Our Two UPS Have Gone Down

Belkin UPSsWe have a pair of uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) on the property. Both are somewhat vintage models from Belkin. A 1000 VA model (F6C1000) in my office rack powers our network core. A smaller, 900 VA model (F6C900) in a central closet, powers those network components that live in the house. Both of them have been misbehaved in recent weeks. At this very moment they are basically non-functional.

I’ve long believed that the network core should survive minor power line irregularities. This belief stemmed in part from our migration to IP-based telephones for home & office. Our phone service should survive a power line bump. With both UPS in their fault-riddled state a loss of line power, even just a power line switching bump, caused our entire network to go down. This situation eventually had to be addressed.

The sealed batteries is consumer UPS such as ours have a fixed lifespan. At a certain point they simply cannot retain a charge, and the device throws an error. From that point onward they become nothing more than an overweight outlet strip.

Replacing the devices with similar, new models would cost $100 – 200 each. However, if I were to replace them I’d prefer to upgrade to dual-conversion models, instead of their cheaper, line-interactive cousins. A dual conversion design provides cleaner power under a range of line conditions. That upgrade would double or triple the project cost.

I know from past experience that someone handy with a  screw driver can replace the batteries in a UPS. So, I’ve just ordered replacement batteries for both of these Belkin devices.

The replacement batteries, purchased via Amazon, come from third party suppliers, which is a good thing since Belkin actually exited the UPS business some time ago. It seems that tablet and cell phone accessories are a more profitable business.

This is the third set of batteries going into the larger UPS. At some point it won’t make sense to replace the batteries again. For the moment, it still makes more sense to replace the batteries than to incur the replacement cost and pay to send the old devices off to an electronic recycler.

  • karlfife

    Not to rant, but I’ve had as many power interruptions outages *caused* by budget liine-interactive UPS’s than the power interruptions they’ve prevented. For many years now, I’ve only used high quality, “dual-conversion” UPS’s, even at home.

    Since UPS’s don’t really wear out (though to Michael’s point the batteries are a consumable), the value of a good dual-conversion UPS is high due to the long service life. Furthermore, dual-conversion units are available for very little money at auction. I’ve routinely seen new and ‘as new’ 700-1500VA units for a few hundred dollars delivered. That’s not unreasonable considering business decision makers should be unwilling to potentially risk business disruption (and their reputation) by trying to economize (with someone else’s money). Good news for hobby/home users because the upshot is a glut of perfectly good ‘as new’ and used high-end UPS’s.

    Further to Michael’s point about replacing batteries, better quality UPS’s can dramatically increase the expected lifespan of batteries by being ‘intelligent’ about recharging & maintaining them. Lead acid batteries are idiosyncratic. Good/Modern ‘smart’ charging systems will more than double the service life of batteries compared to traditional charging circuits that “simply” trickle charge batteries–effectively to death. In this way, the non-trivial cost of consumable batteries in a better UPS can dramatically offset the higher capital cost.

    Michael is right on the money about dual conversion UPS’s being preferable. They are the only type that can correct for ALL power quality issues including line noise, frequency variation, and harmonic distortions caused by devices with non-linear loads. I don’t even consider anything else anymore, though I think buying batteries for an existing unit is a sound idea if it’s meeting your needs.

  • mjgraves

    I completely agree. However, could you suggest some recommended make/models? That could make the purchase of used/refurbished devices a little more attractive.

    • karlfife

      Currently my favorite UPS is the Eaton/Powerware 9130, though I have a lot of 9125’s still in production. I recall the 9130 family being available in sizes ranging from 700VA to 3000VA using ordinary ‘household’ single/split-phase power. UPS sizes 1000 VA and greater can receive external battery strings for extremely long run times if needed. All units in the series can receive an optional NIC for monitoring, messaging, configuration etc. Beyond the technical prowess of these units, they come with a handy on-device LCD screen for monitoring & testing. You can check things like input voltage/frequency output voltage/frequency, VA,Amps,Watts load, % capacity, battery voltage, runtime and more.

      • mjgraves

        Yes, I recall these. I see the 700VA rack mount configuration offered on Ebay for $280 (refurbished) or a whopping $750 (new)

        In my situation it’s a question of want vs need. I might want or even prefer the prefer dual-conversion UPS…but I don’t truly need it.

      • Aaron Hope

        I’ll second the Eaton/Powerware recommendation. The 9130 is a little rich for my blood, but I have nothing but praise for the 5115. I’ve been buying them for years – long after they’d be officially obsoleted by newer models. I haven’t been able to find anything close to that level of quality generating a pure sine wave at that price. We have purchased about two dozen UPSs over the years, and the effective life of the smaller Tripplite and APC units, both batteries and electronics, has been embarrassing. Avoid desktop class UPS products for anything you care about. I consider those the “IPS” category.

        • karlfife

          Several years ago, I asked someone at Eaton why APC is so popular when by all indications they’re inferior for equivalent products. I’ll never forget it: He said “APC has a good marketing department. We have a good ENGINEERING department”