View Full Version : UPS (uninterruptible power supply) for home computer

Frank Drew
01-20-2014, 11:27 AM
Essentially, I want protection for my home computer. A stand-alone surge protector is a possibility -- I currently have a power strip with nominal surge protection -- but I've also seen recommendations for a UPS instead, which might incorporate surge protection. Additionally, I read at least one recommendation for installing a separate surge protector in front of the UPS, to protect that piece of equipment in addition to the downline computer, etc.

I'll need to protect one computer; it isn't used for business purposes, but, still, I don't want to lose anything (money, data, etc.). The data, of course, I can preserve with backup measures, so let's just say I want to protect the equipment.

Any advice? Specs to pay attention to? Thanks in advance.

Matt Meiser
01-20-2014, 11:59 AM
I've got several APC's and a couple Tripp-Lites The Tripp-Lites came from Costco and were a good bargain. One backs up our DirecTV DVR and other home entertainment gear long enough for the generator to kick in. Every single APC one I have I bought second had or in one case I was GIVEN a very large 1500VA one. Every single one was "junk" because it had a bad battery. For the small ones, a $20 battery later and I'm back in business. I've got several in the 300VA range that I have less than $30 each into that I use for network gear and I've sold a few of those for a small profit. They were so cheap basically anywhere I have a network device I stuck one and now power glitches don't reboot anything. I think the battery for the big one might have run me $75 and backs up our camera DVR and Windows Home Server. My shop desktop is on a small APC that looks like an overgrown power strip. Even that gives me plenty of runtime to save before a shutdown. It also has the USB cable to do an automated shutdown. One of the Tripp-Lites needed a new battery last year and it was the same deal as the smaller APCs.

David Masters
01-20-2014, 12:03 PM
When I first moved to my rural home, it seemed the power company liked to cycle the power off/on about 7:00 every morning. I have UPS installed in front of every computer in the house, all network and telephone equipment, the DVR's, and for an older projection TV that will go into meltdown if the power is cut before the bulb cools. I don't have a particular model or manufacturer that I feel is better than the others, but UPS comes in different capacities that should be sized for the load it is going to be supporting. I like to size the UPS so that it supports power to the computer for at least 15 minutes. That handles the power outages around here for the most part. I also purchase UPS models that support some kind of feedback to the computer, so that the computer can be automatically shutdown before the UPS battery is discharged completely. As I inventory my collection, I find that I purchase APC UPS systems for my heavier loads and CyberPower for the smaller stuff. Both have served me well for years. I tend to shy away from UPS models that don't have a user-replaceable battery. The batteries last for three to five years in my experience, and I don't want to have to buy a new UPS because the battery fails.

All UPS models I've looked at have a surge protection circuit built in, so I don't see a need for a separate surge protector between the power source and the UPS.


Ole Anderson
01-21-2014, 8:10 AM
I have always been a fan of UPS, particularly at work where we had at least a dozen, but once I got my laptop at home, no more need as it has it's own battery.

Matt Meiser
01-21-2014, 8:32 AM
once I got my laptop at home, no more need as it has it's own battery.

Yes and no...when the power goes out here, my laptop keeps working, but knows its docked and knows the external display (my primary desktop) is still connected. But neither has power so I can't see anything I'm working on. If I didn't have a generator that kicks in after 15s, I'd have a UPS under my desk to keep the monitor and dock powered so I could save stuff safely. I've seen issues undocking with some software running because of the hardware changes that occur (ports that go away, etc.) Also depending on what you are doing at the time, the sudden loss of network connectivity can be problematic. I put our new access point on a UPS to prevent that. Switch, router, and DSL modem already were down in the basement.

Frank Drew
01-21-2014, 9:34 AM
Matt, David, Ole, thanks for your responses.

I've got a desktop (an iMac), so no internal battery to see me through blackouts, thus the need for a UPS that also safely shuts the computer down when that battery is getting low -- we do have extended power outages every now and then. APC, Tripp-Lite and CyberPower are the names I'm seeing recommended most often, with maybe APC getting the most love.

The rationale that I've seen for a separate surge protector is that it can sacrifice itself, either due to one massive surge or numerous smaller ones, thus preserving the more expensive UPS.

David Masters
01-21-2014, 9:55 AM
Not important to the conversation, but I also have an iMac plugged into one of the APC UPS's. OS X supports UPS out of the box and it's easy to modify the conditions before OS X does a shutdown.

I contend that a separate surge protector isn't necessary, but it wouldn't hurt either. If you really have wild power fluctuations, a power conditioner might make more sense than a surge protector. Surge protectors can only protect against spikes, whereas a power conditioner and some UPS models will protect against brownouts, which is a bigger problem here.

Monster and Panamax make consumer power conditioners that some videophiles deploy to clean up their power before it hits their components. There is a belief in that community that cleaner power produces better video and audio. That's debatable, but since there is a market for it, consumer power conditioners exist. I've seen them priced between $200 to $1000. At $1000, I'm willing to sacrifice the occasional UPS. But in the 20 years I've lived here, I have yet to lose a UPS due to a spike in power. Any UPS fault has been attributed to worn batteries.

Larry Browning
01-21-2014, 10:07 AM
Have you considered a whole house surge protector? These are installed between the meter and the breaker box. Our power company installed the one at my house. You should check with yours to see if they offer it. Otherwise you can have it done by an electrician. These can protect everything electrical in your home, not just your electronics.

Matt Meiser
01-21-2014, 10:20 AM
Or install yourself if you are comfortable. On my Cutler Hammer panel I was able to buy one that just snaps in place of a breaker, with a pigtail that goes to the ground buss. 10 minute install. My parents have one in their Siemens panel that mounts on the side. Theirs needed a knockout punched out to mount the box, a dedicated breaker snapped in, two wires to the breaker and 1 to the ground.

But I consider that to be only the first line of defense.

Larry Browning
01-21-2014, 12:35 PM
The one installed by the power company is actually installed on the meter box.