demand may be high.

An APC unit I have that works well is the APC Back-UPS Pro BX850M. This was a warranty replacement/upgrade for a lesser model (of the same battery size) that died prematurely... two died on me and one died elsewhere... defective parts, imo. Holds up two desktops, network modem/router/switch, VoIP ATAs/phones... for long enough.
APC Back-UPS 850, Compact Tower, 850VA, 120V, AVR, LCD, 8 NEMA outlets (4 surge) - BX850M | APC USA

A recent CyberPower purchase was the CyberPower PFC Sinewave 1500VA UPS CP1500PFCLCDa for a media center with too many powerful gaming devices. The 'a' version was worth sourcing at the time, but I forget why. Uses two of the same size battery as the APC, ganged together... you can source the individual batteries and reuse the ganging device.
CP1500PFCLCD - PFC Sinewave UPS Series - Product Details, Specs, Downloads | CyberPower (cyberpowersystems.com)

Been using these batteries... haven't serviced the remote CyberPower UPS yet, but it was intended to use two of the same battery.
AP-1290 - Amstron 12V / 9Ah Sealed Lead Acid Battery w/ F2 Terminal (atbatt.com)

(I currently have 4 spare batteries on the shelf including one at a remote site.. the APC RMAs were shipped back without their batteries!)

Whatever you get, being able to disable the on-battery alarm is a useful feature; otherwise, they get annoying while the power is out and you are trying to think what needs to be done about it.

OE
 
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eightiescalling

Regular Contributor
The op must be up North. Only power outages I've known were in the 70's and during a couple of storms.

Cards over candle light, No Internet, happy days.
Well that's a first - growing up pretty much able to see the Isle of Wight, being up North is something I've never been accused of before! Not knowing what proper up North is - that's a different question ;).

@OzarkEdge Thanks for the suggestions - I've seen a few good reviews about CyberPower devices. On the surface their PowerPanel software looks interesting particularly for my setup here - I wonder if it lives up to its hype though... (The other benefit of disabling the on-battery alarm is not having the wife angry when it wakes her up at 2 in the morning as the UPS will be in the next room... :) )
 

elorimer

Very Senior Member
The surges and brownouts that will be present on the wires (even for a few milliseconds each time) will pulverize your electronics, over time.
But these things are on wall warts that are designed for 120-240 power to begin with.
 

elorimer

Very Senior Member
The "NAS" being a DIY running on old hardware (it does double duty as a desktop machine) would be the real pain if that suffered as I'd be looking at a minimum Mobo, memory and CPU in one go.
You might set that to shut down immediately. I just cobbled together a TrueNAS server out of older hardware, in this case an AMD Phenom II, and to my astonishment it was drawing 175 watts. A 450VA UPS will last that about 5 minutes. Without it you might get 40 minutes.
 

eightiescalling

Regular Contributor
You might set that to shut down immediately. I just cobbled together a TrueNAS server out of older hardware, in this case an AMD Phenom II, and to my astonishment it was drawing 175 watts. A 450VA UPS will last that about 5 minutes. Without it you might get 40 minutes.
It tends to run at between 70 and 80 watts although obviously can spike higher. A fair amount of it's setup (or at least tinkering over the years) has been specifically around reduced power usage - more down to that meaning reduced heat which in turns reduces the need for noisey fans given the case it's crammed in to.

The RPi cluster I mentioned above (which tends to run at about 20W with it's standalone 8 port network switch taking nearly half of that) was put together as a combination of tinkering, learning a bit about containers and being able to leave the NAS asleep when not in use (at least until it sprawled in to a steadily growing bundle of stuff - it never ceases to amaze me how much those things can do). In hindsight, given I had some of the Pis already, that alone has saved the electric bill and already paid for itself as everything in the house basically considers the NAS on 24/7 but in reality it's powered up for less than 20% of the time it used to be.

The remaining 50W I mentioned above is a rough guess split between an AC88U and 24 port switch.
 

L&LD

Part of the Furniture
But these things are on wall warts that are designed for 120-240 power to begin with.

I don't believe these are continuous 120V-240V supplies. In any case, when the brownouts are 80V-180V, the probability of problems increases (this is passed onto the device, after all).

For example, if the PS' output is rated at 19V @ 3A and it is connected to the load with <14V, it can still only supply (reliably) 3A, hence where issues begin.
 

BreakingDad

Very Senior Member
Well that's a first - growing up pretty much able to see the Isle of Wight, being up North is something I've never been accused of before! Not knowing what proper up North is - that's a different question ;).

Forgive me, anything above Watford I believe. I was being a little faceitious tbh.

Go Pompey !
 

elorimer

Very Senior Member
I don't believe these are continuous 120V-240V supplies. In any case, when the brownouts are 80V-180V, the probability of problems increases (this is passed onto the device, after all).
I thought switching power supplies produced stable output across the input specs. If the mains in the UK are browned out to 180v, the wall wart is still going to produce 19v 3A. If they are browned out to 80v, then I think it just shuts off the output. No?
 

ColinTaylor

Part of the Furniture
I thought switching power supplies produced stable output across the input specs. If the mains in the UK are browned out to 180v, the wall wart is still going to produce 19v 3A.
Correct. I did a quick check of various power adapters in the room (two routers, a nuc, a laptop, various chargers, etc.) and all but one have an input voltage range of 100 to 240 volts. The only device that was different was an electric toothbrush charger that operates between 220 and 240 volts.

I can't remember seeing any devices (TVs, washing machines, etc.) made in the last 30+ years that didn't work at 220 volts. But again, things like TV's contain switched mode power supplies so reducing the input voltage doesn't actually do anything there.

If they are browned out to 80v ...
As I alluded to in post #2 that's not really a situation that would arise with respect to the OP's question.

I asked my wife whether there was a realistic chance of "the lights going out" due to gas supply issues. (No, seriously. Up until a few years ago she spent her entire career in the UK energy supply business. It was literally her job to know about these kind of scenarios.) The TLDR was that it was extremely unlikely it would get to a point where supply was cut off. If such a situation did start to arise the National Grid would arrange for heavy industry to reduce their demand rather than impact domestic consumers.
 
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sfx2000

Part of the Furniture
The case for using a UPS is not new and is recommended wherever you want to protect sensitive hardware and data from the negative affects of bad/no power of short duration until it passes or until you can execute a controlled shutdown.

OpenWRT has NUT support, if that helps... my APC UPS also supports it.


My NAS and MacMini support this... so we can do a controlled shutdown rather than a hard cord pull...

At risk is the modem itself (SB8200) and the main router - the main router has a read-only FS partition, so I might lose some logging info, but it's hardened against a hard powerdown...

My previous main router was pfSense, and hard power pulls there are a known issue with older releases - there, ZFS does help with robustness/reliability...
 

thecheapseats

Senior Member
I thought switching power supplies produced stable output across the input specs. If the mains in the UK are browned out to 180v, the wall wart is still going to produce 19v 3A. If they are browned out to 80v, then I think it just shuts off the output. No?
Exactly - a simple test with a Variac will confirm this... DC voltage and amperage are constant until the upper or lower limits of the AC to DC xfmr are reached...

line interactive UPS device's added benefits of bucking fluctuating AC power - while offline UPS protect devices from absolute power interruptions and small surges (with varistors) during critical stuff like disk writes are the real benefit - supplying uptime until an automated or manual shutdown can be executed... any power conditioning is an added benfit...

At risk is the modem itself (SB8200) and the main router - the main router has a read-only FS partition, so I might lose some logging info, but it's hardened against a hard powerdown...

My previous main router was pfSense, and hard power pulls there are a known issue with older releases - there, ZFS does help with robustness/reliability...
modems and routers that can't be put into power state S5 are the sacrificial devices... and yes - that ZFS add to pfsense was beneficial...
 
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