Advice from a priest: use protection!

I am sure you remember my scare-warnings that, “It doesn’t happen to you, until it does!”

One of the things you need to plan for is the protection of your electronic stuff, which we rely on a lot and often spend a lot of money on.  That’s why people need “Uninterruptible Power Sources” or UPS.  I have posted about them HERE and HERE.

These things are powerful surge protectors and back-up batteries which will keep your equipment running steady on in the case of power loss.  They can give you time to shut things like computers down normally or keep them safe from momentary or short power outages.  They come with software which will shut your computer down automatically if the battery runs low.  Useful if you are away.

I just had a note from a priest who lives in the countryside.

I have two APC Back-UPS ES 550. I had all electronics plugged in. Just now, out of the blue sky, though there were some nearby clouds, lightning hit my little dwelling. A direct hit, leaving things literally sizzling outside for a couple of seconds. Everything inside was in good working order, however, because of the UPS units. They have saved equipment and work many times. I suppose I should replace them one day. They must wear out after a while. I’ll have to search WDTPRS for a link. Thanks for prepping us all for those times when “It doesn’t happen to you, until it does.”

There are lots of options.  A good one is HERE.

I have had the best experience from APC products, included customer service hands down.  I have had the worst with Ultra.  Yuck.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Just installed a new APC BR 1500 last weekend, when my old one bit the dust. Would not be without one.

  2. As an IT professional, I second this recommendation. We don’t sell desktop computers without a battery backup/ surge suppressor unless a really cheap client insists.

  3. pj_houston says:

    Just an FYI, if you live in an old house that has two prong receptacles, instead of three, then most likely your electrical outlets are not grounded (you can check on this using an outlet tester). If so, then surge protectors won’t really work.

  4. ASPM Sem says:

    A very eye-catching title.

  5. Tom says:

    I think the IRS does not use these for a reason.

  6. JackG says:

    I live in an old building, which means the electrical system is old. The lights were always flickering. I went through three power supplies in my computer in three years before I stopped procrastinating and bought an APC UPS. Seven years later I haven’t lost another power supply. Get a UPS! APC is a very good brand.

  7. lelnet says:

    Your priest friend (and yourself, and your readers) should know that, if/when something like this happens, you really need to replace those UPSes afterward. It has done its duty, and taken a not-entirely-metaphorical bullet in defense of your hardware and your data…it deserves to retire in peace, because once it’s been through a shock like this, it won’t be as effective next time.

  8. iamlucky13 says:

    It’s worth making a distinction here. There are two types of power protection for your computer.

    A UPS has a battery to keep your computer running during a power outage, but usually only 20-30 minutes. That gives you time to save your work and shut down, and most of them sound an alarm when the battery starts to get low. They usually also have built in surge protection to protect your electronics from damage.

    But UPS’s are expensive. The model Fr. Z. linked to is $180. More to the point, it’s not actually the sudden loss of power that is likely to damage your electronics, but a surge of high voltage, which can occur when a power line is severed or due to a lightning strike, but can occur at other times, as well.

    So the essential piece of protection for a computer is a surge suppressor. A UPS is an additional benefit for users who can not afford or do not want to lose unsaved data, but most users are fine with a surge suppressor, and decent surge suppressors from a reputable manufacturer can be had for $20-30. APC is also my favorite consumer brand, while in the commercial market, the Tripp Lite Isobar series is generally considered the gold standard, despite being ugly and expensive.

    It is very important to note that a power strip is not the same as a surge suppressor. If it costs $10 or less, it probably has no more protection than a fuse or circuit breaker, which is more of a protection against a short circuit in the device plugged in than protection for the device against external surges.

    An actual surge suppressor is labeled as such (or a similar name like surge protector) and should have a UL 1449 certification on it that includes a voltage protection rating (lower is better, usually 500V or less, and 330V is pretty common). They will also usually have a dissipation rating in Joules (500 J is probably an acceptable minimum. Some are rated for over 3000 J). They may also have ratings for noise filtering to help protect your electronics from interference on the power line that is less likely to cause damage but can occur even when everything seems normal.

    Lastly, they should be replaced if they absorb a really large surge. Some have a status light that changes or goes out to indicate this.

  9. I will just add that while the sudden loss of power will most likely not damage the electronics to the point where they would need replacement, it could corrupt the operating system on a hard disk to the point at which a system would not boot, which for most people would result in either an expensive repair bill or the necessity of purchasing a new computer– how many people are really comfortable with reinstalling an operaing system, which if not done properly will also destroy all the data? A decent APC UPS can be had for well under $100, which is about I would have to charge someone to back up all the data on a system and reinstall or repair an operating system, not to mention the inconvenience of being without a computer.

    Like all insurance, it seems expensive until it is needed. My father always used to complain about the cost of his health insurance (which he had to purchase on his own as he was self-employed) until he got the substantial bill for the pacemaker that he had to have implanted rather unexpectedly. After that, I didn’t hear him complain any more about that.

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