Should I use power protection with my PC and other expensive home electronics? What is the difference between a surge suppressor and an uninterruptible power supply? Which is better?
A surge protector is nothing more than a fancy and expensive extension cord! EVERY computer system should be protected with an uninterpretable power supply (UPS).
A “good” UPS – one that includes automatic voltage regulation (AVR) provides MUCH greater protection over even the best surge protectors. Don’t let the UPS opponents fool you with their “myths” that UPS are not worth it, or spew their narrow-minded rhetoric about computer PSUs being “switch-mode” devices, and therefore are more immune to power fluctuations. Bull-hockey!!!! Well, the switch-mode stuff is true, but not the point.
Is your computer the only thing you plug into your surge protector? I bet not! I plug my computer into my UPS, but I also plug in TWO 17″ LCD monitors, 8-port Cable Router, cable modem, wireless access point, Palm PDA cradle, and a USB card reader.
It is important to note what a surge and spike protector will NOT do, and why better protection is needed. Note that EVERY time the air conditioner, toaster, microwave oven, refrigerator, hair dryer, coffee pot, water cooler, etc., cycles on and off, surges, sags and spikes are sent down the line – not to mention what comes down the line from outside your location. None are good, all help age the components in surge protectors and power supplies. If one of those, or similar power hogging appliances, are in your facility or home, or you live in an apartment where you have no control over what your neighbors plug into the wall, you need an UPS! Period.
Also sent down the line regularly are sags (low voltage or brownout “events”) and dropouts (fast, deep drops in voltages – such as spikes are fast, rapid peaks in voltages). Most sags and dropouts go unnoticed – by humans. But your computer and all other devices notice them because surge and spike protectors are useless at stopping them, or adjusting for them. This forces the regulation burden and stresses onto the very devices the “protector” is suppose to protect. And should that sag and dropout be noticeable – that is, the lights “flicker” or dim – instant crash time – and pray all that was lost is just your most recent edit changes, and nothing worse.
Ever flashed a BIOS and had a power hit? I have – it was ugly. That was 15 years ago and have not gone without an UPS since. A “good” UPS handles “flickers” with aplomb! How often do you have to update Windows? What if you had a power outage or severe power line anomaly while a critical OS file was being written to your boot disk?
A “good” UPS with AVR will correct both high and low voltage anomalies. A surge and spike protector only addresses typical short-term surges and spikes. But note an extended surge may cause a surge and spike protector to fail, while a “good” UPS will simply regulate the voltage with ease, for extended periods of time.
Top S&S protectors can easily cost $200 or more. “Good” UPSs do too. Just as there are cheap S&S protectors, there are cheap UPSs. Just as you should avoid a cheap PSU, you should avoid a cheap UPS. Do your homework. I would not recommend anything under 800VA AVR – more with a CRT monitor, or extra equipment. The greater the VA generally means longer run time with the same load. A general rule of thumb is: Watts = .6 X VoltAmps.
I say again, if you live in an apartment, get a good UPS today – if you can’t today, get one payday!
Have a nice big screen TV? It should be on UPS too. I have a nice 1450VA UPS that runs the 42inch DLP and HD cable-box/DVR.
Notice I have not mentioned backup power during a total power outage – until now. That’s because backup power during a power outage is only the icing on the cake – compared to the regulation of power that happens the rest of the time. My 1200VA provides over 25 minutes of runtime. Most UPSs come with an interface cable and software to communicate with the PC and the computer’s operating system. The software monitors the runtime remaining and will automatically save your data, close all applications and “gracefully” shutdown and power off the computer during extended outages, if you are away. No surge and spike protector can do that.
Note that many newer PSUs (and big screen TVs) have cooling fans that typically keep running a few minutes after you power off – no can do if you lose power, unless you have an UPS.
The biggest downside – the batteries have to be replaced every 3 years or so – $50 – $100 if you do it yourself – pretty easy task, however.
APC, CyberPower, Belkin, and TrippLite are good brands.
Finally, for those scoffing at spending $100, $200US or more on an UPS, I recommend you reconsider your position. Yeah, sure, insurance will pay for hardware replacement, and everybody has a current backup of their drives (right??? – yeah right!) – my point is, how many manhours of your time will be lost in getting your new computer AND DATA back up to pre-catastrophe status? 5 hours? 10 hours More? What is 1 hour of your time worth?
Do their warranties apply to home devices?