I use “protection”

I have from time to time made a recommendation about getting Uninterruptible (or Uninterrupted) Power Sources (UPS).  My best experience for customer service as been with APC.

I received this note from a priest friend:

I got an APC BACK UPS ES 550 the other year upon your recommendation on WDTPRS.

Last night, while sending you an email[!], lightning struck directly three times in a row.

And the BACK UPS is still working.

Thanks for the advice. It would otherwise have been a personal TEOTWAWKI event for me.

Today a storm raced through. There was lightning. Several of my UPS’s registered small surges.

If you don’t have one of these for your computer stuff, your big expensive TV, etc., you’ll be sorry.

A small one, such as a 550VA is about $55 while a larger, more robust model, such as 1500VA, is $180.  There are options in between and even larger.  Consider using my link, please.

Avoid Ultra.  Terrible customer service and unreliable units.  Use APC.  They do it right.  I have some small ones for less important items or things that consume less power.  For the important stuff, I have massive UPSs.  When one of these APC units “died” in the defense of my stuff, APC was great and sent a replacement unit.  Ultra… not so much.

Weigh the costs of replacement and time and loss of data against a the buffer. They are not absolute, but they have saved my stuff several times.

I really do mean to scare you when I say that it is not a matter of IF you are going to have a big power surge or a hard drive failure, it really is a matter of WHEN.  If you don’t prepare for the day, you’re nuts.  Spend a little now or, later on, cry cry cry.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Ted says:

    Tripp-Lite is not too bad, although you may have to prepay shipping for a replacement depending on the circumstances.

  2. wmeyer says:

    I spent a decade living in a redwood forest. I would not consider even turning a computer on in that environment without a UPS. Transients are commonplace, and in winter (>100 inches of rainfall), outages range from 4-12 hours, with impressive transients when the power dies. Obviously, a UPS is not the answer to hours of coverage–for that, I owned a generator.

    I have used Tripp-Lite and APC. My recommendation is hands-down in favor of APC. Better quality, better service, longer life.

  3. Mary Jane says:

    Have one! Love it. It’s actually come in handy once already…power outage…

  4. acardnal says:

    I, too, as someone with an extensive background in electronics and telecommunications, highly recommend APC products. As I recall, when I had to replace an old battery, they sent me a replacement with postage paid container!

    Make sure your UPS also protects your telephone/RJ45 Cat 4 cable/coaxial connections not just the AC power line.

  5. acardnal says:

    Note: “postage paid container” was to return the old battery. sorry. . ..

  6. NoraLee9 says:

    Listen to Father. We had a tornado, of all the stupid things, IN QUEENS, in 2010. Lightning hit our back terrace, raced through the wall-of-mirrors in the bedroom and completely melted the bedroom iMac. Hubby works in graphic design and education…. It was bad.

    No one expects a tornado in Queens. If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere. APC is the brand the professionals use.

  7. Ted says:

    Tripp-Lite or ADC? It often does depend on the model too. But both are generally oriented towards the consumer market. If you really want something rugged and reliable go industrial with Liebert, but you will have to fork out the money.
    By the way, if you are planning to live in your own home for quite a while, especially if you are about to build one, and have sensitive equipment at several locations there, you may consider a devoted uninterrupted and filtered power line like in the hospitals. It can be hooked up to a large UPS and supplemented with a generator if needed.
    Remember that if you want to work on the Internet during a power blackout, your networking (WAPs, switches, modems, etc) needs to be powered too. If you use ADSL, the phone companies have batteries and generators on their end to keep the system running during a power blackout. On your end, a fully charged tablet or netbook can run for quite a while before recharging.

  8. Diane at Te Deum Laudamus says:

    I’ve been wondering if one of these units could be used, say – on a power recliner. When I looked at furniture some months ago, I was told these are getting more popular than hand lever recliners. Senior citizens especially like them (and they are least likely to be able to get out of one should power go out). Some have one-time-use backups. Some have no back-up at all. So, could a UPS also be used for other things like this? How would you know what size to get?

  9. Magpie says:

    We don’t have power surges in the UK and we rarely have electrical storms so we don’t need these things! [HAH! Famous last words.]

  10. LouiseA says:

    The euphemistic headline on this post is gross, not clever.

  11. acardnal says:

    “I use protection” would be an attention-getting line to open a homily with. Reminds me of the homily the Ven. Bp. Fulton J. Sheen gave in which he opened with “I am in love with a woman.” Of course, he went on to talk about the Blessed Mother.

  12. RichR says:

    I got a UPS a few years ago after Fr. Z. mentioned it. I had never thought about it until then. I can’t say I’ve had an incident since then, but I have peace of mind.

    Also, for those who don’t want to go find it:
    TEOTWAWKI = The End Of The World As We Know It

  13. RichR: I hope you never need one!

  14. M.D. says:

    I find the APC UPSgood quality. And easy enough to replace the battery when needed.



    [Even more importantly, you can use my amazon search box on the side bar to get APC replacement batteries!]

  15. M.D. says:

    Fr Z. said:
    “you can use my amazon search box on the side bar to get APC replacement batteries!”

    Nice. I’ll be sure to use it for stuff I search for on amazon.

  16. AnnAsher says:

    Is this the same as a surge protector

  17. acardnal says:

    Surge protection PLUS battery back up for a limited time. Enough time to power down your computers in a safe manner.

  18. AnnAsher says:

    Ps/ I use protection – hilarious!

  19. AnnAsher says:

    @acardnal – thanks! I shall look into this. Currently iMac has a regular surge protector.

  20. TZ says:

    (Not coincidentally?) In the wake of those D.C. storms, Newt Gingrich is warning of what we could expect in the event of an EMP:


  21. acardnal says:

    Most folks do NOT need rack mounted UPS’s indicated by the URLs above. This is more what a home user needs: HERE

  22. Gus Barbarigo says:

    QUAERITUR: Would anyone be able to recommend a generator to run a fridge, maybe household lighting, etc.? Any thoughts on generator vs. inverter, etc.? There are a dizzying array of options out there, so recommendations would be most helpful. Since we’re talking ‘power protection,’ I hope you will accept this query as part of the thread topic. Thanks to all who are able to respond.

  23. Joan M says:

    I use Tripp-Lite – as far as I know APC is not available in Trinidad, and Amazon can not ship APC here. We get a lot of thunder storms, particularly in the rainy season and a lot of electrical blackouts and brownouts. These have worn out a couple of Tripp-Lites over the years, without any damage to my computers. The one before the current one also survived a minor flood (about one inch deep) when a water line into a toilet tank broke during the night…..

  24. AnAmericanMother says:

    We have a good deal of experience with generators, as we live in the South, in a pine forest, in an area that gets ice storms and impressive thunderstorms (including tornados).
    Your first question is going to be diesel versus gasoline versus propane or NG. The latter two are quiet but also expensive, and have to be professionally installed and fed into your system. Unless you have frequent power outages I wouldn’t recommend them, although if you have money to burn an in-line propane generator that cuts on automatically is the way to go (if it’s TEOTWAWKI you can’t count on the gas company). Diesel and gas are both extremely noisy, but you can build a sound-dampening box (plans on the internet!) and keep them well away from the house (also to avoid carbon monoxide problems). Keep an eye on it and chain it to something solid with the biggest chain and lock you have, though, because noise attracts looters.
    For years we had a little Sears gas-powered generator, a very basic 2000w. It was enough to run the ‘fridge and a few lights, as well as the furnace blower in an ice storm. The poor thing eventually just wore out last year (we had had it since around 1982, and we bought it used). We got a 6800w Ridgid (still gas powered) and it will power just about the whole house, though not heavy current drawers like the oven – and of course it wouldn’t run central AC or an electric furnace. Where the larger power capacity really pays is that you can run medium level stuff like a microwave. You could probably also run a room air conditioner (the “window wart” type) but we haven’t tried it.
    The Ridgid has an electric starter, and I sure do not miss pulling the starter cord on the Sears!
    You either use a LOT of extension cords, or get an electrician to wire you a three-way cutoff switch. I would not recommend running the generator directly into your house wiring unless you really, REALLY know what you’re doing – if you mess up you could fry all your appliances, electrocute yourself, or kill a lineman trying to restore power. Hubby is a radio amateur and former apprentice electrician, he tags out the main and feeds into the two legs of the 220v service, but he really does know what he’s doing.
    The power off even a good generator is a little on the ‘dirty’ side, so we run the computer through a UPS (APC!) with a power conditioner, and use the GFIC outlet as well.

  25. Sissy says:

    Gus: I can’t add much to AAM’s excellent advice and recommendations, except to suggest you also check out Honda as a brand (if the budget permits). Here in the out-islands, everyone has a generator since power outages are a weekly (or daily) occurrence. We have a 15,000 kw permanently hardwired to the house, but lots of second-home owners have the portable Hondas. They are extremely quiet and durable.

  26. AnAmericanMother says:

    I agree that Honda is a fine brand – so is Briggs & Stratton. We picked up the Ridgid on sale and it works just fine, we fire it up once a month and run it for a few minutes just to make sure.
    We had friends on Providenciales, B.W.I., and they had a large generator hardwired. I don’t remember what the fuel source was, though. The regular power was iffy, to say the least, and it always got repaired on “island time”.
    Did you say you were in the Bahamas? We had relatives on Andros – the Magruders. When we were kids we used to travel w/ my parents through the Caribbean, sometimes on down into the Leewards & Windwards. Great times.

  27. Sissy says:

    AAM: Yes, we’re in the Family Islands. We have many friends here who are currently building an orphanage on Andros. We hope to be able to visit it before we leave here at the end of this month. We use diesel fuel down here, almost exclusively. You’re right – everything is done on “island time”, but it’s a beautiful place full of wonderful people! We’ll miss them very much.

  28. AnAmericanMother says:

    I never had a problem with ‘island time’. What’s the hurry, after all? And it’s not like it’s ever 106 degrees, like it was here last week . . . . :-(
    Always managed to avoid Nassau and Grand Bahama . . . . you’re right, the Out Islands are beautiful, and the people are great. We always felt welcome and enjoyed visiting around. I know you’ll miss them.

  29. I am always fascinated by who chimes and where people are from.

  30. Sissy says:

    Fortunately, being far from home doesn’t mean one has to do without Fr. Z Blog!! Thanks for being here, Father. You are in my prayers.

  31. Gus Barbarigo says:

    @AnAmericanMother, Sissy:
    Thank you for your help! God bless!

  32. Keep the discussion going! I learn a lot from this.

  33. AnAmericanMother says:

    My husband adds – an inverter converts DC to AC or vice versa, so that would be used if you were working with storage batteries (DC) or running your car to provide electricity. Not as efficient as a generator – but useful in a pinch. We have a small inverter in the car to run laptops etc. on road trips.
    He also adds that it is important to put a little Fuel-dri or Stabil in your generator gas tank or to drain it if you’re not using it for long periods.

  34. Sissy says:

    Another good product to look into is a line conditioner. [Good suggestion. I understand that these are very important for large flat screen TV’s.] Line conditioners not only protect against power surges, but also against “sags” and brownouts. We actually get more damage from brownouts than surges down here in the Bahamas. The products to protect against this can be purchased individually to fit into the receptacle or as a power strip. They are a bit more pricey than the surge protectors, so I only use them for my most expensive items (fridge, computer, piano….yes, I shipped my piano down here and will soon ship it home, much to my husband’s chagrin!)

  35. Sissy says:

    Oh, and in the summertime when brownouts are more frequent, an inexpensive volt meter from Amazon is a great help. We keep one plugged into a kitchen receptacle to let us know when voltage has fallen into the danger zone. At that point, we throw the main and turn on the genero. Fun and games.

  36. The Cobbler says:

    I’m kinda late to this discussion, but for what it’s worth…

    Growing up in Iowa (a stormy state in the summer), my family basically was okay with the fact that during a power outage we would be without electronic devices. We were far more concerned with getting under the basement stairs if there were tornados about. For our computers’ safety, however, we had surge protectors to prevent frying. Sudden loss of power wasn’t a massive concern (if you aren’t saving your documents often, you have more to worry about random crashes than about unexpected storms; this has become less of an issue over the years as OSes gain bloat in exchange for stability, but is still basically true as far as I know); surges were. So, simple, one-time and then to be replaced surge protectors it was for all our computers, the kind you can get at any electronics or office store. Whether they’re guaranteed to work or not, that I don’t know — our computers never fried, but I don’t know how often the surge protectors had to be replaced or if all those years we just weren’t hit. These days I’m waiting till I actually have spare funds to get a new desktop, so I just unplug my laptop during storms, and turn it off and unplug it if I’m going to be out or asleep for a while (mostly that means every night and every weekday while I’m at work, but even the couple hours I’m gone at Mass because as these freak storms have demonstrated, storms can be freak). I personally don’t mind being “cut off” for a while, but I can’t speak for everyone. I will say that civilization here did not collapse over the weekend when even the streetlights were out; people treated the corner as a four-way stop even before the county or whoever got temp stopsigns out on the roads, people hung out and chatted and did normal things, and Krogers (grocery store) seems to have a backup generator. Of course, we all had our cars, which we wouldn’t in an EMP, we could drive over to where the power wasn’t out, which we couldn’t in an EMP, and it only lasted a weekend, which it wouldn’t in an EMP; but as a rule… humanity seems to be not quite as mad as it tries to make itself seem, and mere loss of power isn’t always as big a deal as we worry about it being. Now, if the air conditioning blows out, you’ve got yourself some real bodily danger during a summer like this; modern architecture isn’t designed to work around lack of central heating and air during whatever weather hits the locale, and I’m sure in the olden days people were used to being hot and cold inside and there was probably still some danger over a hot summer (or if you ran out of fuel for the fire in the winter), so maybe what you really want, besides saving your documents often and making sure you’re protected from surges at least, but possibly more than that, is a backup for your AC/furnace.

    End non-expert ramblings of a young fellow who’s just lived through his first power outage since leaving his parents’ house.

  37. acardnal says:

    The Cobbler, your paragraphs are very long and difficult to read.

  38. The Cobbler says:

    You have identified why I decided to give up on any involvement in academia, including getting any non-technical degrees. ;^) I’m having one of those particularly messy nights. Kinda noted it elsewhere, multiple places in fact, but — oh, I better not get started or I’ll be here till dawn.

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