The Case for Uninterruptible Power Supplies

It has become more and more important to protect electronic systems from power line transients and to keep them operating without interruption. This has become especially crucial in the business and industrial sectors, where any downtime caused by power problems could result in the loss of production time and revenue.

One specific area where power protection is vital is networking equipment. Most businesses rely on their information technology (IT) infrastructure to perform everyday business activities like taking online orders, customer service, and even monitoring and running their production lines. Power protection for this type of equipment is most commonly provided by uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems.

The most notable use for a UPS is providing short-term battery backup power when the primary power source fails. However, most UPS systems are able to compensate for a range of problems associated with power, such as:

  • Complete Loss of Line Power – As mentioned above, providing backup power is the primary function of a UPS. The power outage could be a short-term or long-term event. A good UPS system should provide enough power to support normal network operations for a short period of time, giving servers and operators time to save and back up critical data. For long-term outages, a supplementary power source, such as a diesel generator, is required. Generally only hospitals, critical services, and larger businesses can afford to implement and maintain generators.
  • Power Line Surge – Described as short-duration, high-voltage transients, power surges can result from power transitions by large equipment on a shared power line, circuit breakers tripping, or lightning strikes. If severe enough, power surges can damage unprotected equipment on the power line. Most UPS systems are designed to suppress power line surges, protecting downstream equipment.
  • Brownout – This is a momentary, or in some cases prolonged, line voltage drop which typically causes incandescent lighting to dim – hence the term “brownout.” A UPS will maintain a constant output voltage throughout a typical brownout, allowing equipment to operate normally despite the situation.
  • Single Point of Failure – Where it is extremely important to maintain power system reliability, such as hospitals or large business enterprises, a single very large UPS can be a single point of failure, bringing down the entire site if it has a problem. For more reliability, integration of many smaller UPS systems can provide power protection redundancy equivalent to one very large UPS.

Just What is a UPS?

Simply put, a UPS is a device that provides emergency power when the line power fails. It does this by using one or more batteries and control circuitry. Unlike standby generators, UPS systems provide nearly instantaneous backup power to downstream devices, virtually eliminating any input power interruptions. However, the UPS batteries can only provide backup power for a limited time, typically five to fifteen minutes, referred to as the backup runtime of the UPS. This runtime allows secondary power sources to be brought online or protected devices to be shut down properly. Therefore, a UPS is not intended to provide power for continuous operation while waiting for line power to be restored.

Where to Get a UPS

When looking for a UPS, there is no better place to start than Digi-Key Electronics, where a wide variety of power protection devices can be found from various suppliers, including Tripp Lite. Tripp Lite offers UPS systems rated from 180 W to 3750 W. Many units include both UPS-protected outlets, for critical equipment, and surge-protection-only outlets, for non-critical equipment. There are even units with protected data/media line connections such as RJ11, RJ45, and Type F coax.

Tripp Lite not only provides rackmount UPS systems for business and industry, but also desktop models for both office and home use.

The Tripp Lite SMART5000TEL3U rackmount UPS (left) can provide 3750 W of backup power for up to 8.5 minutes, while the INTERNET350U desktop UPS (right) can support a PC for up to 12 minutes. (Image source: Tripp Lite)

If only surge protection is needed, Tripp Lite has that covered with a range of surge protectors that are available in both rackmount and desktop/floor/wall versions for both business/industrial and home/office use. For surge protectors (and UPS systems) offering “Ultimate Lifetime Insurance”, Tripp Lite will repair or replace equipment damaged by surges while properly connected, up to the amount specified. Several internationally compatible units are also available.

Tripp Lite’s rackmount ISOBAR12ULTRA surge protector (left) has a 3840 joule protection rating and 12 outlets (2 front/10 back) while the TLP606 surge protector (right) has a 790 joule protection rating and 6 outlets. (Image source: Tripp Lite)

In summary, power protection has become essential in today’s business and industrial environments to maintain data integrity, production uptime, and efficiency. Therefore, an investment in UPS systems and/or surge protectors for critical devices has become a must.

About this author

Image of Rich Miron, Digi-Key Electronics

Rich Miron, Sr. Technical Content Developer at Digi-Key Electronics, has been in the Technical Content group since 2007 with primary responsibility for writing and editing articles, blogs and Product Training Modules. Prior to Digi-Key, he tested and qualified instrumentation and control systems for nuclear submarines. Rich holds a degree in electrical and electronics engineering from North Dakota State University in Fargo, ND.

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