Don’t you hate it when that happens?
It’s safe to say that we’ve all experienced this at one point. Our routine or a good night’s sleep gets disturbed, and our inner Hulk rears its head.
Now, you may say: “I already have a solar generator. That counts as an uninterruptible power supply, right?”
Not exactly. This article will explain everything you need to know about uninterruptible power supplies. You will also learn that not all solar generators have this invaluable feature.
What is An Uninterruptible Power Supply?
But first, let’s discuss why there’s a need for a UPS.
Simply put, a UPS is a battery with added functionalities. It serves as our backup power during a power outage. It gives you precious extra minutes of electricity and internet to save your work, inform your teammates, and power down your appliance safely.
Earlier, we said that it’s like a battery with additional features. That’s because aside from being a backup power supply, it also performs three other functions.
Three Functions of An Uninterruptible Power Supply
As we have mentioned, it provides power immediately once the power from your socket goes out.
Let’s say you are in the middle of watching your favorite series on Netflix or Hulu. But the National Hurricane Center warned you of an incoming strong hurricane. You opted to wait out the storm at home.
It’s expected that power from the main source can go out once the heavy rains and strong winds hit your area. Owning a UPS allows you to enjoy watching your favorite shows, even during a blackout.
Safe Shut Down
This leads us to its next function, which is to allow you to shut down your appliance safely. We need to protect our appliances. One procedure during a power outage is disconnecting devices to avoid damage.
The uninterruptible power supply does this exactly. It protects and allows for a safe shutdown of invaluable devices like computers and televisions.
When the power from the mains goes back, our minds are at peace knowing that we have safely turned off our appliances and will not be affected by a power surge.
The last function of the UPS is clean voltage.
Clean voltage? What’s that?
Daily, we need voltage to power our household appliances. Voltage is the pressure we need for those electrons to flow through wires.
As an analogy, think of voltage as the pressure from a water pump that pushes the water out of your hose.
But we don’t want just any kind of voltage. We want a voltage that is clean and consistent. Don’t you hate it when your hose sprays water at different pressures?
The UPS does just that. Since it is connected between the socket and the appliances, it acts as a cleaner by not allowing the voltage to go down the standard level.
Voltage sag is a deviation from the normal voltage level.
Some industries require good voltage, such as the manufacturers of those small chips you find in your cell phones and computers.
How Does An Uninterruptible Power Supply Work?
There are different kinds of UPS that determine its quality of power protection abilities. Understanding your requirements and what is available in the market will help you make better purchasing decisions.
WARNING: This section may be overwhelming for some of you. Feel free to pause and return to the article. You can also skip this part for now and return to it later.
The most basic UPS design is standby. When power from the main supply (e.g., grid or distribution utility) is out or the voltage is beyond safe levels, the UPS draws Direct Current (DC) power from its battery and converts it to Alternating Current (AC), which is the form of electricity our devices need (see image below).
Take a deep, slow breath, then look at the image below. It shows you the basic operation of a UPS.
Before an outage occurs, your devices (see “Connected Loads”) draw electricity directly from the outlet (see “Electrical Supply”), and the UPS charger ensures your battery is fully-charged for emergencies.
The solid lines represent which parts of the UPS work during normal conditions.
Now, when an emergency arises, and your electric supply is lost, the transfer switch in the figure will flip and immediately draw electricity from your battery (see broken lines connecting the battery and inverter to your connected loads)
On the other hand, interactive line design is used when there are voltage fluctuation issues like the voltage sag earlier. In a nutshell, the line interactive not only supplies you power when the mains are down but also ensures good voltage quality.
How does it do this?
A line interactive UPS regulates and monitors the voltage levels using an autotransformer (see voltage regulator in the image below). This is perfect for you if you live in an area that doesn’t really experience blackouts but has constant power fluctuations.
This is often used for more sophisticated consumer electronics such as computers and gaming consoles.
The double-conversion uninterruptible power supply operates similarly to the previous two topologies. The difference is that it converts AC power to DC power using a rectifier (which works exactly the opposite of an inverter).
This UPS topology is used for critical loads such as high-end servers.
The addition of the rectifier ensures clean power.
What To Check When Buying An Uninterruptible Power Supply?
Now that you know how an uninterruptible power supply works let’s dig deeper into what you need to look for when buying one.
The first thing you need to check is the capacity of the uninterruptible power supply.
Much like your typical hand-held power bank, capacity is measured in Watt-hours. This may seem like an odd way of determining capacity, but it’s simpler than you might think.
Say, for example, you have an uninterruptible power supply with a capacity of 1500Wh. This means that it can output 1500 Watts for 1 hour. Also, it can give a power output of 1W in 1500 hours.
As long as the multiplication results in 1500, you’re good to go in your computation!
You also need to check the output of the uninterruptible power supply to see if it is the same rating your appliance is built for. In our example, the solar generator has a 2000-watt power rating. This means you can operate your 1200W microwave and still have room to charge your devices.
If you are particular with charging time, you should also check this feature when purchasing a UPS. And because the sky (pun intended) is the limit, some uninterruptible power supplies can charge using solar energy!
Lastly, if you are concerned with the overall size and layout, you can also check the dimensions, weight, and operating temperature.
What Kind of Uninterruptible Power Supply Do I Need?
Remember when we mentioned at the beginning of the article that you may have experienced power interruptions?
And remember when we mentioned new terms such as voltage sag and swell?
Determining what UPS you need depends on the appliance and the power quality problems you have.
Some common power quality problems you may have include:
- Voltage Sag and Swell
- Over and Under Voltage
- Frequency Noise
- Frequency Variation
- Harmonic Distortion
Without getting into the technical details, the typical power problems listed above include getting higher (or lower) the normal voltage than what we need and/or frequency for a brief or extended period.
The UPS types discussed earlier can also help us decide which is best suited for our power problem needs.
Naturally, the more the uninterruptible power supply does, the costlier it will be for you.
Simply said, there is a departure from the normal, and of course, we want the standard voltage and frequency for our appliances.
What Capacity of Uninterruptible Power Supply Should I Buy?
There is a rule of thumb here, as in any other sizing. The capacity of your uninterruptible power supply should be large enough to power all the appliances you want to use.
For most appliances, the power rating can be seen in the specification, user’s manual, box, or the appliance itself.
What Are the Other Uses of An Uninterruptible Power Supply?
Our modern gadgets come with plenty of functions, but at the same time, they are susceptible to the quality and reliability of electricity. Exposing them regularly to poor power quality and fluctuating power sources leads to damage and premature deterioration.
That is why it pays to consider UPS for vital equipment.
UPS for Sensitive Loads (Computers and Servers)
Top of our heads, computers and servers need an uninterruptible power supply in case of blackouts. Server rooms are expected to run 24/7, which is why having a UPS handy is a good idea for this situation. It also helps to know the typical blackout duration in your area so you can determine how much backup energy you need.
This situation also applies to remote workers that keep their computers and devices at home.
UPS for Home Medical Care Equipment
Home medical care equipment is also dependent on the continuous power supply. These include
- Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) devices;
- Medical Gas Monitoring Systems;
- Life Support Equipment and Monitors; and
- Oxygen pumps and concentrators
Bottom-line, uninterruptible power supplies protect sensitive devices and home medical equipment from sudden outages and poor power quality.
Do Solar Generators Have Uninterruptible Power Supply Capabilities?
Solar Generators are becoming popular with green energy consumers but do they have UPS capabilities?
Not all, but some do. Manufacturers usually declare in their user manual if their solar generator comes with UPS capabilities.
Growatt INFINITY 1500's EPS supplies power from the battery that is constantly charged when power is available. If the power goes out, the EPS kicks in instantly – fast enough(within 20ms), so you won’t lose any data or damage sensitive equipment. That essentially makes a solar generator with the EPS feature a must for a home office.
But you're likely to discover a bunch of other requests for a UPS around your home. Medical devices that must be "always on," such as CPAP machines and monitoring devices, are a major example. As these machines don't consume a lot of power, a UPS could potentially provide hours of runtime during an outage.
The same is true of Internet routers and, to a smaller degree, televisions. A router could also run for hours on a UPS, allowing you to remain connected and productive during a power cut.
As snowstorms or even hurricanes increases significantly, along with the chance of power failures that often accompany such events. Now is a good time to consider your solar generator with EPS/UPS feature for providing backup power in your home in the event of a failure.
Note: The EPS function of Growatt portable power stations support switching within 20ms. In order to avoid your losses, please test with your loads before using this function.
Having an uninterruptible power supply is a significant investment undertaking. You first need to assess if there is indeed a need for you to have one.
The next question is what priority appliances you need to power through an uninterruptible power supply.
Then comes the question of capacity, diving deep into the specifications that best suit your taste.