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Battery back-ups never work


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#1
RolfJ

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I have a small business and we use battery back ups on our server, as well as the individual PCs. We frequently experience power outages that last but an instant. The battery back ups (and we have used several different types) almost never work. We have to shut down all of the computers and the server, and then bring it all back up. Anyone know why we have so many failures of the battery back ups?

Thanks for your help.
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#2
Neil Jones

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The concept of a UPS is that it sits between main power and PC. Therefore when the main power fails, the UPS takes over. While there is power the batteries in the UPSs get recharged. Different UPSs work in different ways but the more you have running off a UPS, the quicker the battery drains so it's entirely possible depending on your setup that the batteries are being charged but because you're running lots off them the battery runs out of juice almost immediately. They don't provide hours and hours of power, typically five-ten minutes for a single PC.

Edited by Neil Jones, 13 October 2009 - 04:16 PM.

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#3
123Runner

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There is a power rating for the UPS. It can only handle a certain amount for a certain time. If you keep adding computers, monitors, printers, etc to keep them on, the power in the battery will drain faster.
You can purchase UPS's that will last for hours, but the longer you want to maintain power, the more expensive they are.
Also, the batteries in the UPS's do not last for ever. Are they charging? Most have an indicator light on them to tell you the status.
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#4
rshaffer61

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We frequently experience power outages that last but an instant.


The question is what do you mean by a instance?
If this is a second or so the UPS will not have enough time to really get up to full power.
I personally have never used one but do know a few people who do. They swear by them and saythey work really well. How old are these UPS devices?
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#5
Digerati

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We frequently experience power outages that last but an instant.

Every body does - only they don't usually know it. It is only when they become longer, that people do, but then, it may only appear as a flicker.

I am a strong proponent for every computer to be on an UPS with AVR (automatic voltage regulation) so I am glad you have them and hope they are decent quality, but sorry you are having problems. One thing most users are unaware of with UPS is the SLA (sealed lead-acid) batteries used in most UPS wear out in about 3 years and need to be replaced. So assuming you are using the correct size UPS on these computers, my guess is it is time to replace the batteries.

Note it is the AVR that makes an UPS so essential for surge and spike protectors are little more than fancy and expensive extension cords that do nothing for sags or dropouts, and don't handle long term surges very well.
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#6
westom

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Anyone know why we have so many failures of the battery back ups?

A list of reasons is quite long. Anyone offering 'the' solution on so few facts probably does not even know a quarter of those reasons.

For example, when the UPS disconnects a computer from AC mains and connects it to battery power, well, a period exists with no power. All minimally acceptable computer supplies must keep working uninterrupted for tens of milliseconds without any AC power. To sell at a cheaper price and higher profit, some clone supplies cannot do that. Just another reason why clone computers have poor reliability.

Why did that computer assembler select that supply? He only understood two numbers - dollars and watts.

Just one possible reason for your UPS problems. But again, without details (including the electrical nature of that power outage), then nobody can provide a useful answer. Replies would be based in wild speculation.

So let’s get some facts. For example, do incandescent bulbs dim or flicker when your power anomaly exists? Do any bulbs brighten? How long - in numbers?

Did you disconnect the UPS from the wall receptacle - and the computer keeps running?

How old is the UPS? Most UPS batteries (because they are selling it as cheap as possible) expire in 3 years. (Serious UPS systems have a battery life closer to 20 years.) Generally the battery costs more than an entire UPS because the UPS electronics are so cheap - do as little as possible.

Ignore the nonsense about AVR and other functions. It’s not relevant. All computers are required to have that AVR already inside. But again, many computer assemblers only understand two numbers. Then when failures occur, they recommend $hundreds in a UPS to fix the $20 that were saved in computer assembly.

Above are a few questions to start approaching a solution.
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#7
dsenette

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are these "smart UPS" systems? are they connected in via USB or serial connections to the servers? if so your servers may be set to turn off immediately after power loss...you'd need to change the UPS settings on the server to use a scheme that only shuts off after a specific threshold is met
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#8
Digerati

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Ignore the nonsense about AVR and other functions. It’s not relevant.

With all do respect, Westom, but you really don't know what you are talking about. First, the question was why are the UPS failing? Beyond that, telling folks to ignore the advice of site staff (and not just me) or our respected regular contributors without offering any substantiating evidence is inappropriate. This would be true even if you were not incorrect, as you are on several points. Understand all the staff and most of the regular posters on this site, and others sites like it, are recognized experts in multiple areas of IT involving personal computers. It is not a good idea with a very first post at a site to counter advice without doing a little homework first. Our goal is not to prove any one wrong (except badguys), but to ensure readers seeking advice get good advice, and accurate information.

All computers are required to have that AVR already inside.

That is incorrect. The ATX Form Factor Standard places no such requirement on any ATX compliant (or mini or micro ATX) motherboard or power supply - and that's about 99% of the computers out there.

Additionally, the regulation that is done on the motherboard is used to distribute, regulate and convert "normal" voltages for the CPU, and other devices integrated on the motherboard, and only on the motherboard. Hard drives, optical, and graphics cards powered directly by cable from the PSU get no regulation from the motherboard's circuits. There is no regulation requirement placed on PSUs. Better PSUs have better regulation, but the only "requirement" for any supplied voltage is not for "regulation", but for tolerances. From page 21,

+5VDC ± 5 %
-5VDC (if used) ± 10 %
+12VDC ± 5 %
-12VDC ± 10 %
+3.3VDC ± 4 %
+5VSB ± 5 %

This means the +12V can fluctuate between 11.4V and 12.6V and still be within "required" specs. Better boards use better regulars to then keep it stable.

Most important here, there are NO computers, PC PSUs, or motherboards designed to compensate for abnormal power line anomalies. Period. If you have a refrigerator, toaster, coffee pot, water cooler, microwave oven, or any other high wattage appliance in your home, office, or apartment building, anomalies are sent down the line EVERY time the device cycles on and off. Surge and spike protectors are little more than fancy, and expensive extension cords that do NOTHING for severe spikes, long duration surges, dips, sags, or brown-outs. "That AVR" can ONLY be done before power enters the computer, not after, and to do that, you must use an UPS with AVR, or an expensive line conditioner.

For example, when the UPS disconnects a computer from AC mains and connects it to battery power, well, a period exists with no power. All minimally acceptable computer supplies must keep working uninterrupted for tens of milliseconds without any AC power. To sell at a cheaper price and higher profit, some clone supplies cannot do that. Just another reason why clone computers have poor reliability.

You mix truth with nonsense here. Yes, most decent supplies have about a 15 - 20 millisecond "hold" time, but the rest of that comment has nothing to do with this topic. That hold time is but one characteristic of power delivery and irrelevant if the anomaly last 1/2 of 1/10 of 1 second (50ms - which I doubt most folks could see). Note I said it is only when these anomalies become longer that folks might notice the lights flicker. That's long after it can cause disruptions in a computer.

(Serious UPS systems have a battery life closer to 20 years.)

We have to be realistic. Not every one can afford the upfront cost for UPS with those type batteries. BTW, I would like to see one of those 20-year UPS that does not include some form of AVR.

many computer assemblers only understand two numbers. Then when failures occur, they recommend $hundreds in a UPS to fix the $20 that were saved in computer assembly.

That's a bit tunnel visioned. Many assemblers? I don't think so. And what is this $20 magic part that will protect my computer from a power hit? And how will it protect my two 22" LCD monitors, my PDA, cable modem, router, wireless access port, and my telephone too? It can't. Neither can the computer regulator circuits, which you claim are all folks need. My 1200VA UPS with AVR protects all of that, AND my computer too - with ease.

@ROLFJ - did these UPS ever work correctly?
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#9
westom

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With all do respect, Westom, but you really don't know what you are talking about.

I don't care who posted what. The topic is technology - not egos. With all due respect, you insult me by not even posting relevant numbers with your claims. And by ignoring numeric facts in the previous post. How many decades of designing electronics support your post? Your post goes off on tangents irrelevant to what was posted and irrelevant to the OP's questions. That implies no design experience and insufficient electrical training.

All computers contain that AVR function. Even Intel ATX spec defines numbers that make AVR in a UPS irrelevant. Even the original IBM PC met international standards; worked uninterrupted even up to 600 volt anomalies. An anomaly that all computers are required to meet without failure. But again - numbers - this time from an international standard.

AVR (if that is what you want to call it) means AC mains voltage can drop so low that incandescent lamps dim to 40% intensity. A perfectly normal voltage for any PC. Another number. What does a UPS without AVR do? Maintains voltage that is more than sufficient for any PC. AVR in a UPS provides nothing useful - as long as that computer was assembled by one with electrical knowledge.

What does a 120 volt UPS output when in battery backup mode? A typical output may be two 200 volt square waves with a spike of up to 270 volts between those square waves. This output can be harmful to small electric motors and power strip protectors. 'Dirty' power that is perfectly ideal to any computer. Why? Because all computers must "compensate for abnormal power line anomalies". Even a 'dirty' UPS output (defined by numbers) is irrelevant to computers. Computers (even the original IBM PC) compensate for power abnormalities.

How did we design this stuff if we don't know what we were talking about? Even 1970 numbers define how much a computer must "compensate for abnormal power line anomalies". That means no output voltage variation even when power is lost while a UPS switches from AC mains to battery power. BTW, Intel specs exceed those 1970 standards.

OP - necessary is to define why a power outage is *known* to exist - ie using numbers or other quantifiable parameters. What specifically defines that power outage? For example, do incandescent bulbs dim, flicker, or brighten during this outage? How long? Does the microwave clock lose time?

How old is each UPS? What happens to each computer when its UPS power cord is disconnected from AC mains? Computer should continue working. AVR inside a UPS is irrelevant.

What brand of computers - which defines integrity of its power supply. How resilient (properly constructed) is that computer?

If a UPS orders a computer to power off, the computer goes through a long shutdown. Does not just power off. But again, that would be obvious with the repeatedly suggested test: disconnect the UPS from AC mains. Computer with USB cable should continue operating until 'shutdown' completes.
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#10
dsenette

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westom...you've got a massive logical inconsistency that must be rectified... you state that ALL PSUs are REQUIRED to maintain some form of nominal voltage regulation on the input side...yet you also state that you can only find this in properly built computers....if ALL PSUs are REQUIRED to meet a standard, then NONE of them can fall outside of said standard

also...since a computer UPS is a Switched-mode power supply the voltage regulation DOES exist...but, this regulation is for the components on the OUTPUT side of the device...and not the PSU itself....a PSU has a finite amount of input voltage anomaly that can be compensated for and due to the small size of the components of a PSU it's also got a finite life span for voltage regulation. so if your location is prone to continuous under/over voltage, power spikes, brownouts, and otherwise dirty power, then your PSU WILL wear out faster than if it were on clean power

since a UPS with built in "AVR" (in the UPS world it's called line conditioning) doesn't have the same size/space requirements of a computer PSU (since many UPSs that have true line conditioning capabilities are about the same size as your average computer tower or larger) they are able to build a MUCH more substantial regulation circuit with MUCH more robust components....this allows a UPS to not only handle a much larger variation in input voltage, but also allows it to last longer under abnormal conditions...

therefore a UPS with line conditioning capabilities WILL extend the life of your computer's PSU considerably if you are attached to a circuit that's prone to regular interruption or abnormal conditions because those variations in input supply will never reach the PC PSU because they've been regulated by the much more robust circuit in the UPS

ALSO as was mentioned earlier....how would a computer PSU protect your LCD monitor from abnormal line input conditions? it won't...how about your external hard drive? nope not there either....

in short....saying that a PSU with AVR is useless is simply incorrect....saying it's not 100% necessary may be some what accurate...but when you're talking about the protection of thousands of dollars of equipment (notice that the OP mentions at least one server and multiple desktops here) then AVR plays a big role in extending the life of the equipment...period
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#11
westom

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Switched-mode power supply the voltage regulation DOES exist...but, this regulation is for the components on the OUTPUT side of the device...and not the PSU itself....a PSU has a finite amount of input voltage anomaly that can be compensated for and due to the small size of the components of a PSU it's also got a finite life span for voltage regulation. so if your location is prone to continuous under/over voltage, power spikes, brownouts, and otherwise dirty power, then your PSU WILL wear out faster than if it were on clean power

Again, a post that is only subjective. I can claim the world will end tomorrow using that reasoning. Numbers were provided. Why do you repeatedly ignore those numbers? Why do you not provide numbers and citations for your claims? Why? You do not demonstrate technical knowledge. That is the point. Claims without specific numbers is junk science. Where are supporint facts and citations - the numbers? Your subjective claims contradict what even international standards required in the 1970s.

Power supply voltages must remain stable - not change - even when AC mains voltage drops so low that incandescent lamps dim to 40% intensity. Numbers. Something that any layman can also see. A fact well defined in international standards and even obtained using Intel's ATX standards. Accusation based only in hearsay - no numbers - is classic junk science. Computer must work with stable output voltages even when incandescent lamps dim to 40% intensity. An 'AVR function' that was required in computers before the IBM PC existed. AVR is not relevant to the OP's question.

Anything that AVR does in a UPS is made irrelevant by what exists inside a computer's power supply. More important: AVR is not relevant to the OP's problem.

Requested is what the OP can provide to have a useful reply. OP providing that information is providing useful numbers to have a useful solution. All computers must work uninterrupted when a UPS switches from AC mains to battery. But that requires its power supply to meet certain numeric parameters - to contain functions sometimes missing in clone computers.
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#12
Digerati

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I don't care who posted what. The topic is technology - not egos. With all due respect, you insult me by not even posting relevant numbers with your claims.

Look in the mirror, Bud. You entered this post, told folks to "ignore" the advice of others, then YOU failed to post ANY shred of evidence to support your claims.

I DID post numbers - lots of number - with links to the THE industry standard. You posted nothing.

Your post goes off on tangents irrelevant to what was posted and irrelevant to the OP's questions. That implies no design experience and insufficient electrical training.

Yeah, right. My credentials are open for public review from my signature. But still I posted links, and numbers to substantiate what I say.

All computers contain that AVR function.

Once again, no they don't. And I showed you links to the ATX standards that prove you are incorrect. "That AVR function" found in UPS uses batteries to boost the voltage during low voltage events. Now granted, I only have a few 100 builds under my belt, but I assure you, none of the PCs I have built have backup batteries inside their cases, nor are there backup batteries in any of the 100s more computers I have been responsible for.

Even Intel ATX spec defines numbers that make AVR in a UPS irrelevant.

Now you insult us. You are wrong and I already showed you the ATX standards that prove it. STOP MAKING STUFF UP! Back up your talk. Show us where the Intel specs defines that. I included the link to the ATX standards. Where's your link? What page is that information on?

Even the original IBM PC met international standards

lol Now that's interesting. An international committee not only met, but established standards BEFORE the very first (way before clones) came out. Oh wait, IBM used to stand for International Business Machines. I get it. Good joke.

Even 1970 numbers define how much a computer must "compensate for abnormal power line anomalies".

Oh? Show us. I was a an electronics technician working hardware support back then. Show us.

I reiterate what I said earlier. You really don't have a clue what you are talking about. You need to do your homework before making a fool of yourself. Post links to substantiate your claim. You countered us, remember.

You seem to think motherboard regulator circuits do the same thing as an UPS with AVR. You obviously don't know the functions (that's functions, not function) of either. I explained both earlier.

Even the original IBM PC met international standards; worked uninterrupted even up to 600 volt anomalies.

600 volt anomalies? Show us! And remember - we are talking about much u]more[/u] than just momentary transients - which can greatly exceed 600V, but last only a few milliseconds.

What does a 120 volt UPS output when in battery backup mode? A typical output may be two 200 volt square waves with a spike of up to 270 volts between those square waves. This output can be harmful to small electric motors and power strip protectors.

200 Volts. Come on! If a 110V UPS is outputting 200V, it's broken!!! If a UPS is outputting square waves, it's broken!!!! A "good" UPS delivers as close to a sinusoidal wave as possible. Why? Because more than the PC's switching PSU is connected to an UPS. Harmful to small motors? No kidding? Wow! How insightful.

all computers must "compensate for abnormal power line anomalies".

Wrong! Computers don't compensate for anything. And the regulator circuits on motherboards do NOT compensate, and are not required to compensate for abnormal anomalies. Minor fluctuations, yes. Abnormal? No. At best, they MIGHT have a circuit breaker, thermistor, or fusible link.

AVR (if that is what you want to call it) means AC mains voltage can drop so low that incandescent lamps dim to 40% intensity.

No it doesn't. It means Automatic Voltage Regulation. Period. There are no numbers tied to it. The numbers come out of the maker's design, not any standard.

What does a UPS without AVR do?

You don't know? It works like a backup generator. When power is lost, it kicks in - hopefully fast enough to prevent a crash, which is not likely with high-speed digital electronics - which is why an UPS with AVR is required.

It is you, Sir, that have demonstrated your lack of knowledge. It is you who continue to ignore facts. You fail to address extended surges or low voltage events - supplied power is NOT just about transients and outages.

Again, a post that is only subjective. I can claim the world will end tomorrow using that reasoning. Numbers were provided.

You didn't provide numbers. No links. No proof of anything. :)

Claims without specific numbers is junk science. Where are supporint facts and citations

Exactly!!! Where are your supporting facts and citations?
*************

@RolfJ - I apologize for these distractions. Perhaps if we knew more about a couple representative setups it would help. One added note - unless these are big UPS, CRT monitors should not be connected to the battery side of the UPS as they draw too big a share of the current.

There's one area where Westom is right - you should be able to pull the UPS plug from the wall and have it hold the computer up long enough to complete a "graceful" save of all open documents, closing of applications, exit from Windows, and shutdown of the computer. Whether that shut down is done manually, or via automation software and a communications link by cable, it does not matter. The batteries should hold for a few minutes, at least. If they don't, you have a bad, or underrated UPS. That said, I don't recommend testing with a computer attached as any hard crash may result in lost data. I use a 150W light bulb in a desk lamp.

It is also important to note that a cheap UPS is likely to provide a lower quality output than a better UPS, as common sense would suggest.
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#13
Kemasa

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What is going on here? A person asked for a question, then others are fighting about things in this thread. All this in front of a new member. Perhaps the discussion should be taken elsewhere.

RolfJ, depending on the UPS that you are using and the software that comes with it, you might be able to check to see how much of a load is on the UPS. If there is too much of a load, it might not be able to handle it. As was stated, you should be able to test the UPS by unplugging it (best done with the computer on, but not booted into the OS in case it drops power, go into the setup mode). You can also calculate the power of all the devices and what the UPS can handle.

What type of UPS do you have? How much is plugged into each one?
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#14
dsenette

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everyone needs to check their tone and do so now..


westom...no where in my post did i take any accusatory tone with you but you're now claiming (with no proof) that i have absolutely no knowledge on the subject...which is where you're wrong..

the reason there are no numbers in my post is 2 fold...#1 i don't have the time to do the massive amount of research required to give you specific numbers about the longevity of a PSU subjected to abnormal line voltage for extended periods of time #2 that information probably doesn't exist and if it does it's probably not readily available

i'll say it again....by the nature of the circuit involved in a PSU...and the way that it converts AC to DC a PSU does have (in effect) SOME control over AVR...but again this is ONLY in regards to the internal components....it doesn't have anything inside that can magically make a 600V input not damaging to the PSU's components...the components in ANY PSU are of a lower capability than anything showing up in a quality UPS...so again...the life expectancy of a PSU WILL (read that as WILL as in FOR SURE) be reduced greatly...

no matter what you try to use to prove otherwise...this is simply the truth

as bill said....for SHORT TERM (millisecond range) fluctuations...the natural AVR effect of the PSU will compensate...for ANYTHING extended periods of time needs separate robust AVR compensation
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#15
Digerati

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What is going on here? A person asked for a question, then others are fighting about things in this thread. All this in front of a new member. Perhaps the discussion should be taken elsewhere.

No doubt a sad state of affairs here. But we cannot allow misinformation to go unchecked.

Until the OP returns with more information and answers to our questions, I consider this topic for my part on hold.
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