Another reason for having a good UPS unit


(Tina Garfield) #1

Since my days living off grid where power could suddenly fail, I have kept all computers, TVs, electronics connected to APC BackUPS units. I have preferred APC units over other makers, not sure why, other than that they are what I started with. The other day, an APC unit was a life-saver, literally, when another brand might not have been. Why? The APC units have “building wiring fault” indicators.

In my office, I have several floor-to-ceiling heavy cabinets. Behind those cabinets is an electric outlet that has never been used since we moved here 5-plus years ago. My computer and peripherals are connected via APC BackUPS on a different outlet. Last week, the BackUPS started clicking periodically. A few days later, it went off-line, and screeched, usually the sign to change battery. I unplugged, checked the outlet and it seemed to be working. But I noticed the wiring fault light was lit on the UPS. I reset everything, but fault light still lit and the UPS would not connect to the outlet but continued to screech when plugged in. I switched that UPS unit with a different brand one (with no fault indicator) from another part of the house and that one seemed to work. Hmm. All the other outlets in the room worked fine for a few days, but then started acting wonky. Our electrician lives across the street, so I asked him to come check the outlets. Long story short, after checking all visible outlets, we pulled out the heavy cabinets. THAT outlet had almost completely melted and had started burning the sheetrock around it. Loose wiring. The electrician had never seen one so bad. The melted outlet was in the middle of the leg that ended at my computers. If not for the wiring fault indicator, I probably would have assumed the UPS needed a new battery, until, of course, the house caught on fire. I had not noticed any smell or smoke, and who knows how long it had been melting/burning. Needless to say, we have now had every outlet in the entire house pulled out and checked for any wiring issues. The house was thoroughly inspected before we purchased it, but house inspections typically just check for proper grounding.

No, I don’t work for APC or have any connection to them, but you bet I’m sticking with APC, and am thankful for the unexpected benefit.


(David) #2

I have another shout-out for APC (Schneider Electric).

I got the shrieking “replace battery” warning last week, on Thursday. But I had replaced the battery last Spring. I called customrer support, expecting a bunch of questions etc. I was pleasantly surprised to be told almost immediately that they would ship out a replacement battery free of charge, and I should expect it within two days. I assumed they meant two BUSINESS days, so I expected to receive it Monday.

It showed up Friday morning, well under 24 hours after I called. You can’t get much better delivery service than that!

FYI, it helped that I had the order number from the replacement battery from last Spring. The only reason I had it was my slovenly non-zero-inbox lousy email habits. A quick search in my inbox turned up the email confirming the order from 7 months ago…


(John Burt) #3

Interesting. Next time I buy a backup power supply I will see if APC is available or go online.

When we bought our house, I found out it had aluminum wiring. We checked every receptacle, switch, and light while mapping the breakers. Everything original to the house was properly done, but the amateur remodelers sure messed up a lot of stuff.


(Tina Garfield) #4

John - the bad outlet was in the newest wing of the house, that we believe was constructed by the previous owner himself. Our electrician commented that “they must have been drunk when they wired it.” Brings to mind that old saying, “if walls could talk…”


(Jeffrey Jones) #5

You mean like, “Ow! Ow! Ooh that burns!”?


(Tommy Weir) #6

Glad you discovered that in time Tina. Do you have a model number for the APC?


(Randy B. Singer) #7

I used to exclusively use APC UPS’s. They are sort of the
General Motors of the UPS world.

Then one day a client’s office was having a problem with their Macs shutting off unexpectedly. The problem, I found, was that they had a refrigerator in their break room that, when it cycled, it caused such a sag in power in the office that their Macs just shut off. (Sometimes a laser printer will cause the same thing to happen when you turn it on.) I purchased APC UPS’s for each Mac, and I was shocked to find that the problem persisted. Then I noticed that the APC UPS’s didn’t include AVR. (Automatic Voltage Regulation. AVR allows a UPS to correct for an under-voltage situation that isn’t a complete blackout.) See:


I returned all the APC units and substituted CyberPower UPS’s that were less expensive, but which included AVR. Problem solved.

Unless a product specifically says that it has “AVR”, you may not be getting the protection that you think that you are. In fact, you may not be getting any power conditioning at all. Many of APC’s consumer-class UPS’s don’t offer AVR. (However they do once you get into their more expensive units.)

Other brands not only offer AVR in many of their (similarly priced to APC’s) consumer-class products, they often offer longer runtimes and a superior warranty to cover attached equipment damaged by a power problem.

Personally, I really dislike paying more for less. Doing so makes me feel cheated. I would never own or recommend a consumer-class APC unit again. They don’t offer the protection of competing units from other manufacturers; the protection that you need.

I most often recommend this product, which users have had enormous success with:

CyberPower 1000AVR ($110 with free shipping)

(Note that this UPS’s battery is user replaceable. A big plus, because they do wear out.)


(Tina Garfield) #8

I typically use the Pro version of the APC units. The one that alerted me is a Pro 1000va which has the AVR line conditioning Randy mentions. And virtually off of their units have replaceable batteries. Not much more than the Cyberpower and good customer service as mentioned above. I always get the units with AVR for the very reasons Randy mentioned. When we were off-grid and creating our own electricity, even with sine-wave inverters had a whole-house line conditioner in addition to the UPSes with AVR inside the house. Belt and suspenders.


(John Burt) #9

Bookmarked both those items on Amazon. Thanks.


(Tommy Weir) #10

Same here. I’ll be checking them out.


(Randy B. Singer) #11

I should note that my experience is that folks who have UPS’s have Macs that are noticeably more reliable, and which last noticeably longer, than others. I don’t think that folks realize how flaky the power grid is.

Also, I’ve seen a surprising number of users who actually have UPS’s, and they’ve had them for a long time, and they don’t realize that the battery in their UPS is totally dead. They only tend to last for four or five years. You need to check them regularly and replace the battery as needed.

If you need a replacement UPS battery, this place has amazing prices and excellent quality:

BatterySpec.com
http://www.batteryspec.com/html/ups_batteries.html


(Dennis Swaney) #12

I get my replacement batteries from Batteries+. UPS units use various lead-acid sealed batteries; most of my APS units use 12vdc 7 - 8ah batteries.


(tws1961) #13

Amazing right?
I’ve been using APC now about a year. It is a APC Back UPS PRO BR 1500VA, SineWave. I like it so much I have 2, both from Amazon. One came in missing the interface cable to connect to a computer. Amazon customer service, rushed out another unit and told me to keep the second. Seriously! So I searched online for the interface cable, really could find one, called APC (Schneider Electric) They sent me one for FREE. What?! Really?! Had the cable in two days. The shock has subsided now but can I say, WOW! (Ever since, some of my other customer service experiences with other “stuff” has been lacking)
Glad you caught the issue when you did.


(Charles Butcher) #14

Thank you for sharing that, Tina. Sounds like a useful function on that APC unit.

Here in the UK the power is mostly very reliable but we do have our backwoods areas. 15 years ago we moved to a tiny village where power cuts were common, and sometimes took a while to repair because only a few houses would be affected. So I bought a couple of APC UPSs – I think they were RS 500s – for our iMacs and router.

A design flaw in those units meant that a particular resistor would get very hot and create scorch marks on the plastic case. If you trusted the Interwebs – I did – there was a simple fix that involved replacing that resistor with a higher value and optionally changing a couple of capacitors. That worked fine for me, and I have no complaints about the units’ performance over a 14-year period (with new batteries periodically, of course).

But it did make me wonder about what kind of testing could have allowed that design through. Almost certainly, the unmodified unit would eventually have failed safely without starting a fire. But the scorching smell was a worry.


(frederico) #15

I second Randy’s experience with early 2000 and late ‘90s consumer APC; they went through a period of cheapness where it was really difficult to even figure out which units had AVR, let alone full Sine.

I switched to TrippLite, where it was difficult to find a unit without AVR; and was perfectly happy until the prices just became too difficult to ignore.

(I even wrote a huge article comparing models and features blasting APC that made a bit of a splash and APC threatened to sue me; that was fun.)

Then I also moved to Cyberdine (CyberPower) both to accelerate Skynet and the fact you could get reliable AVR and full Sine wave units for often less than lesser featured and powered APC.

That said, APC still offers a few smaller consumer AVR units which have no price competitors, and I’m happy to recommend them again.

As an aside, is it just me, or has anyone else here noticed how ALL UPS brands plastics smell so bad out of the box? The last several purchased from all makers in the past 30 months have off-gassed so badly we had to leave them outside in the sun for a couple-few days before they could be brought indoors, then they still smelled badly for weeks in closed spaces. Several reviewers posted the same.

I can’t wait to find out what cancers we’re getting from those fumes.