So you’ve decided to make the upgrade from mere surge protector to fully-protected uninterruptible power supply (UPS). Nice choice!
An uninterruptible power supply combines surge protection with a battery to keep your electronics running long enough during a blackout for you to save your work and shut down. Plus, use of a UPS can reduce energy loss by 30-55 percent. UPS devices can also improve the quality of the power your devices receive.
However, there are many models on the market offering a range of features, some of which are quite pricey. In order to save money on your UPS purchase, figure out what you need and find a place to buy it at a discount.
Look for Discounts
You should always shop around before making any big purchase. The advantage of buying from a computer store as opposed to a general retailer is the quality of information and advice you get. Here are some of the best places to begin your quest for the lowest price.
- Micro Center: This online and brick-and-mortar retailer offers a great selection of UPSs, many discounted as much as $5-$40 off the retail price. You can also use its Select 2 to Compare feature to scan the options that come with one model versus a similar or more expensive one. This could be especially helpful for people still on the fence about which features they need. Seeing how much more you’ll pay for additional options can make the decision easier.
- Newegg: Discounts off the retail price are standard at this online store. Newegg also offers volume discounts to shoppers purchasing three or more units. If you have friends or co-workers who are also looking for a UPS, you could go in together to purchase them at a lower price.
- CoastTec: In addition to buying new, you can also save money if you exchange your current UPS for a refurbished one. For half the cost of a new unit, you’ll receive a professionally reconditioned UPS with new batteries and a one-year warranty.
Know What You Want – and What You Want to Avoid
As with any electronic device, all UPSs are not created equal. Here’s what you want in your UPS, and what you should steer clear of.
- Power: Use this online load calculator to determine the total electrical consumption of all the equipment you plan on connecting to your UPS. Then look for a UPS with an output watt capacity 25 percent higher than the number you calculated.
- Runtime: How long do you want or need your computer to run after a power outage? Whether you just need a few minutes to power down safely, or you want to be able to keep working longer, this is an important feature to consider before purchasing a UPS. Keep in mind that the number of devices you plug into your UPS will also affect runtime, with more devices resulting in a shorter runtime.
- Space-Saving Form: The two most common UPS forms are tower and rack-mount. As the name implies, tower models stand up on a desk, shelf or floor space. These are the most common UPSs for desktop computing and home workstations. Rack-mount models are made to be installed on the wall in a rack. They are more commonly used with servers and networking.
- Software: It may be useful to buy a UPS that includes power management software. This gives you the added protection of software that will manage and monitor your UPS without requiring any action on your part. Therefore, should the power go out while you’re not home, the UPS’s software will save any open work and shut your computer down safely.
- Stay Away From: To save on future costs as well, avoid UPS models with batteries that must be changed by a professional technician. User-replaceable batteries mean you can make the switch by yourself, which will save time and money.
Don’t Buy Features You Don’t Need
Think about what you’ll use your UPS for. If you will be a light home user or even a small office user, you don’t need all the features that would be critical for a larger scale operation in a data center or server room.
Line-Interactive UPSs will give you batter backup, surge protection and brownout protection, meaning your computer will continue to operate at a safe voltage level during fluctuations in electricity supply. Some line-interactive models will also provide overvoltage protection, shielding your devices from damage, and pure sine wave output, which supplies ideal power levels for equipment that is especially sensitive.
On-Line UPSs provide a more extensive set of features in addition to the basic functions, including overvoltage protection, pure sine wave output and online operation, which gives you instantaneous transfer time to battery power.
Standby UPSs are the most basic and inexpensive model. They stay in standby mode until an outage occurs, then provide battery power to your computer so you can save your work and shut down.
Identify Your Optimal Battery Size
At the very least, you want to have enough battery life for the time it will take your computer to shut down safely. However, you need to factor in not just battery life for the operating system, but also for the monitor and any other equipment that will be plugged into the UPS.
If you’re into math, you can calculate the energy usage of all your equipment yourself. The easier approach is to use manufacturer estimates of battery life based on the size of the battery. These estimates tend to be conservative, so if anything you’ll end up with a little more than what you need, which is a much better situation to be in than not having enough.
There are also online calculation tools that help you find the ideal UPS and battery size based on an estimate of extra power you may need for future devices, your optimal equipment runtime after a power fail and the voltage system you use based on your country. For example, you may only want the minimum time needed to shut down your computer or you may want an hour or more to continue working after an outage.
It may take some time and research to find the best UPS for your needs at the best price, but putting in this effort will pay off with peace of mind. Now that most people work at home at least occasionally, protecting your equipment and your data with a UPS is more important than ever. Since severe weather events are likely to become more frequent, power outages and brownouts will also become more common. Protect yourself now to avoid a data disaster in the future.
Image credits: Negative Space, Marcin Czaja, Declan TM
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