Summer Storms and Your UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) Devices and Surge Protectors

by Michael Appollo, CTO, NST

We hope you have have successfully weathered the summer storms. Now is a good time to check your UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) devices and surge protectors because there is a good chance they have taken some voltage hits and suffered power outages.

Larger UPS devices, otherwise known as Battery Backups, may have power indicators that tell you how much battery capacity is left. Smaller devices may not have such indicators. If they are connected to a computer, chances are good they came with some software that gathers that information. Opening the software can give you some general idea of the overall health of your UPS. Either way, you can’t always believe the lights and software; the best test of a UPS is to periodically unplug it from the wall and seeing how long the items plugged in still run. Most UPS devices will beep until power is restored, so this is normal behavior. If your computer is plugged in to one of these, please make sure that all applications are closed before trying this! If you want to test the capacity of the UPS, you can leave the unit unplugged and time how long it is until your connected devices begin to power off. If the time is short, you can purchase a newer, larger device, or plug fewer items into the UPS; the more devices a UPS has to keep powered during an outage, the shorter the duration it will last. One important note: many UPS devices have outlets that are not protected by the battery, and in the event of a power outage, anything plugged into one of those outlets will simply shut off. We have seem many instances where a client has plugged devices into the wrong outlet. I was a client earlier this week where they unplugged a router and computer to move a desk. When they plugged everything in again, the router and cable modem were in surge-only protected outlets. Please read the UPS labeling carefully to ensure you are using the correct outlets.

Surge protectors fail over time as well, especially as they are subjected to the constant fluctuation in voltage. Most modern surge protectors have a light when power is running through it. If the light is steady, the surge protection is still functioning. If the light is flickering, you have minimal protection and should replace the surge protector. If, when power is still running through the surge protector, the light is off, then you have nothing more than an extension cord and anything plugged in is not protected at all, so these should be replaced immediately.


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