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12 Advantages of Uninterruptible Power Supply

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What is UPS (also called – Uninterruptible Power Supply)? By definition, it is the eco-friendly (battery-based) backup power supply unit that provides your home or business with electricity during power outages or an unacceptable level of voltage drop.
So, what are the advantages of implementing a UPS power supply? Here are some reasons why Uninterruptible Power Supply is a very useful device to have:
  1. Protection from power surges.
  2. Protection from blackouts.
  3. Protection from brownouts.
  4. Consistent protection for your equipment.
  5. Almost instant power backup during a blackout.
  6. UPS could be used with a generator.
  7. UPS could be used with SMPS (Switch-Mode Power Supply).
  8. Backup emergency lighting compliance.
  9. Data protection.
  10. Equipment protection.
  11. Production process protection.
  12. Peace of mind.

Now, let’s dive into the details:

1. Protection from power surges

UPS consistently stabilizes the electrical current that is going to your equipment. It is especially valuable for computers and electronics, which are very sensitive to electricity fluctuations.

2. Protection from blackouts

Imagine the frustration you would feel if there would be no way to finish an important transaction due to power failure? If your wifi and comps are going down while the exchange of money is taking place (for example), your customer will be in rage!

And it’s understandable! High-quality service demands high-quality equipment and that’s what people are expecting from you. UPS backup system will give you enough power to complete a transaction like this and (depending on its size) will let you keep your power up until the main source of energy is restored or the backup generator kicks in.

3. Protection from brownouts

Brownout is a voltage reduction or a drop in a power supply. Sometimes they last few minutes, sometimes hours. Brownouts are caused by power a grid overload due to high electricity demand or bad weather.

You will notice a brownout by dimming or flickering lights and your electronic equipment will start malfunctioning or shutting off. Probably it is a good idea to be protected from something like that since the equipment damage could end up being catastrophic.

4. Consistent protection for your equipment

All kinds of things can happen to the electrical power that your sensitive equipment (like computers and other electronics) is receiving. Electrical fluctuations can damage it or worse, something gets blown up and cause a fire.

UPS will give you a steady, clean, and even power by filtering the following problems out:

  • Electrical line noise. This is an electromagnetic interference that is caused by high energy-consuming equipment or Radio Frequency Interference (RFI).
  • Harmonic Distortion. If your UPS is transformer-based with a 6-pulse rectifier, it should generate quite a low THD or Total Harmonic Distortion level. Usually, caused by unequal loads.
  • Spikes in power. Short-time voltage increases that could be caused by natural interferences like lighting or any other power problems.
  • Power surges. Short-term increases in voltage typically last longer than a spike. Usually happens when high-power electrical devices are being turned on.
  • Power sags (or dips). Short duration voltage drops, that could be caused by a short circuit or heavy loads being turned off. It can be compared to brownouts, but only lasting for a short period of time (few seconds to 1 min).
  • Power restoration spikes. Abnormal levels of dips and spikes happen when the power is being restored. UPS will smooth all the spikes out by refining and filtering them.

5. Almost instant power backup during a blackout

An uninterruptible power supply (or UPS) will quickly switch to batteries and restore the power that your equipment requires if there is a power failure. This gives you an opportunity to save your data safely or keep on working (if your UPS system is large enough).

Depending on the system, the transition time could be from a few milliseconds to an instant (online version).

6. UPS could be used with a generator

The generator by itself will not power your equipment fast enough in order not to lose precious information that you or your workers were just typing in. Generator in conjunction with the UPS system will help you avoid a power failure gap that will make your computers restart or create any production failure and waste.

As the generator takes its time to start working, UPS will make this transition seamless and safe. Here is an interesting article about UPS vs Generator.

7. UPS could be used with SMPS (Switch-Mode Power Supply)

Alternating current (AC) power will need to be converted into DC (Direct Current) as it gets to your sensitive loads like a server (for example), which requires a stable and efficient power supply. This type of electronic circuit uses switching devices (that turn on and off at high frequencies) to filter out different electrical distortions and turn your alternating current (AC) into direct current (DC).

After that, the energy is collected in the capacitor (electrical energy storage device) and this particular setup will cover even the slightest power distortion problem.

8. Backup emergency lighting compliance

UPS backup system will help you comply with this particular segment as it provides an uninterrupted power supply to your emergency lighting as required by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

9. Data protection

When servers are downloading or uploading something and there is a sudden irruption of power, your data will be lost forever. The same applies to the instability of electric current.

Sudden changes may cause your equipment to reboot or overheat! It is the job of the UPS system to keep your critical equipment safe from surges and keep it running in the event of power failure. This will give you an opportunity to save files and shut down your computers in a proper manner if needed.

10. Equipment protection

Utility AC current is never ideal and needs to be converted several times in order to get all the fluctuations out of the way before it gets to your equipment. Having a reliable alternating power source like UPS will keep your equipment from malfunctioning during power outages and from wearing out prematurely at all other times by smoothing out spikes and surges in electricity.

11. Production process protection

If you want to make sure that your equipment is working when needed and will not come to a halt at the most inconvenient moment, you will need a UPS power supply. A lot of things can go wrong if your production suddenly stops and your equipment is not ready to handle it.

A good, seamless transition from UPS to the generator may be required to avoid unnecessary waste and downtime.

12. Peace of mind

Lastly, since most of us don’t live in a forest and a lot of our equipment requires a power supply, if it is protected, we will sleep better 😊.

If you are still not sure if using UPS is right for you, there are clear indications that simply relying on your power supply from utilities or backup generator (without any UPS or inverter filter) could end up costing you more money in the future due to possible equipment damage and lost customers (if your service fails time and time again).

A reliable and steady power supply is usually important to most businesses, especially if you are dealing with delicate and more sensitive equipment, like electronics. It is also a requirement for your emergency lights to have qualified UPS backup power (see Lighting UPS power supply article).

Types of UPS systems and their advantages

There are three types of UPS systems that are designed to give you backup power in case of power failure or a blackout. Basically, what they do is that they act as a buffer between the utility power supply and your electrical equipment, providing power from batteries when needed.

As power passes through UPS and then to your computer (for example), it is checked upon and filtered before it gets to it and if the power failure is detected, the inverter (inside your UPS) will use batteries as the source of energy for power.

The main difference between these 3 types of UPS systems is how fast they can be turned on and how much protection they give you from electricity fluctuations.

1. Offline (or standby) UPS

This is the most basic UPS that is designed to protect you from one problem – power outage. During brownout (or under voltage) it will switch to batteries as well, but when batteries die out, there will be no more protection. Some UPS systems do provide basic protection from electrical fluctuations that is equivalent to what you get from regular surge protectors (check with the manufacturer).

It is commonly used for consumer electrical equipment and is the cheapest version out of three.

2. Line-interactive UPS

This type of UPS system conditions and regulates AC power by removing spikes and surges that could damage your equipment. It also has the ability to recharge your batteries in standby mode, thus making sure that they are always ready to take on a load.

Line-interactive UPSs are generally used to power small-size commercial electronics, small to medium size networking equipment, and servers.

3. Online UPS (or double-conversion UPS)

If your business is located in an area with unstable power infrastructure, you may consider using an online UPS system. Upon encountering frequent large voltage fluctuations, line-interactive UPS may switch into a battery mode several times a day and may have trouble recharging a battery on time for the next outage. Online UPS systems don’t have this problem.

Advantages of standby UPS systems

There are two types of standby systems: “offline or standby” and “line-interactive“. The difference between the two systems is in the power protection that they provide.

Off-line UPS usually does not offer any power protection (check with manufacturer), while line-interactive UPS offers protection against surges, spikes, over-voltages, and under-voltages.

These standby systems (just like the name states) are in standby mode and will only be activated when power failure is detected. The difference between standby and online UPS systems is that it takes practically no time for the online unit to start powering your equipment, while standby units require some time to activate their components.

Even though switching from standby to active mode is not instant, it is really measured only in milliseconds. There is a chance that your equipment may not even detect this change, especially if you are using SMPS (Switch-Mode Power Supply) that keeps its output for 10-18 milliseconds after original power loss.

Offline UPS

This is a very basic power protection system that is generally used with consumer electronics (like computers, printers, scanners). Advantages of offline UPS are:

    • The cost. This is the cheapest unit out of three.
    • It consumes less energy than an online version since it is in standby mode most of the time.
    • Simple in handling and fewer components to deal with (three times less than an online version).
    • Could come with limited surge protection (check with manufacturer).

!!! There is usually no surge protection involved and all electrical distortions will pass right through to your equipment.

Line-interactive UPS

This type of UPS system is the most efficient and complete power protection solution that many IT companies rely on. Line-interactive UPS is also known for not altering the current wave shape, which means it will not interfere with PFC (or power factor correction).

Here are some benefits of using a line-interactive UPS system:

  • The cost is reasonable (less than the online version, but more than the offline version).
  • It has a lower component count (just like the offline unit), which adds to its reliability.
  • The temperature of components is kept low due to them not being used all the time (unlike in an online UPS system), which adds to their longevity.
  • Produces less heat and energy loss (that needs to be removed by A/C or some other cooling system) than an online version.
  • Protects your equipment from spikes and surges that come directly from the utility even in a standby mode.
  • Small power is allocated for batteries to be charged all the time in order to be ready for their next application.
  • Since line-interactive UPS is in standby mode most of the time, that makes it more power-efficient than an online version. If your place requires many backup systems, just that could save you quite a bit in energy bills.
  • If you are planning to use SMPS (Switch-Mode Power Supply) with your UPS unit, you will not need a tightly regulated AC output (like online UPS systems offer) since SMPS will be able to provide it itself.

!!!This type of UPS power supply is not suitable for areas with a lot of AC power distortion (in developing countries, as an example) because the unit will keep on turning to batteries all the time and will wear them out more quickly.

Advantages of the online UPS system

As the name suggests, the online (or double-conversion) UPS power supply converts power twice (AC to DC and DC to AC) and stays always on. It also provides PFC (Power Factor Correction) within its rectifier module.

As AC power gets drawn from the utility along with its spikes and distortions, a rectifier converts it into DC power along with reducing high-frequency harmonics. After that DC voltage will be stabilized and stored by a capacitor in a way similar to SMPS (Switch-Mode Power Supply).

After that DC power will be converted back to AC, but it could be of a different frequency than the initial AC input. This option is not available with a line-interactive UPS.

Some online UPS benefits include (but are not limited to):

  • Instant backup power when needed (no delay).
  • Provides a tightly regulated output voltage (which is not necessary if you are planning to use SMPS, see picture below).
  • Power Factor Correction (PFC) is included.
  • Filters electrical inconsistencies like spikes and surges.
  • Upon encountering highly distorted input voltage, unlike line-interactive UPS, it will not turn to batteries very often to fix it.
  • Includes a bypass circuit as a backup for double-conversion circuits, which is also being used during extended overload time.
  • If compared to line-interactive UPS (with similar power capacity), online UPS is more compact and smaller in size. The reason for this is that its components are smaller, which makes it also light in weight.

!!! There is a transition time between the bypass circuit and the inverter operations. Even though your power will drop for just a few milliseconds, your sensitive equipment may still require SMPS (or Switch-Mode Power Supply) to handle this transition.

** All pictures were taken from the following white paper: “Technical Comparison of On-line vs. Line-interactive UPS designs” by Jeffrey Samstad  (reading it is highly recommended).


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