UPS Solutions

Fusion is Australia's leading specialist in Uninterruptible Power Supplies. We offer our clients the latest UPS technology to ensure your critical IT and operating systems have continuous, reliable power.

Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS) FAQs

What’s an Online UPS?

An Online UPS is the pinnacle of UPS technology and provides protection against all nine power problems. As opposed to a standby or line interactive UPS that only operates when there is a power failure, an online UPS operates all the time, first converting local A/C electrical to D/C electrical power, then reversing this process and inverting it back to A/C electrical power for consumption by connected equipment. By doing this, an online UPS effectively manufactures its own electrical power on an ongoing basis, with either the mains power as a feedstock, or its internal battery as a feedstock. This process of converting and re-converting is sometimes referred to as ‘double-conversion’ another common name for online UPS types. Online UPS systems also have a built in backup system, in that if any major component fails (rectifier or inverter) the system can automatically bypass these components and route power to the connected load directly from the mains. This enables the UPS to continue to function even if there is a technical issue. Online UPS systems are able to filter out all problems than can affect an electrical sinewave, as the outgoing sinewave has absolutely nothing to do with the sinewave that enters the UPS. All large UPS systems typically greater than 5000VA are online UPS systems.  

Why do I want a UPS?

A UPS system will provide you with two primary functions. Firstly it will ensure your equipment doesn’t turn off if there is a blackout or power failure. Even short term power failures of seconds can cause big problems for some equipment. Power failures can cause software to stop working, databases to become corrupted and cause a lot of downtime. UPS systems are perfect for preventing this issue. Secondly, UPS systems clean and filter the power, in much the same way that fuel filter cleans the fuel for your motor vehicle. Dirty power is quite common and almost impossible to identify unless you have specialised equipment. Dirty power can cause equipment to malfunction and hardware to fail prematurely. A UPS systems filtering capabilities will extend the lifespan of your connected hardware, and reduce the amount of downtime you have due to power related malfunctions. 

What does UPS stand for

UPS is an acronym for Uninterruptible Power Supply. The plural is Uninterruptible Power Supplies.

What’s the principle reason to have a UPS?

UPS systems are primarily used to provide instantaneous power to devices that are connected to them in the event of a power failure or blackout. They do this by constantly monitoring the incoming power, and when it fails instantly supplying electrical power to the connected equipment using energy stored in internal batteries. 

What are the different types of UPS systems?

There are three main types of UPS systems in the market today. Broadly they are in order of increasing sophistication, Standby UPS, Line Interactive UPS and Online UPS.  Although they all provide backup power in the event of a blackout, it’s what else they do and how well they do this that really counts.

What are the main parts of a UPS?

A UPS system typically consists of a battery pack, a battery charger, and inverter system to convert battery power to something typical appliances can use, and a control system and a box to house it all in. Each part is critically important to the operation of a UPS system. 

Why can’t I just hook a battery up to my devices, why do I need a UPS?

All batteries no matter the type store energy in a format called DC or Direct Current. Most electrical appliances use a different form of power called AC or Alternating Current. In order to use a battery with an AC device you need to convert the power from DC to AC. This is done using a device called an Inverter. Likewise when you want to store the power in the battery you need to convert it from AC back to DC, this is done using a Rectifier or battery charger. A UPS is basically all these things put together in a simple package. Saves you having to buy all the bits separately and integrating them. 

Besides blackouts, what else do UPS systems protect against?

The problem with electricity is that you can’t generally see it. There’s no way to know what is going on inside your power cable. Contrary to popular belief there are a lot of gremlins that live in the electrical world. The better your UPS the more things it protects against. Broadly there are nine different power problems a UPS will protect against. They are Power Failure, Sags, Surges, Undervoltage or Brownout, Overvoltage, Noise, Frequency Variation, Switching Transients and Harmonic Distortion. 

What is a Power Failure?

A power failure is when the mains power supply stops working for what ever reason. This can be due to a failure at the generating power station, a failure in the transmission systems that deliver power to your location, or a failure on your local electrical systems. Sometimes power failures are caused accidentally by faulty equipment or circuit breakers tripping. Perhaps a local power line has been damaged by an electrical storm or a vehicle accident. There are many reasons why power to your critical devices may be interrupted, and there is no way to fix it after it happens, it can only be protected against prior to the event. For IT equipment, even an interruption of only a few seconds is enough to shut down equipment and cause data loss or damage to hardware. 

What is Voltage?

Voltage is the effectively the speed in which the electricity is being delivered to your appliance. In Australia the standard voltage is 230V for single phase devices, in some areas the voltage is 240V. In the United Kingdom the voltage is similar. In the USA the voltage is typically 110V, as it is in Japan. Each county has its own electrical voltage standard. For three phase devices in Australia, the voltage is 415V. The rest of the world is different depending on where you go. 

What is frequency?

Frequency relates only to Alternating Current (AC) and denotes how often the electrical wave form oscillates. In Australia the frequency is 50Hz pronounced ‘Hertz’ as it is in the most of the world. The USA and some other countries use the standard of 60Hz. Equipment is designed to operate using a specific frequency, and it may not work correctly if the electrical frequency is different to what it is designed to work with. 

What is a Power Sag?

A power sag is when the mains electrical voltage which in Australia is supposed to be either 230V or 240V dips beneath this level for a short time. This is sometimes visible when you see the lights dim in a house when a large electrical appliance like a washing machine starts ups. Sags prevent the correct amount of power being delivered to equipment. 

What is a Power Surge?

Power surges are when the mains electrical voltage becomes greater than the standard (230/240V in Australia). Surges are dangerous because they can damage electrical equipment. You may have seen the direct results of power surge after an electrical storm where lightning damages electrical equipment. 

What is an Undervoltage / Brownout?

An undervoltage is like a power sag but lasting for an extended period of time. This sometimes occurs when power demands on electrical grids exceeds capacity and electrical distribution authorities reduce the voltage in certain areas to provide at least some power to everybody. Undervoltages can cause IT equipment to malfunction or operate incorrectly. It is thought that the original Microsoft software related blue screen of death may have been attributed more to undervoltages than poor programming. 

What is Overvoltage?

An overvoltage is similar to power surge but with less intensity and for a longer period of time. Although not as damaging as a surge or spike, overvoltages have the capacity to cause long term damage to equipment, even if the effects are not immediately noticeable. 

What is Noise?

Noise is disturbances to the AC waveform due to RFI (Radio Frequency Interference) and EMI (Electro Magnetic Interference). Noise can interfere with communications signals and interfere with normal equipment operation and can be potentially damaging. Noise can sometimes be seen by flickering in monitors. 

What is Frequency Variation?

Frequency Variation is where the frequency of the incoming mains supply is different from the standard. In Australia the frequency is supposed to be 50Hz. Irregular waveform frequency can cause big problems to connect electrical equipment, especially IT power supplies. Frequency variation can occur when power stations increase or decrease the rate the A/C generators spin in relation to shifting power demands. 

What is a Switching Transient?

A switching transient is a very short abrupt over or under voltage which can be extremely damaging to electrical equipment. They are often caused by lightning strikes on the utility network, and other utility faults. 

What is a Harmonic Distortion?

Harmonic distortion is when the normal A/C sinewave is deformed or effected typically by large non-linear loads and bulk switch mode power supplies. Lots of fluorescent lighting and workstations operating in the same location can induce harmonics. Harmonic distortion changes the sinewave and can cause problems for electrical equipment that are sensitive to these fluctuations. 

Should I use a UPS for surge protection?

UPS systems generally have some level of surge protection built in to their designs, and by their very nature are the first thing that any surge will hit, before it moves on to your connected equipment. The only issue is that typically the inbuilt UPS surge protection is not easily replaceable and as such if they get damaged by a surge, they will need to be replaced. In most cases it would be cheaper to replace a UPS after a strong surge that replacing your IT equipment, however in many cases it may be more cost effective to install a low cost purpose built surge protector in the loop before the UPS system. That way if you have a surge the surge protector can be replaced at significantly less cost than replacing the UPS system. 

What’s a Standby UPS?

A standby UPS is the most basic type of UPS system. They are basically just batteries in a box. The main function of a standby UPS is to provide backup power in the event of a power failure. This battery power is only supplied however when the UPS detects a power failure. For the most part, standby UPS systems just loop mains power in and straight back out again to the load. As such they only protect against power failure, and can provide limited protection against power sags and surges by transferring to battery power. However this can be problematic as once the UPS switches to battery power, you are limited by the energy storage capacity of the battery, which for standby UPS is typically quite small. Extended sag or surge events may cause the load to be disconnected from the power once the battery capacity has been exhausted. Standby UPS systems are typically only available in small limited sizes, and are quite cost effective to purchase. When on battery mode, they typically output a modified or simulated sinewave, which may adversely affect some connected equipment. 

What does ‘double conversion’ mean?

Double conversion as a reference is another name for Online UPS. It refers to an Online UPS’s typical function of twice converting electrical power to filter out all possible electrical problems. 

What’s the difference between a line conditioner and a UPS?

Line conditioners used to be very common before UPS systems were mass produced. Line conditioners were the precursor to UPS systems, and using transformers provided many of the filtering functions of a modern UPS. The major difference is that a line conditioner does not have any battery packs connected, and as such cannot protect against power failures, even for very short periods of time. As such as UPS systems became more cost effective to purchase, use of UPS gradually overtook that of line conditioners to a point where they are used very frequently and not widely available. Line conditioners are very effective filters, but are generally very large and heavy compared to UPS systems, but the lack of batteries and capacitors means they have quite long lifespans. Some are still in use today. 

What’s VA?

VA is a term used very frequently in UPS speak to indicate the amount of power a UPS can support, effectively indicating its size. The bigger the VA the bigger the size of the UPS. VA stands for Volt Amps, which is a measure of power. Technically VA is calculated as the Voltage of the UPS multiplied by the number of Amps it can deliver. 

What’s power factor?

Understanding power factor can be hard. It’s not intuitive to understand. Google has a lot of very boring articles explaining what power factor is in detail. In a nut shell it’s showing the amount of real power your UPS can deliver vs. the apparent power it can deliver. Easy huh? Not really. Power factor in the UPS world usually refers to the output power factor of the UPS and is expressed as a number ranging between 0 and 1. Typical UPS systems will be rated at between 0.5 power factor and 1. It is often denoted by the term ‘pf’. The key thing to understand is that in relation to UPS, the power factor of the UPS denotes how many actual watts of power your UPS can supply. So a 1000VA UPS with a power factor of 0.7 can support 700 watts of power to a load and a 1000VA UPS with a power factor of 0.9 can support 900 watts of power to a load. That’s a 200 watt difference or 28% more capacity. There is a very old analogy in the UPS world that most of our industry hates that says the beer in a glass is the power you get, and the foam or head in the glass is the residual that you pay for but isn’t beer. It’s not entirely accurate but you get the idea. Generally the cheaper your UPS the worse the power factor. It’s always important to check the ‘watt’ output of your UPS to gain a true understanding of how much equipment it will be able to support, and when comparing UPS systems. 

What are some UPS in VA and some in Watts?

Technically both figures are accurate, but you have to take into account the power factor of the UPS to get a proper understanding of what’s going on. The easiest way to compare properly is to compare your equipment load in watts against the UPS capacity in watts. This will reduce the risk of mis-calculation. 

Why should I use a UPS instead of a generator?

Both a UPS and generator serve a similar goal, to provide backup power to equipment in the event of failure. The major difference between the two systems is that typically a standby generating set will take some time to startup once the mains power has failed. Depending on your generator that can take anywhere from several seconds to minutes. During this time your equipment may turn off, which is ok for facility systems like lights, but bad news for critical gear like IT equipment. A UPS will transfer to batteries within milliseconds, more than enough to support equipment. The downside with UPS systems is that equipping your UPS to work with extended runtimes on batteries can be expensive. In the ideal world, you would have a UPS to support the equipment in the short term, and couple that with a generating set to supply long term backup power to the support the equipment. 

What’s the difference between a Tower UPS and Rackmount UPS?

A tower UPS system is one that is designed physically to sit on the ground or on a desktop. It’s usually taller than it is wider. A rackmount UPS is one that is optimised to mount inside a data cabinet or rack. It’s typically 19 inches wide, wide than taller and quite deep. UPS systems come in all shapes and sizes, some are even made to mount on a wall.

What is single phase?

Single phase power is the transmission of A/C power through a conduit or electrical circuit. Basically, it’s general power as you’re used to it. Every normal power point is fed from a single phase power circuit. Most small UPS systems, generally under 10kVA (but not always) run on a single phase electrical circuit. Single phase power circuits can come in various sizes, the power points in your house are generally single phase and supply up to 10Amps of or power or 2400 watts maximum. 3000VA UPS systems require a 16 Amp single phase circuit. A 5000VA UPS technically requires a 21 Amp circuit (although we generally oversize it). The amount of power that is supplied is based on the thickness of the electrical cable, however it is done over one phase. Single phase voltage in Australia is typically 240V. 

What is three phase?

Three phase is three single phases joined together. This allows more power to be delivered at the same time. It’s technical, but when the three phases are joined together, the waveforms are offset so that the waveforms reach their peaks at different times. This is very useful for motors, which make use of a revolving magnetic field. When you see the term Three Phase, you’re looking at a larger sized UPS. Three phase UPS systems generally start from 10kVA and go as high as 1MW or more. Three phase voltage in Australia is typically 415V. 

What is this 15Amp business?

When you require a larger UPS that normal sometimes you are told you need a 15Amp power connection to plug in the device. A 15Amp power connection is simply a larger capacity power point. They are much less common than a standard 10Amp power point however which is why it is sometimes confusing. It is a simple matter to ask your electrician to either run a new 15Amp power circuit or upgrade an existing 10Amp circuit to a 15Amp circuit. A 15 Amp power circuit typically only has one outlet, and has an over sized earth pin or hole for the earth pin. The earth pin is the single vertical pin on the plug, not the angled one. 

What is three phase?

Three phase is three single phases joined together. This allows more power to be delivered at the same time. It’s technical, but when the three phases are joined together, the waveforms are offset so that the waveforms reach their peaks at different times. This is very useful for motors, which make use of a revolving magnetic field. When you see the term Three Phase, you’re looking at a larger sized UPS. Three phase UPS systems generally start from 10kVA and go as high as 1MW or more. Three phase voltage in Australia is typically 415V. 

What is this 15Amp business?

When you require a larger UPS that normal sometimes you are told you need a 15Amp power connection to plug in the device. A 15Amp power connection is simply a larger capacity power point. They are much less common than a standard 10Amp power point however which is why it is sometimes confusing. It is a simple matter to ask your electrician to either run a new 15Amp power circuit or upgrade an existing 10Amp circuit to a 15Amp circuit. A 15 Amp power circuit typically only has one outlet, and has an over sized earth pin or hole for the earth pin. The earth pin is the single vertical pin on the plug, not the angled one. 

What’s 16Amp?

UPS speak 15 Amp and 16 Amp are generally interchangeable. If you need a 16 Amp device or have a 15 Amp cable they are all compatible. 

What’s the difference between Amps / Watts / VA?

These three terms are all used to describe a volume of power. 1 Amp, 240 watts and 240VA are all describing the same amount of power. Watts is generally the easiest to use, and the common denominator. VA stands for Volts x Amps, so is technically the voltage multiplied by the amps. An Amp is a measure of power but is useless unless you know the voltage. So if your electrician says you are drawing 5 amps of power, you should confirm what the voltage is. If it is single phase A/C in Australia then the voltage should be 230 or 240 volts. Using the 240 volt figure, to find out the VA you multiply it by the Amps so 240 x 5 = 1200VA. Then if you know the power factor you could find out the watts. For example if your electrician measured the power factor of the load at the same time as the current (amps) and they said it was 0.7 power factor then you could multiply the 1200VA figure we got previously by 0.7 i.e. 1200 x 0.7 = 840 so your load in watts is 840. It can all be a bit confusing, which is why we recommend you use a UPS expert to do your calculations (hint hint).

What’s a sinewave?

A sinewave is a name given to an AC power waveform. It is distinct because it visually depicts the currently periodically changing direction, and looks like a horizontal wavy line, as opposed to DC power, which has no waveform. When power is created in a power station, the speed the generator spins denotes the frequency of the alternations or the frequency of the ups and the downs on the sinewave. This is usually a very smooth curve / line. In UPS speak this is often referred to as a pure sinewave, as opposed to a modified sinewave or squarewave. The better quality your UPS, the better the sinewave the inverter produces when running on batteries. 

What’s a squarewave / modified sinewave?

A squarewave or a modified sinewave is a waveform that is an approximation of a pure sinewave. Instead of a nice smooth curve / line, the sinewave is jagged and or even square, with the waveform increasing and decreasing in small right angles. Modified sinewaves are produced by lower quality inverter systems. Generally cheaper, and smaller UPS systems produce a modified sinewave when operating on battery mode. Simulated sinewaves are mostly harmless but can cause connected power supplies to run hotter than usual and inefficiently, consuming more energy in the process. Some devices equipped with toroidal transformers will not work with modified sinewave UPS systems. For short periods of time operating on a modified sinewave is generally harmless, for long periods of time it is not recommended. 

Why do UPS output different sinewaves?

Simulated / modified sinewave output UPS systems are cheaper to produce. It’s simply a matter of cost. More expensive and higher end UPS systems will generally always product a very pure sinewave. 

Where are UPS systems made?

UPS systems are manufactured all over the world. The majority of Australian UPS systems are manufactured in either China, Taiwan, India or the Philippines. Some specialised UPS systems are imported from the USA or some parts of Europe. 

My UPS batteries are swollen is that bad?

Yes this is bad. Swollen batteries are a sign of overcharging or some other battery fault. When batteries age they may stop accepting charge, and as a consequence will not retain a correct voltage. Depending on your system, your UPS may not recognise the battery as faulty and continue to try and force the battery to charge, effectively boiling the batteries sulphuric acid solution. This overcharging or boiling can cause the batteries to physically deform and swell. This can also be caused by the UPS capacitors beginning to fail or completely fail. This can induce little ripples or little AC like waveforms on the battery, which rapidly charges and discharges the batteries, artificially shortening the batteries life. If you are experiencing any of these problems, call a UPS expert immediately.

My UPS is making a funny noise is that bad?

It depends on your noise. Some unsual noises are caused by the internal UPS fans, which may do this as they age. UPS fans are an easy thing to replace. Depending on the load, sometimes a UPS will make a high pitched noise that can be quite annoying. Generally UPS systems are reasonably quiet. If you are unsure about the noises your UPS is making, call a UPS Expert asap.  

I have an orange LED lit on my UPS what does that mean?

In UPS land, an orange lit LED generally means something is going on, but it’s not critical. In Line Interactive UPS systems, it often means the Automatic Voltage Regulator (AVR) is operating, and interacting with the incoming voltage. On larger UPS an orange light may be indicating that some event has occurred and that you should check the UPS event logs.  

I have a red LED lit on my UPS what does that mean?

In UPS land a red LED is usually cause for alarm. It may be an indication that the batteries in the UPS need to be replaced or that the UPS has suffered from a critical failure like an inverter fault. Either way it’s time to call your UPS Expert. 

How often should I maintain my UPS?

It’s a good idea to have your UPS serviced at least once a year. For larger more critical UPS systems its recommended to service the UPS at least twice a year. Your individual circumstances will dictate how frequent you have your UPS serviced, balancing out cost vs criticality. 

What temperature should my UPS operate in?

The average UPS systems technical specification will often state that they can operate within a wide temperatures range, which is true. However it’s the batteries that are the limiting factor. Most UPS batteries are rated to operate at 25 degrees C. As a rule of thumb for every 10 degrees above 25 C the average temperature is the UPS battery life is halved. So if your average battery life is 5 years, and the average room temperature the UPS is housed in is 35 degrees, you’ll only get 2.5 years life out of your battery. If the temperature is 45 degrees you’ll only get over 1 year life out your battery. Where possible, it’s  a good idea to marry your UPS system with a good air conditioning system to maintain the room temperature. 

How long should my UPS batteries last?

UPS batteries are built with different design lives. Most UPS systems out of the box will come supplied with 5 year design life batteries. If the average ambient temperature of the room the UPS is housed in is on around 25C and the environmental power conditions are good i.e. the UPS doesn’t have to use the batteries very often then you may get a good 3-4 years out of the UPS before battery performance will start to noticeably degrade. In less than ideal conditions the batteries may degrade sooner. Higher design life batteries are available, with 10 and even 15 years, however they are typically non standard and purchased as an upgrade to the typical battery pack. 

How can I communicate with my UPS?

Depending on your UPS systems capability, you can communicate with your UPS using either standard USB, SNMP via a network card, RS232 via a seral port, RS485, Modbus, dry contacts (relay) and a myriad of other obscure methods. The most commonly available and usually standard across all UPS systems is USB, next common is serial or RS232. Most medium to large UPS systems can be installed with an SNMP, Modbus or Relay card. It really depends what you want. Note cheaper UPS systems are limited in their abilities to communicate, and with some UPS systems you can only have one protocol, so you can’t have both SNMP and Modbus at the same time. 

What is SNMP?

SNMP is an acronym for Simple Network Management Protocol. It’s a common IT format that is easy to interface with. With UPS systems, an additional ‘network card’ is available that you can purchase and install into your UPS. The SNMP card effectively enables you to give a UPS system an IP address, and connect it to a standard computer network. They typically have an onboard web server that you can connect to and read information about the UPS and control the UPS. An SNMP card effectively gives the UPS some level of intelligence and enables you to program a safe shutdown sequence for connected IT servers in the event of a power failure. Some SNMP cards have the added option to connect to a temperature probe so you can monitor the room temperatures, keep ensure the room temperature is maintained. They’re a very useful thing to have. 

What’s RS232?

RS232 is an old school communications protocol often called ‘serial’ or ‘comms’ connection. It’s a simple communications protocol that has been replaced in most computers and IT equipment by USB, however it is still available in some UPS system. It is often used to initially configure an SNMP card’s initial IP address via software like Hyperterminal or Putty. 

What’s Modbus?

Modbus is a serial style communications protocol commonly used to connect to industrial electronic equipment, it is very distinct to TCP/IP. It is still quite commonly used. 

I have a USB enable UPS, can I control more than one computer?

The easiest way to safely shutdown more than one computer is to use an SNMP card. However it is possible to control more than one computer from a UPS that is connected via USB by programming the connect workstation to act as a ‘master’ that on command from the UPS will instruct other nominated workstations to safely shutdown in the event of a power failure. The only issue however is that the ‘master’ PC becomes the single point of failure, and it if experience some issue and fails to respond as they are sometimes known to do, then all the computers are effected.

Why do I want an SNMP card?

An SNMP card is the easiest way to communicate with a UPS system. Because it has an onboard web server you don’t require any further software to connect to it. The interface is typically a standard web page, where you can view event and system logs, and track load and battery level. It also provides you a way to command the UPS to do something. The card is designed to connect to a TCP/IP network and become part of a modern IT network. You can use the card to perform a safe shutdown of connected computers if the power fails. 

I have an SNMP card but I can’t find the IP address.

This is a common problem.  If you don’t know what the IP address is of your card you will need to connect to it via a serial connection using software like Hyperterminal or Putty. The basic serial interface will enable you to set the IP address and change things like preferences for DHCP and gateways. After you set the IP you will be able to connect directly to the SNMP card web server and finish configuring the card. 

What is a MIB?

MIB stands for Management Information Base and is used typically in conjunction in UPS land with an SNMP card. MIBs are used when you want to connect your SNMP card to a centralised management system. MIBs are little pieces of information that the SNMP sends out to the management software to provide status updates and events as they occur. It’s a standard protocol that most SNMP management systems can simply connect to.  

What’s the best way to manage multiple UPS?

The best way to management multiple UPS systems is to use some specific management. Most UPS suppliers will provide multi-UPS management software for up to 20 devices or more. Additional nodes may require an additional software licence. 

How do I extend my battery runtime?

To extend battery runtime you need to add additional batteries to a UPS. There are some conditions required to do this successfully. The main consideration is the charging capability of the UPS system. Most small UPS systems are only designed to charge the batteries they came with, so adding an additional battery pack may not be possible. A general rule of thumb is your UPS can charge up to 10 times its charging capability. So if your UPS has a 2Amp charger then it can comfortably charge up to 10 ah of battery. Some UPS systems come designed to connect to additional battery packs, which can be added at any time. Some UPS systems will require customised battery additions. Note you cannot mix battery types and or models, as each battery model has its own unique charging requirements, mixing battery types will inevitably lead to one of the battery types failing early. And in a single battery string UPS, one bad battery can often lead to the entire battery string failing.  

Why are UPS so heavy?

UPS are heavy because of the batteries. One of the primary components of a UPS battery is the metal lead, which is very heavy. Some newer style UPS systems are being equipped with lithium ion batteries, which are significantly lighter for the same runtime performance. 

What does ‘Hotswap’ mean?

‘Hotswap’ mean you don’t have to turn the UPS off to add / changeover a component of the UPS. Typically all SNMP cards are hotswap, and power and batteries can be hot swapped in modular UPS systems. 

What is a bypass switch?

A bypass switch is a mechanical device that enables the UPS to be taken out of the electrical loop, without turning off your connected equipment. It’s very useful when you want to undertake maintenance on your UPS system, but don’t want to shut down the connected IT equipment. It’s also very handy to have as a backup incase your UPS system fails for any reason and power is disconnected to your equipment. Bypass switches are simple devices that can be operated with one hand by non-qualified personnel. If you have a failure you can simply use the bypass and restore mains power to your equipment. If you don’t have one and your equipment is hardwired, you will need to call an electrician to physically pull cables and re-route power around your UPS until it can be fixed. 

What is the little ‘scale’ icon mean on the front of my UPS?

The little scale icon is typically an overload symbol. If this LED is lit then your UPS is telling you that there is too much equipment connected to it and the system is overloaded. If the UPS is still running and your equipment is still running then it will only do so until there is a power failure, at which time the UPS will drop the load. 

Why is the runtime my UPS tells me I should be getting different from what I actually get.

When the UPS LCD panel or software is telling you one thing regarding the battery runtime and the actual runtime you are getting is less it’s a clear sign that your UPS batteries are degrading. Performance will keep getting worse until the batteries completely give out all together. 

What is an isolation transformer?

An isolation transformer is typically an add on device to a UPS to provide physical isolation between mains power and the equipment load. Isolation transformers provide protection against electric shock and can prevent noise, or to allow the transfer of power between to electrical circuits that cannot be physically connected. Some UPS systems come with isolation transformers built in but they are less common and used only when they are specifically required. 

When should I replace my UPS?

UPS systems are battle axes. If they don’t fail within a day of you first turning them on, they’re likely to work perfectly for years, providing they are well maintained. It’s time to consider replacing your UPS when the batteries are beginning to fail. In some cases its more cost effective to replace the entire UPS system than just the batteries alone. If your UPS systems is still working after 6-7 years of operation, it would be worth budgeting for a replacement as when they fail they will generally fail catastrophically.

My UPS overloads / screams at me periodically. Why?

If you UPS is generally fine but intermittently screams at you or goes into overload they you probably have a laser printer or something similar connected to the UPS, which only pushes the UPS into overload when the printer drum is warming up. Laser printers required a lot of power when they start printing, but hardly any power when they are idling. 

Do all UPS systems have the same kind of batteries?

Unless you have a specialised system most standard UPS come equipped with Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) Valve Regulated Sealed Lead Acid batteries (VRLA). The brand and size of the batteries will vary from UPS to UPS, but technology is generally all the same. AGM LRLA batteries are typically used because they are cost effective and reliable. Some new lines of UPS are being introduced with lithium ion batteries as standard, although they are not yet mainstream. 

What is this battery design life business?

Batteries are manufacturer to a specific design life. Theoretically, the longer design life the battery the better quality and the longer it will last, and the more it will cost. The actual lifespan of the battery will depend on a number of factors including the average ambient temperature the battery is operating in, how often and how discharged the batteries have worked, and the quality of the UPS battery charger.

Are all UPS warranties the same?

Unfortunately not. Warranties are provided by the manufacturers but extended warranty options are available for purchase. Some UPS warranties provide a one length warranty for the UPS or ‘electronics’ side of the UPS, and a different warranty on the ‘battery’ side. Ideally your warranty will cover both the entire UPS and not just one component. Extended warranties up to 5 years are readily available. 

Should I clean my UPS? Do I need to?

Generally the only moving parts in a UPS system are the internal fans. Overtime and the sticky electrostatic factor will mean your UPS may collect a build up of dust on the ventilation inlets and on the internal components. Cleaning the UPS is done as part of a regular preventative maintenance program. It’s not recommended you clean the internal components of a UPS system yourself as UPS systems are self energising, in that they have their own source of electrical energy in their batteries and can be hazardous to work on for the uninitiated.

What’s this weird inlet / outlet on my UPS?

UPS systems are mass manufactured for the world market. They often follow the IEC standard and as such your UPS may come with IEC input and output connections. IEC is stands for International Electrotechnical Commission, which produce standards for conformity in all fields of electrical related technology. Your standard Australian pin power connection has a matching IEC equivalent. The ‘male’ three pin power plug equivalent is called a C-14 and is a square shape with three pins. The ‘female’ equivalent is C-13. Both the C-13 and C-14 connectors are rated to 10Amps. Likewise there are 15Amp IEC connectors which are larger square looking connectors. The ‘male’ version is called a C-19 and the ‘female’ connector is called a C-20. You may have a mix of all these plug and sockets on your UPS depending on your UPS. If you have a normal Australian power plug and you only have IEC outlets on your UPS there are low cost power adaptors available that will convert between the two. Some UPS systems come with Australian outlets built into the units. If you have a weird round looking plug on your UPS it may be a European standard, and you might want to think about taking it back and getting it swapped over. 

I can’t plug my UPS into the mains, my plug won’t fit.

If you have a 3000VA UPS it will most likely be supplied with a 15Amp Australian three pin plug. These plugs are identified by their extra large Earth or vertical pin. You won’t be able to plug this into a standard General Purpose Outlet (GPO). You will have to have your electrician either install a new 15Amp outlet or upgrade your 10Amp outlet. Don’t try and cut or splice together a frankencable to make it work or file down the earth pin to fit, there is a reason the earth pin is larger. It’s unsafe to do it yourself, call an electrician or a UPS Expert. 

I’ve run out of receptacles on my UPS, now what?

Don’t worry, your UPS is not limited in capacity by your outlets, only by its power capability. Just because you have 10 devices connected for example doesn’t mean you have exceeded the VA rating of your UPS. If you have run out of outlets you can simply add additional outlets in the same way you would with a standard power board. This is best done with a purpose built PDU or Power Distribution Unit.  Ask your UPS expert for some advice.

Can I plug one UPS into another to extend the runtime?

This will theoretically work but is not recommended. UPS systems can in some cases inject harmonics and other power disturbances UPSTREAM of the UPS and this may effect the upstream UPS system creating heat or some other critical problem, potentially even damaging one of the UPS systems. It’s also a very inefficient way to provide backup power as each UPS system will be converting power and every time it does there is inefficiency and some power is wasted. It’s best to limit this as much as possible. 

How can I extend the capacity of my UPS?

You can extend the capacity of your UPS system by adding more power modules if your UPS has this capability, or by paralleling the UPS with an additional identical unit if your UPS has this capability. Otherwise if you don’t have a built in scalable option or parallel capability then you may not be able to upgrade the UPS. 

How can I extend the capacity of my UPS?

You can extend the capacity of your UPS system by adding more power modules if your UPS has this capability, or by paralleling the UPS with an additional identical unit if your UPS has this capability. Otherwise if you don’t have a built in scalable option or parallel capability then you may not be able to upgrade the UPS. 

Are all UPS the same?

UPS systems are definitely not the same, they vary in technology, capability and function depending on the requirements. 

What is conformal coating?

Conformal coating is where the internal components specifically circuit boards are treated with a transparent lacquer, that prevents moisture from damaging exposed electronic circuits. Conformal coating is used to harden UPS systems for marine UPS or where the environment is close to coastal areas or has high humidity. A conformal treatment can be applied to a UPS at any stage, although it must be brought back to a factory for modification. 

What is a marine grade UPS?

A marine grade UPS is a UPS that has been conformally coated in the factory as part of the manufacturing process. The metal work for the UPS may also be made from rust resistant stainless steel or aluminium depending on the model.  

What is a DC UPS?

A DC UPS is like a traditional UPS system however it is missing the inverter component to invert the DC power and product an AC waveform. DC UPS are used for specialised applications where the equipment being power requires a specific DC voltage to operate i.e. 12v, 24V 48V etc. A DC UPS is more efficient but is less flexible in that the UPS can only work with devices that have a matching DC input capability. Some modern IT equipment and most telecommunications equipment can operate on 48VDC or higher. 

What’s the difference between AC power and DC power?

AC power stands for Alternating Current and DC Power stands for Direct Current. All electronic components require DC power to operate. Your iPhone runs on 5VDC, your internet router may operate on 12VDC. The internal components in your computer run on multiple different voltages, as does your TV and every other piece of electronic hardware that may contain a circuit board. Electronic devices run on different voltages depending on how they were designed. So rather than supplying buildings with a multitude of different DC power points, we just have one standard voltage – in Australia it’s 230/240V, and then each piece of equipment is supplied with a little power supply that can convert the AC power to the DC power the device in question requires. So why deliver AC power? AC power is easier to transmit from the power station to the end device. Also energy cannot be stored in batteries as A/C power, only DC power. 

What is a UPS DC bus?

A DC Bus is the base operating voltage your UPS designed run on. It is increased by connecting multiple batteries together in series. If the standard base voltage of a battery is for example 12 volts, then joining two batteries together in series makes the total voltage 24 volts. This can continue up to any theoretical voltage. Some of the larger UPS systems have DC bus voltages up to 400 volts or more. The operating DC bus voltage is generally a fixed thing and cannot be changed. So if your UPS requires 240 volts to operate, and you use 12 volt batteries, then you MUST always use 20 batteries to make this UPS work. Having larger sized batteries and half the number of batteries will not work, even though the energy storage capacity might be the same.

What’s the difference between Power Factor and Efficiency?

Power Factor and Efficiency are two completely different things and should not be confused with each other. Power factor is how much real power your UPS can deliver vs. the apparent power it can deliver. Efficiency is indicating how much energy is lost as heat in the process of filtering / converting the electricity. If your UPS is 0.8 power factor, this doesn’t mean you are losing 20% of the energy. However if your UPS is only 80% efficient, then you are definitely losing 20% of the energy. In large, older UPS systems the cost of operating can be quite high. For example if you have a 100kVA UPS and it’s only 85% efficient (quite common in older style UPS systems), then you are potentially losing 15% of the energy the UPS is protecting. So if your UPS is 80% loaded, then it is protecting 80kVA, and it the power factor is 0.8 then it’s supporting 64kW,  and it’s only 85% efficient, then the UPS is drawing 75.3kW of power to do the job, which means you’re burning 11.3kW of energy per hour. That’s 11.3kW per hour, every hour of the day, for every day of the year. If your average cost of electricity is $0.20 for example, then that’s costing you $2.26 per hour, $54 per day, $19,797 per year. That’s a lot of power. It’s really worth checking the actual efficiency of your UPS system. To make matters worse, you’re converting all this wasted energy to heat, and you have to pay to run air conditioners to remove the heat – even more money wasted. Food for thought.  

What is this ups ECO mode?

This feature is often displayed when UPS manufacturers are trying to show how efficient the UPS is. Often it’s published something like “98% in ECO mode!”. It usually refers to Online UPS systems. ECO mode is when an online UPS is basically told to behave like a line interactive UPS, that is, stop double converting any power and just let it pass in and out of the UPS like a line interactive UPS. In the event the power turns bad, then the online function will kick in - hopefully. The problem with this, is that you’re basically turning off all the best functions of the UPS while you’re at it. The reason it is really efficient, is because it’s not doing anything. To gain even more efficiency, just put the UPS in bypass and you’ll be 100% efficient. Sort of defeats the purpose. What is preferable is to have a UPS really efficient in NORMAL mode, that is, its cleaning and filtering the power and doing it efficiently. Note it’s important to see how efficient a UPS is across all loads, this is called an efficiency curve. UPS systems are typically most efficient at around 80% load or more which they publish on the datasheet, but less than that, it could be anything. Some UPS are only 50% efficient at low loads. It’s worth investigating, especially for large UPS systems where the economies of scale can be expensive. 

How do I calculate my UPS systems power factor?

If you’re using the technical datasheet, simply divide the watts by the VA rating. i.e. If the data sheet says it can support 800watts and it’s a 1000VA UPS then the math is pf = 800/1000 or pf = 0.8. 

How do I ship my UPS?

UPS systems come in all different shapes and sizes. Usually they’re packed very well. For larger UPS it’s important the ‘right way up’ sticker is adhered to because the large battery strings in large UPS can move around and damage components. Large UPS systems usually come with a ‘Tip n Tell’ device, which is a little plastic gizmo that is attached to the side of large cartons and indicates if the UPS has been tilted past a certain point during transit. Large UPS systems can weigh 500kW or more and will require a forklift to load and unload, or a tailgate truck with some sturdy couriers and a pallet lifter. Fusion can arrange for any UPS to be delivered to any location as part of an installation service. Smaller UPS systems can be shipped the same as any standard couriered item. 

Can I air freight UPS?

UPS systems containing lead acid batteries are regularly shipped safely, however the costs are high. A typical rule of thumb is to budget $10 for every kilo the UPS weighs to ship by air. Lithium ion UPS systems are generally not shipped by air because of the relatively large size of the li-ion battery pack. 

What’s an MSDS?

MSDS stands for Materials Safety Data Sheet and is an official document that outlines the safe storage, shipping and handling for any product. An MSDS is available for all UPS systems and internal batteries.

What’s the longest time I can have my equipment run on UPS?

There is theoretically no limit to how long you can customise a UPS to operate for. Generally really long runtimes on UPS systems is prohibitively expensive, and using a diesel or petrol generator is more cost effective. 

Can I use a UPS as a portable power source?

Yes you can however as UPS systems are typically made with lead batteries, they can be painful to transport. Also when the battery pack is exhausted, there is no way to power it again until you have access to mains power. A diesel / petrol generator is typically better option for use as a mobile power source. 

I have a three pin aussie power plug how do I plug it into an IEC outlet?

Low cost power cable adaptors can make it very easy to plug a standard three pin Australian plug in to an IEC UPS. Alternatively if you device has an IEC input cable, source an IEC to IEC extension cable to plug your device directly into the UPS. This will have the added advantage of de-cluttering your cable environment as IEC plugs are significantly smaller in profile to an Australian three pin plug. 

I’ve lost my rackmount kit can you help?

Yes. There are many generic rack mounting brackets available that will suit most UPS systems. 
 

How do I size up my UPS?

To size up your UPS system, you have to figure out how much load you are going to need to support. Most electrical equipment either has it’s maximum power consumption written on the device itself, or the power consumption data is available from the manufacturers technical data. You add up the power consumption for all the devices to get a total. Then you choose a UPS with a rating that is larger than your total load. You should always allow some extra for expansion. Of course the easiest way is just to get your UPS Expert to do it, that’s what they’re paid for after all. 

What is inrush current / locked rotor current?

When some devices startup, they require significantly more energy to start than to actual operate normally. This typically applies to motors. The big draw of energy when they startup is called the inrush current, or locked rotor current. Although the draw of energy is only for a short period of time, it is an issue when it comes to UPS systems, as UPS need to supply this extra current from it’s batteries when the mains has failed. Inrush current can sometimes be in excess of 10 times the normal operating current. So if in normal operation your device is drawing 1000VA of power, on startup the inrush VA may be 10,000! This means you would need at least a 10kVA UPS to run the load, even though the normal requirement is only 1000. There are solutions however with the use of soft starters, or variable speed drives. If you have a motor based UPS application it’s best to speak with a UPS Expert before purchasing a UPS, else it might not work when you need it most. 

What is modular UPS?

A modular UPS is a system that can be expanded or modified in specific sections. Modular UPS systems are useful in that you can typically grow the power capacity of a UPS or the battery capacity of a UPS by adding more modules. It’s also handy for faults as malfunctioning components can be swapped without having to swap the entire UPS.  

What does paralleling a UPS mean?

Paralleling a UPS is when you connect the output of more than one UPS system together to form a larger UPS. For example paralleling two 20kVA UPS systems together creates a 40kVA UPS system. 

Can I parallel any UPS?

The trick with paralleling UPS systems together is to synchronise the output waveforms. Connecting unsynchronised waveforms means something is almost certainly going to get damaged. Parallellable UPS systems come with special communications cables and protocols to ensure the UPS systems perform this function correctly. Not all UPS systems have this function available.

What does rack/tower mean?

Rack / tower means your UPS can me mounted in either a tower configuration or a rack configuration. You get both options in the same UPS. 

What is this 3 phase to one phase business?

This is where the number of phases that supply your UPS is different to the number of phases that come out of your UPS. The most common of this type of UPS is a three phase input UPS and a single phase output UPS. This is used some times for medium sized UPS systems, where having too much load on one of the phases could cause a problem. With a three phase load, each phase has the ability to carry the same amount of power, however if you overload one phase, then all phases are at risk. For example if you have a 20kVA UPS and it’s single phase in and single phase out, then the Amps required upstream is roughly 83 amps. If you had a three phase circuit board, then one of the phases would need to support 83 amps. The other two phases may not be loaded this high. Using a three phase input UPS would spread this load across all three phases, effectively 33% per phase, so you only need  27.7Amps per phase, which is much easier to handle. This is called load balancing. Are there problems having mixed phased UPS?

If I have a large UPS how do I have it installed?

The only draw back with using a three to single phase UPS is when the UPS is turned to bypass. When you are in bypass mode, you have to synchronise the output of the UPS, which is single phase, which means you have to again put all the load, in this example up to 83amps on a single phase. The best way to avoid this problem is just to use three phase to three phase UPS systems.  

How do I plug my equipment into a hardwired UPS?

Don’t be frightened of hardwired UPS systems. The hardwired output of a UPS system can easily be connected to an independent electrical switchboard or sub-board, which can then supply any power point you want. For example, all red power points in hospitals (in Australia) are powered from a UPS system. This UPS system feeds a dedicated UPS electrical distribution board, which in turn feeds a these red power points. Ask your UPS Expert for advice on how to design your electrical distribution system. 

My UPS is too heavy to get in a goods lift, now what?

This is a common problem as some larger UPS systems weigh over half a tonne or more. Don’t fear, the heaviest component of your UPS system is usually the batteries, which can be removed from your UPS prior to it going up the lift. The UPS batteries can be lifted in smaller batches. All the parts can be reassembled once the UPS is in its final position. Make sure you check the floor loading before you position your UPS, multistorey buildings have restrictions on how much weight can be positioned in one area. If you have a weight loading issue, you can installed plinths to distribute the load over a larger area. There are many ways to solve these kinds of issues, best way is to call your UPS Expert and get them to figure it out.  

What is an EPO?

EPO stands for Emergency Power Off and is used to immediately shut down all power outputting from a UPS system. It is designed to be used in emergencies. As a UPS has its own source of internal power, it cannot be isolated through a supplying switchboard. If a there is a danger to personnel from the output of the power supplied from a UPS an EPO can immediately disconnect it. Likewise if fire fighting need to isolate the UPS supply it is a simple matter to do so. This is important for large UPS systems where there are multiple hardwired power outlets supplied by the UPS. EPOs are typically easily identified external switches that are mounted in plain sight either outside or inside the UPS room. 

I have a rack mount UPS but I want to sit it on the floor. Is this ok?

UPS systems typically should technically be mounted in the arrangement they were designed for, however mounting them in other configurations generally will not harm the UPS. 

What are the cooling requirement for a UPS system?

For the life of the UPS batteries it’s best to try and keep the room the UPS his housed in to around 25 degrees C unless you have a high temperature UPS. 

Can I get a UPS that doesn’t care about temperature?

High temperature UPS are available and contain specialised components and batteries that have a high tolerance for extreme temperature. 

What’s a mimic panel?

A mimic panel is a physical screen that mimics the UPS local interface, typically an LCD screen. It enables the LCD screen to be installed in a different room to the UPS system. They are less common in recent time as this function is typically performed by software. 

Why do I need commissioning when I buy a new UPS?

For larger UPS systems or more complex setups it’s generally a good idea to get a qualified technician to check over all the electrical and signal cables to ensure the UPS is configured correctly. Starting a UPS that is not configure correctly could result in it being damaged. 

The fans are noisy or not spinning on my UPS, is this bad?

Noisy fans are a sign that they are beginning to fail and should be replaced. Fans are important as they ensure fresh air is being passed over critical components to prevent overheating. Overheating can lead to premature component failure causing the UPS to stop working. 

I can smell a burning sulphur smell coming from my UPS is this bad?

Burning smells can be a sign of component damage. A sulphur small is a sign the batteries are being overcharged. In either event should call a UPS Expert quickly and have it looked at. 

Can I trade in my old UPS?

Second hand UPS systems have limited value, as their key importance is their reliable, and a second hand UPS has questionable reliability. In some cases a trade in can be available depending on the quality of your UPS and its age.