Power outages can cause big problems for many of us who depend on computers for work, school, business, and finances. We can lose data, miss crucial transactions, and inadvertently walk out of important meetings. They can even damage computer hardware, which can further slow down our progress on our tasks.
As a solution, many people started to buy uninterruptible power supplies, also known as UPS. These devices have proven to be so effective that they have become a staple in many businesses and institutions. But what exactly is a UPS? And how it works? Let’s find out!
What is a UPS?
A UPS or uninterruptible power supply is a device used to maintain power during power disturbances such as power dips and power outages. A UPS essentially acts like a power bank for your computer, but with an automatic transfer switch (ATS) that provides instant power in the event of a power failure.
A UPS is often used in commercial facilities, hospitals, schools, etc., and is becoming more common in homes as many people see the benefits of a UPS.
Benefits of having a UPS
Having a UPS next to your computer is a great way to make sure you can continuously work on your tasks, even when the power fails. In addition to providing power during a blackout, here are some other benefits that make a UPS the best backup power source:
Continuity: Although there are other ways to power your PC during a power outage, a UPS uses a special switch that provides power instantly without your computer noticing the switch between primary and backup power. This prevents your PC from shutting down immediately, allowing you to work continuously without the need to start your computer and load applications.
Data Loss Prevention: A UPS provides uninterrupted power. During a power failure, a UPS provides instant power to your PC and notifies you when backup power is activated. This gives you time to save your data or continue working until the battery dies.
Hardware protection: Depending on the type of UPS you get, you can expect various levels of protection against all kinds of power disturbances. This ensures that your computer’s delicate components will always operate within the electrical tolerances for which they were designed.
How does a UPS work?
A UPS is basically a short-term battery power source with a snap switch that provides instant power. The essential components inside a UPS are a battery, a battery charger, an inverter, and an automatic transfer switch (ATS).
To set up the system, simply connect your computer to the UPS and power the UPS through a convenient or wall outlet.
During normal operation (when power is available), the UPS passively charges its battery through the battery charger while simultaneously powering your computer. When a power outage occurs, the ATS automatically cuts power to the house and switches to backup power from the battery and inverter.
Depending on the type of UPS, there may also be other ways to test your computer’s uninterruptible power.
Common UPS Configurations
There are quite a few power disturbances that can damage your computer or other sensitive electronic devices. These disturbances are classified as line noise interference, undervoltage, overvoltage, power drop, overvoltage, and power outage.
To combat these disturbances, manufacturers have started to develop different types of UPS with varying degrees of protection. These UPS configurations are Offline/Standby UPS, Line Interactive UPS, and Online/Dual Conversion UPS.
To find out which UPS is best suited for your use case, let’s talk about each UPS configuration, its benefits, and how it works. Let’s start with the most common, the offline or standby UPS:
1. UPS offline or standby
An offline or standby UPS is the most common UPS on the market. Protects against power outages with its standard battery charger, battery, ATS and inverter configuration.
While it only provides the most basic protection, its cost effectiveness in preventing data loss and continuous short-term power makes it common among homes. Since this type of UPS only provides minimal protection, you should consider getting a surge protector.
2. Line interactive UPS
Line Interactive UPS provides significantly greater protection by negating the effects of blackouts, surges, brownouts, overvoltages, and undervoltages on your electronic devices. These types of UPS are commonly found in large-scale businesses, but are also becoming popular in ordinary households.
An online interactive UPS is made up of the same components as an offline UPS but with the addition of a buck-boost transformer. This type of transformer compensates appreciable power attenuations before reaching the device or equipment.
3. Online or double conversion UPS
An online or double conversion UPS is reserved for sensitive devices used in mission-critical applications such as medical equipment, online banking systems, and emergency communication equipment. This type of UPS is not for home use, as it is generally large, heavy, and expensive to purchase and maintain.
An online UPS is unique in that it primarily has a full bridge rectifier, battery charger, and inverter. The idea of this UPS is to power devices solely through the batteries installed inside the UPS without direct connection to the mains. Basically, this limits any devices powered by the UPS online, effectively protecting against all power disturbances, including line noise interference.
How does a UPS compare to a PPS?
In addition to UPS, you can go for another popular backup power source known as a Portable Power Station (PPS). A PPS is much like a UPS but without an ATS, which prevents it from providing instant power to your devices. However, a PPS has its own advantages, such as higher wattage power, portability, and significantly larger batteries.
If you are looking for a backup power source for emergencies and weekend glamping trips, then a PPS is a good option to consider. But if you are specifically looking for something to protect your data, work progress, and device hardware from power interruptions, then a UPS should be the best companion for your device.
Although they both provide backup power, the PPS and the UPS are different devices used for different purposes. Since the UPS provides uninterrupted power and a PPS provides longer lasting power, getting both backup systems will always be the best option.
UPS protects your computer 24 hours a day
Uninterruptible power supplies are essential devices that everyone with a desktop computer should have. It not only ensures that you get uninterrupted power, but also protects your devices from harmful power disturbances.
But remember that a UPS is not a PPS, and it needs to be plugged into a wall outlet 24/7 to ensure your PC is protected 24/7. Although it is more expensive, it may also be better to spend more on an online line-interactive UPS than an offline UPS if you are concerned about the longevity of your devices.