What is power protection and why do I need it?
Power protection is critical to assure your computer has clean power to work with. Today’s electronics are very sensitive to power fluctuations. Under voltage or brown outs (when the lights dim in your house) starves electrical systems for power. Over voltage or surges (lightning strikes, etc) overloads and can burn out electrical systems. You can receive a surge from any line feeding your device (such as the phone line, cable line, network lines and power cords). To completely protect any electrical device you need to have protection on all input sources. For the best protection you need to choose a power protection device that has a “connected device warranty” dollar amount that is high enough to cover all items plugged into it.
To do power protection cost effectively it must start at the sources of all power and communication lines coming into your home or business. Basic whole house or business power protection should start with a “in circuit breaker panel” surge protector. Whoever provides your cable service should install an in-line basic surge protector, most likely on the outside of your structure. The phone company leaves surge protection completely up to you, find the source line(s) entering the structure and have an in-line surge protector installed.
Once you have all the power and communication lines protected with basic in-line surge protectors it is time to decide what level of protection you need for each device in your home or business. There are generally three different grades of surge protectors and two different grades (for home and small business) of power backup units. All high end devices (such as computers, modems, networking equipment, printers*, HDTVs and other home entertainment components*, etc) need a high level of protection – mainly a power backup unit. The appliances and mid-range devices (such as refrigerators, microwaves, washing machines, small appliances, mobile device chargers, garage door openers, etc) that you have need a good surge protector. The basic devices in your home or business (such as overhead lights, lamps, clocks, fans, toasters, hair dryers, etc) and the 220 volt devices (such as clothes dryers, HVAC, air compressors, etc) in your home or business should be protected by a “in circuit breaker panel” surge protector.
*Laser printers, high end stereos, and other devices with heating elements can pull more power than a home or small business power backup unit can handle, make sure you plug these devices into surge protection only.
What is the difference between a surge protector and a power backup unit?
Power backup units will protect your device from brown outs, power failures, and surges while a surge strip will only protect the device from surges. It is important to not confuse a power strip with a surge strip. A power strip does not provide surge protection, it only gives you extra outlets.
To properly purchase a power backup unit you first need to add up all the devices power requirements that will be attached to the unit. This will tell you what size power backup unit is needed. The larger the power backup unit the longer it will run after power has failed or how long it will run on battery if a long brown out is occurring. Computers and all other computerized devices (such as HDTVs, Blu-Ray Players, DVD Players, and other smart devices – including some newer appliances) need runtime and shutdown time considered. Any thing that boots up and has to shutdown needs reliable power to shutdown correctly and not cause data corruption or loss.
For home computers a 1000 to 1300va power backup unit is plenty to allow you to finish whatever it is you are doing and shut down the computer correctly. Basic workstations will do fine on a 1000va unit. Point of Sale computers need a 1300 to 1500va unit while network servers need a 1500va unit or higher – remember the higher the VA the longer the attached devices will run. Networking, modems, and VoIP devices need a 1000va or higher unit to keep those services running as long as possible, this especially goes for people that have their phones provided by cable companies – you don’t want to be without 911 moments after the power fails do you?
HDTVs, garage door openers**, and other high end home electronic devices, etc only need enough power backup time to shutdown properly or stay running for weather and news updates in the time of bad weather etc.
**Garage door openers only need a power backup unit if you want the garage door opener to work for a short time after power fails. We recommend buying a high end door opener with power backup built in rather than using a separate power backup unit. For more information visit Chamberlain’s website and study the high end garage door openers that are available.
I need a lot of power backup units, can I save money on them by installing a generator?
Yes, for home and business owners that have installed a high end generator you can save a lot of money on power backup units. Instead of 1000 to 1500va units you only need a large enough unit to give the generator time to come on and up to full power. For most generators this takes about 2 to 8 minutes, this includes the delay that the automatic transfer switch needs to realize the power is out completely. So, figure on needing 750 to 1000va units (make sure the power backup unit is still large enough to handle the load of all connected devices). Keep in mind for all the high end devices you intend to keep running on a low end generator the sine wave needs to be a full sine wave, not a half or block wave that 99% of them put out. If you have a low end generator it is recommended you do not run your high end devices on them, sensitive devices will be slowly damaged by a non full sine wave. Those of you that have low end generators, you need to invest in an electrical noise suppressor as well. If you require more information on generators visit Generac’s website. Generac’s Guardian series has TruePower™ Technology built in and is perfect for all high end devices.
What exactly is “vampire” power and can surge strips and power backup units help me deal with “vampire” power problems?
Vampire power is the stand by power that most electronics made today use while you have them “off”. Most devices do not shutdown fully, think of all the yellow and orange lights you see around your house, all the displays telling you the time, or all the chargers for all of your mobile devices – these devices are using .5 to 15 watts of power 24/7/365. Walk thru your house and do a little math, most houses have about 40 vampire devices which amounts to about 20 to 600 watts of power being used constantly. So that is 600w x 24hrs x 30 days = 432,000wh x 12 months = 5,184,000wh a year / 1,000 = 5,184kwh x .12kwh = $622.08 a year in wasted power! That is using the national average of 12 cents a kilowatt-hour and on a tiered power system rates can hit upwards of 50 cents a kilowatt-hour.
Yes, most higher end surge strips and power backup units now have a Master Outlet and Master Outlet controlled outlets. To use this feature you plug in the master device (such as your computer) and when you turn the computer off the devices (such as adding machines, monitors, speakers, usb hubs, etc) you have plugged into the controlled outlets are completely shut down. They will not have any power going to them to keep them in stand by mode. You should not plug anything into these outlets that needs to shutdown properly (such as high end ink jet and all laser printers). When you turn the computer back on all of the devices in the controlled outlets have their power restored and come on.
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