Do UPS / Battery companies actually make good on their Connected Equipment Warranty?

Posted on 2009-02-19
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2013-12-11
We've all seen the guarantees they place on their equipment.  They state that, if properly installed, their UPS / surge protector will protect the attached equipment or the manufacturer will reimburse up to some massive amount (mine unit claims $200,000).

I am suspicious of this.  I haven't found any cases of a company fulfilling this promise.  I did find one story whereby an IT admin claimed his equipment was fried while using APT UPSes.  He tried repeatedly to file a claim with them, and they refused all contact.

Can anyone around here shed some light on the topic?  Thanks.
Question by:fuze44
LVL 70

Accepted Solution

garycase earned 400 total points
ID: 23686154
Absolutely.  I have a friend who's house suffered a direct hit by lightning and "fried" two Belkin UPS units and did a small amount of damage to one of the connected computers [It was actually amazing how well the UPS's protected the PC's -- one was completely okay; the 2nd only fried the NIC.]

Belkin replaced both UPS units and paid for a new NIC with no questions asked.   They did ask for the "fried" UPS units back to examine them -- but send prepaid boxes for the return shipment ... so the cost to my friend was zero [at least for the UPS/computer gear :-) ].

Not sure what the issue was with the APC unit you referred to; but I'm surprised they wouldn't honor a claim -- they have an excellent reputation.
LVL 36

Assisted Solution

by:Gary Patterson
Gary Patterson earned 400 total points
ID: 23688137
In my experience, the reputable companies, like APC, Belkin, Tripp-Lite, etc., will honor their "Equipment Protection Plans", but they may hold you very strictly to the rules, especially if the dollar amoun adds up.  Small claims to little to fight get paid.  Big claims probably get looked at pretty hard.  I've never known anyone to make a claim over a few hundred bucks, so it is hard to judge fairly.

This means that you need to register the product when you get it.  You may need to register the devices plugged in (APC requires this), you also need to make sure that you have protected every path to your equipment protective equipment manufactured by the same company (otherwise you risk a finger-pointig exercise).  For example, if you have a PC that is connected to power, a monitor, a printer, a USB hub, a cable moden and a phone line, every piece of connected equipment needs to be protected, AND the phone and cable lines need to be protected.

APC (I'm not picking on them, I just use them a lot so I've read the policy), for example, may also requires that the phone and cable wiring meet certain standards, including proper protection at the point of entry and grounding.

Also, be aware that that laptop that you paid $3,000 two years ago is going to be heavily depreciated, and you'll only get the present cash value: maybe $1,000.

Finally, be aware that these policies are full of "in our sole discretion" language that means the vendor gets to use their judgement, and their judgement only, when there is a question or decision that gets made.  You don't get a say.

APC's US policy:  http://www.apc.com/support/service/equipment_protection_policy.cfm

My advice:

  1. Check out the company with the BBB or your local variation.  If they are a big company and don't honor a policy, you'll see complaints.
  2. Read and understand the policy carefully before you buy.  It isn't as good as it sounds from "$150K Lifetime Equipment Protection Policy"
  3. Carefully comply with the requirements, and document compliance.  Have a licensed electrician certify the building ground, etc., if you are talking about a lot of equipment.
  4. Carefully follow the proper procedures when making a claim.
  5. Don't rely on a policy as full of conditions and wiggle-room as this to protect you from catastriphic loss.  If you can't afford to replace it, buys some real insurance.  Anyway, these policies ony protect against one very specific threat - transient AC voltage events.  If you get a fire, water damage, theft, vandalism, wind damage, whatever, these Equpment Protection Policies won't help you.
- Gary Patterson
LVL 23

Assisted Solution

Mysidia earned 800 total points
ID: 23701438
They will make good on the agreement.  APC is especially known as honoring the agreement.

If the equipment damaged is inexpensive to replace or fix, they will generally make it very easy to get the replacement, as it is least expensive for them to do so.

If the damage is extensive, however,  they will investigate thoroughly.    At the very least, they will require the damaged UPS returned to them in all cases.

If you incurred say $10,000 in equipment damage, you can bet it's worth their while to find some technicality to allow you to say "you didn't register for the guarantee correctly"  or  "you didn't set it up properly, so it's not covered", or some other fine-print item excludes your setup from the guarantee, for the type of damage that they'll claim occured.

For example, if you plugged the UPS into a power strip, or plugged a power strip in the UPS,  they could exclude you, since there's no recommendation in both the UPS and  power strip manual that says you should ever do that.

There _is_ a guarantee, but the guarantee is only useful to you when all the conditions of the guarantee are satisfied.

Make sure to read the fine print.
Generally you will have to register the UPS.

Make sure you file all the rules, when they say "properly" installed, any minor deviation from their recommendations as stated in the documentation may disqualify you.

After properly installing the UPS, when initially setting it up, you should take pictures of the entire setup, and retain them as evidence,  to show you connected it correctly.

Things like the "site wiring fault" LED on an UPS  should not be illuminated, while the UPS is up and running, and you should capture that.

If there is damage, you should take pictures after the damage, and retain them as evidence,  of how things were connected when the problem occured.

Preferably, you capture any burn marks visible on the outside, that would indicate very clearly  the source of any surges.

Preferably, you would also have provable circuit protection on any other wires or conductors anywhere near your equipment.

Make sure all needed protections are in place to prevent your equipment from being damaged by lighting or electric surge events that don't come in on a power line, and be able to prove it.

For example, it would be a bad idea to place your PC by a window, where they could claim a nearby lightning strike possibly entered the case through the metal conductor on the window

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LVL 51

Assisted Solution

by:Mark Wills
Mark Wills earned 400 total points
ID: 23702903
Well, I bought a truck load on the premise that they must be really confident of their product to offer outrageous compensation. So I for one am very disappointed to hear that they have paid out, not because they are honoring their contract, but the blastard things still break.

The all important rule is to read the fine print. See what you are really covered for and what conditions they will provide cover and then adhere to their requirement and or recommendations, and or exclusions.

If you buy power conditioning or power protection, then it has to be fit for purpose anyway, and by offerring that type of insureance then in reality they can be limiting their commercial liability. So, really it is in their best interest in hornouring relatively small amounts ($200k is not a huge insurance policy really).

The big names are all worthwhile, but honestly, think of what you need to really protect against surges. It has to be extremely smart, or sacrificial. If the latter then all you do is end up buying another one. If buying the smart ones, then they can cost a lot of money.

Now, as for your friend, there must be more to it... They have and do pay up. Bugger. Can no one actually protect against electricity ?

LVL 23

Assisted Solution

Mysidia earned 800 total points
ID: 23705742
They do protect against electricity, but the technology available at a reasonable price for consumers is very limited.   There are a few factors that allow things to still break, however, especially on the small scale. Your typical standby UPS is concentrated on providing protection against power outages.  Surges are protected against using MOVs.   The technology itself has certain limitations.

MOVs can properly deal with most overvoltages lasting a fraction of a second, like a brief surge, your average lightning strike, but a sustained overvoltage like a fault in the power system, can cause MOVs to release so much heat the MOV and UPS actually catches fire.

Many catastrophic fires have been caused by UPSes.
Some protection against this is provided by proper design and a fuse or circuit breaker or safety fuse on the UPS.

Also, complete failure may not result -- the lifetime of the MOV may be reduced, and its effectiveness degraded by a surge event,   the MOV can explode during a surge event, leaving the circuit connected.

There is no indication to the user that something has gone wrong, the UPS or power strip still works, but  behind the scenes: there is no surge protection, because the MOVs aren't functioning.

The only protection against this is really to detect whenever a surge has occured, and somehow check the health of your equipment, or proactively replace it.


Author Closing Comment

ID: 31548977
Thank you!

Author Comment

ID: 23913933
Thanks to everyone for a great discussion.  Your answers were excellent.

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