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Our UPSs don't work when needed most. Why?

Posted on 2011-10-11
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Last Modified: 2013-12-11

500 points.

We usually purchase APC 750 or 1500 rated UPSs to cover some of our more important PCs.   Some other brands also such as Belkin.    We hook'em up and forget them.  We only hook up the CPU box, not the screen or anything else, and the CPU watts are always under the UPS spec.  These UPS are not very old,  maybe 1 or 2 years.  


Expectation:  Nothing fancy, just cover the brief power hic-ups and short outages of 30 seconds or less, which is what I care about 99% of the time.


Scenario:  City power does go down, say for 10 seconds.

1)  At least a third of our protected PCs immediately lose power because the UPS fails to kick in and actually shuts itself completely off.    

2)  When our City power returns, the  UPS do not come back to life and send power thru to the PC, ie. no automatic restarts.


Questions:  Are the batteries in these USP simply so lousy that they are only reliable for about a 1 year?   Are we really supposed to only use UPSs for 1 year max?  Are my reasonable expectations a pipe dream for these UPS?   Are there any standalone UPS for PCs that actually work when needed most?

Your comments are appreciated.


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Question by:JReam
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by:scriven_j
scriven_j earned 288 total points
ID: 36949229
I've never had any problem with APC USP's.

The batteries do need replacing every few years (and often fail quite quickly after a couple of severe outages), but shouldn't be failing to the extent that you have outlined.

I'd contact APC as the first port of call.
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by:scriven_j
ID: 36949236
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by:andyb1rd
andyb1rd earned 284 total points
ID: 36949716
UPS Batteries do have a life span normally 3 years but they do need a checking most have a button to check the battery thats normally the cheap ones. others have an auto switch to check there battery switch over. the company I would go for is APC they have a battery swop under guarantee plus i would normally go for the 3000
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by:mastoo
mastoo earned 284 total points
ID: 36949864
There's probably more to the power requirement than just CPU, depending on what setup you have.  But if you are plugging multiple servers into these guys based on CPU power you might be overloading the UPS.  You should install the UPS software and look at it.  It runs self-tests and generally shows you loading and battery condition, etc.  All good stuff to see.  And when you first hook them up or when you are convinced everything is working you can initiate a run time calibration that effectively simulates a loss of line power.
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aleghart earned 284 total points
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One thing to consider is from whom did you buy the UPS?  Used equipment, bargain basement, closeout, and other "special" prices indicate batteries that have been neglected.  I've a had a few batteries replaced by APC because I bought them "new" from a retail store that left them in the warehouse for a year without topping off the batteries.  So, the first power outage, the UPS failed and the batteries were useless.

Now, I will only buy from suppliers who turn their inventory quickly.  Direct from APC is OK.  CDW, Amazon (not Amazon sellers), and one or two refurb companies that install fresh batteries.  I stay away from retail sales.
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by:nobus
nobus earned 288 total points
ID: 36954328
>>   We hook'em up and forget them.  <<  Here is the reason WHY : you should test them (and use them) at regular intervals - then you would see the failing ones, and the low battery ones
it is very easy to do  - you can connect another load (if you don't want to use the pc) - or wait till the pc is without activity - then pull the AC plug to the ups at the wall
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by:sifuedition
sifuedition earned 284 total points
ID: 36955596
I believe the above answers are likely the solution. These may not have been properly maintained leading to battery failures.

However, another thing is the type of technology in the alternating current. There is usally small text you may have to dig to find that differentiates the two. One type is sine wave or natural wave. The other is synthetic. A UPS that uses synthetic alternation typically cannot handle the actual listed load. It abruptly switches and can cause failures in the way connected devices detect power. The sine wave is the better version but usually costs more. Ever notice how two of the "same" UPS have different prices? This is usually one of the main reasons. Synthetic can work just fine, this is not necessarily a question of champ vs gimp. With synthetic, I would personally not get just a 750 to cover the needs of say 600-750. Go a little overpowered and it's usually fine.
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by:sifuedition
ID: 36955623
Addition:

The synthetic appears to be commonly called "Stepped". I learned it as synthetic and decided to see if I could find a good article or link about it. Searching "ups synthetic" wasn't very productive. Searching "ups sine wave" found some discussing this topic but what I learned as "synthetic" they seem to be calling "stepped".
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by:sifuedition
ID: 36955646
Hope I'm not being overbearing with these posts, and sorry for the triple post but here is a decent thread discussing what I was talking about:

http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/252532-28-purest-sine-wave-output
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by:footech
footech earned 288 total points
ID: 36960071
One other factor that I will throw out there.  It seems I have observed more problems with UPSes during brief blips in the power (<2 sec) than with complete outages.  Sometimes you can have a PSU that doesn't handle the switch well.  In cases like this, if I unplug the UPS from the wall everything is fine, but if there is a momentary drop on the circuit, the PC reboots.  Replacing the PSU has fixed the problem everytime when this is the case.

The fact that your UPSes do not come back on when power is restored is more troubling.  This is usually automatic unless you have something like a SmartUPS and have configured it not to power on unless the battery is >X% of full charge.  Hope I'm not insulting, but are you sure the battery terminals are actually connected in the UPS?
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by:nobus
ID: 36960450
JReam  -any comment? or feedback ?
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by:JReam
ID: 36986656
Thanks folks for the good replies from everyone.
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