UK Power Supplies

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Profile Chris SCrowdfunding Project Donor
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Message 1626388 - Posted: 11 Jan 2015, 12:37:04 UTC
Last modified: 11 Jan 2015, 12:43:44 UTC

I have had an APC Smart UPS 1000 hooked up to my computer for some time now and a couple of months ago finally managed to get Powerchute working. Looking back over that time I have seen that the UK voltage varies anything between 248V and 238V at any time of day which I was surprised about. But the legal requirement is 230V AC +10% to -6% or 216V to 253V, with an average of 242V in practice, and these variations are apparently normal.

My logs also show that every Friday we have power loss at 3am in the morning where presumably they change circuits, and there are brownouts at many other times of 4-6 seconds. UK voltage I think the UK London power supply is crap, what is it like elsewhere?
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Profile William Rothamel
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Message 1626442 - Posted: 11 Jan 2015, 15:44:47 UTC - in response to Message 1626388.  
Last modified: 11 Jan 2015, 15:47:46 UTC

The voltage That you quote is RMS voltage (root mean square) which tells the equivalent of direct current measurements. The peak to peak voltage is actually 1.414 times these numbers (based on a sign wave).

In times of heavy usage two things happen over here. The voltage may drop somewhat and the generators may drop a cycle or two from the North American Standard 60 cycles per second. They will then run faster at night to make up the lost cycles since they want clocks (mostly older ones) to run on time.

The lower voltage may cause "Brown outs" --as opposed to "Black-outs" where some electrical appliances may function less well.

I seem to notice that my pool pumps run a little more vigorously during certain times of day but I am not completely sure of this.
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Message 1626549 - Posted: 11 Jan 2015, 20:46:49 UTC

There can be some localised problems.
Not that long ago we were involved in the investigations into a power supply problem on a small industrial estate where National Grid were pointing the finger at the nearby railway causing major voltage surges and dips. A lot of instrumentation later we tracked it down, to the discomfort of NG, and the pleasure of NR. There was an earth leakage path within one of the local electrical substations which was allowing the earth return current from NR to get onto the supply for the industrial estate and so moving the neutral point for the estate by tens of volts up or down....
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Message 1626693 - Posted: 12 Jan 2015, 6:42:10 UTC

It is the same with all countries...that's normal even for me in Croatia! ;)

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Message 1626748 - Posted: 12 Jan 2015, 10:15:02 UTC

Well it surprised me I have to say. But I am now quite convinced that having a UPS to give a steady measured output to a computer, regardless of the ups and downs of the input, as well as backup for a blackout is a good investment. Secondhand ones are fairly cheap on Ebay, the real cost is the replacement batteries.
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Profile John Chrzastek
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Message 1630065 - Posted: 20 Jan 2015, 0:25:10 UTC

I live in Springfield, Virginia a suburb of metro Washington DC. We get our share of power hits and outages. We had one about a week ago. Power was out for around 5 hours during which time our furnace was out since the blower is electric. This outage was probably caused by branches or a tree falling on power lines. We tend to get more such outages in the summer due to storms and the occasional hurricane. I often shut down my computers and UPSs during electrical storms to minimize the possibility of expensive lightning or ESD strikes. Shutdowns usually happen late afternoon and continue sometimes long into the evenings - depending on the storm. This can sometimes happen several days in a row. Not much one can do except grin and bear it. In the event of a lottery win a gas fired home generator would transfer from the wish list to the do list.
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Message 1705198 - Posted: 26 Jul 2015, 9:46:37 UTC

An update here on my APC Smart UPS 1000. I came home yesterday to find that both rigs were turned off?? But the clue was a red light on the front panel of the UPS which means that the battery needs replacing. I re-booted both machines, then unfortunately like a fool I decided to check that by pressing the test button. Yep two dead pc's again and a lot of noise from the UPS!

Sadly one rig got damaged with the power off and wouldn't reboot. Had to resort to a one month old system backup. It's all up and running now but one months updates to restore :-( So I have ordered a new battery (RB6) for the UPS. The last second hand one cost £45 but gave me 2 years life, this "new" copy is £70, even so the genuine APC ones are £120, so a saving of sorts.

All good fun not!
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Message 1705210 - Posted: 26 Jul 2015, 10:44:58 UTC

One hot July Friday afternoon at Area Science Park in Trieste there was a blackout, stopping all computers. It resulted that the temperature in the UPS room had risen so much to trip a shutdown of the UPS. Prof. Carlo Rubbia was very upset and his secretary called me, a BULL employee, to ask for a explanation. I had to tell her that I had nothing to do with the AREA power equipment and that she would have to wait until next Monday for a repair. The air conditioning of the UPS room was reinforced.
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Message 1705215 - Posted: 26 Jul 2015, 11:14:12 UTC - in response to Message 1705198.  

An update here on my APC Smart UPS 1000. I came home yesterday to find that both rigs were turned off?? But the clue was a red light on the front panel of the UPS which means that the battery needs replacing. I re-booted both machines, then unfortunately like a fool I decided to check that by pressing the test button. Yep two dead pc's again and a lot of noise from the UPS!

Sadly one rig got damaged with the power off and wouldn't reboot. Had to resort to a one month old system backup. It's all up and running now but one months updates to restore :-( So I have ordered a new battery (RB6) for the UPS. The last second hand one cost £45 but gave me 2 years life, this "new" copy is £70, even so the genuine APC ones are £120, so a saving of sorts.

All good fun not!

APC recommend changing batteries every 2-3 years. Also if using a UPS, monitoring software is a MUST as it will warn you of a failed self test if the lights an buzzers don't. Otherwise the very thing a UPS is supposed to protect against, is caused by the UPS itself.

Your experience satisfies me that for most home users a UPS is a waste of money as without proper monitoring they can cause more damage than they are suppose to prevent.
"Proud to be born and bred in Croydon"
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Message 1705250 - Posted: 26 Jul 2015, 14:18:31 UTC

Computers are sensitive. Even at my mother's house, which has a natural gas powered whole-house generator, and the lights don't even flicker in a power failure, the computers go off.
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Message 1705253 - Posted: 26 Jul 2015, 14:21:39 UTC

All my computers are conected to a "ciabatta" (sabot) which eliminates voltage fluctuations. Not an UPS.
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Message 1705270 - Posted: 26 Jul 2015, 15:41:25 UTC

Actually I am running Powerchute but no warning of a previous bad test was shown in that, although upon reboot of course there was a flashing red light in the system tray, and when you went to status it said bad battery. I don't know what the power supplies are like where Bernie lives, but over here my APC goes "clunk" at least twice a day and no, the house lights don't flicker. Looking at the log for power failures shows many of them. I'll see if I can get a screen dump up to photobucket.

What I should have done was shut the UPS down, and plugged the comps directly into the mains until a new battery was available, which I have done now. But as I said I was a fool, I tried to check that the red light meant what it did. If I hadn't messed about I would have been fine, it was all my own fault.

Apart from power failures a Smart UPS also protects against under and over voltages, brownouts etc, they condition dirty mains power. It is personal choice to use one or not but as has been pointed out, use them responsibly and change the batteries every 2-3 years.
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Message 1705292 - Posted: 26 Jul 2015, 16:25:52 UTC

Always find power delivery interesting.

At home I've had very little in the way of interruptions.

At work, several nasty multi-hour ones.

There is a few miles involved and they are different power companies as well.

Thanks for the reminder, I need to get replacement batteries for the UPS' at work.
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Message 1705344 - Posted: 26 Jul 2015, 19:30:17 UTC

For me the worst power-outs are those of a second or two, we don't get many, but they are long enough to upset neighbour's alarms, upset my fridge, and, if it weren't for the UPS crash all my computers. At least with the 1hr ones you know the power is OUT, and can take appropriate action (I only live 20mins from work so...)
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Message 1705475 - Posted: 27 Jul 2015, 5:49:20 UTC

With Powerchute you can set it to close Comps down gracefully when the battery life is about 3/4 exhausted, then no attendance is needed. When you get home there will be dead but undamaged kit and the mains may be back or not. I expect some modern motherboards will auto switch on when the power returns, but if you use a boot or Windows password for security, it will only get so far.

Most rural places in the USA seem to have standby generators, but in the UK that is rare for home use. In the UK only farms, large companies, council offices, emergency services, hospitals etc generally have them. In the case of large computer centres remote alarms trigger when on UPS, and the generators will automatically kick in at a predetermined time after mains failure. By that time there are usually staff on hand to monitor things. Others will know more than me.
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Message 1705936 - Posted: 28 Jul 2015, 12:38:23 UTC

OK update. The new UPS battery arrived this morning (ordered Sunday) and is now fitted, but not without some hassle. As anyone who has dealt with these UPS's will know, the RB6 battery is in fact in two separate batteries attached together. Usually the old combo just slides out of the UPS, this one split and just the front half came out. The back half was jammed in and just would not budge. I had to resort to taking the case off the UPS and levering the bugger out with two large screwdrivers!

All back together now and working fine. Mental note to buy a new one in two years!!
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Message 1705974 - Posted: 28 Jul 2015, 14:38:28 UTC

...that sounds about par for the course when changing UPS batteries.
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Message 1720868 - Posted: 1 Sep 2015, 8:19:05 UTC - in response to Message 1705936.  

OK update. The new UPS battery arrived this morning (ordered Sunday) and is now fitted, but not without some hassle. As anyone who has dealt with these UPS's will know, the RB6 battery is in fact in two separate batteries attached together. Usually the old combo just slides out of the UPS, this one split and just the front half came out. The back half was jammed in and just would not budge. I had to resort to taking the case off the UPS and levering the bugger out with two large screwdrivers!

All back together now and working fine. Mental note to buy a new one in two years!!

if u got a cable to computer, then it will tell u when 2 order another battery... ;)

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Message 1720891 - Posted: 1 Sep 2015, 10:55:11 UTC

Totally dependent on the design of the battery back-up unit, and how it is being used - full bypass vs full load vs feed through...
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Message 1720898 - Posted: 1 Sep 2015, 11:38:45 UTC

if u got a cable to computer, then it will tell u when 2 order another battery... ;)

No it does not!! I have such a monitoring cable to run Powerchute for historic stats. If the battery needs replacing there will be a red light saying so on the front of the UPS and it will beep at you periodically. The software does NOT tell you. Contemporary advice is not to wait for the red light but to change the batteries every 2 years anyway.

That is OK for businesses where that cost can be written off in tax relief for operating expenses. For home use, we wait until the red light shows then get a replacement.
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