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Hi Brian.  I live in an area where the power goes out very frequently, usually for no apparent reason.  This can be for very short periods or long.  I am wondering if there is a battery backup I should have for my computer (we have one for the house but by the time it kicks in, the computer has shut down)?  Or if I can get away with power bars?  Which ones?  Do I need both?  Thanks so much for your help.

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I have APC UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) on all my electronic equipment at my house. TVs, Home Theater System, Wireless Access Point, Modem, Router, etc. I have UPS units out to Wazoo. I even gave one to my Wife for Christmas one year, (I'm known for my practical gifts.) "Gee...Thanks." was the response that I got. :D  Cue a few months later when the power went out and back on in a minute or two and I heard, "THANKS TO MY AWESOME HUSBAND WHO BOUGHT ME A GIFT THAT I DID NOT KNOW I NEEDED!!!" Turns out it saved her ass when she was working on something and didn't quite save it.

This is the UPS that is attached to my computer as I type this. Not only does it have a battery backup, it also filters the electricity so it's like a Surge Protector on steroids in addition to having a battery to keep things going:

APC UPS 1500VA Sine Wave UPS Battery Backup, BR1500MS2 Backup Battery Power Supply, AVR, 10 Outlets, (2) USB Charger Ports

I highly recommend APC Units, both Surge Protectors, Line Conditioners and Battery Backups. Often you will see a Salesperson push another brand over a APC, usually because they are getting a kick-back or SPIFF, but when it comes to my shit, I'm buying APC. When I build Server Racks with multiple Servers for Doctors offices who can't be down, or at least have a graceful shutdown, I'm installing APC Rack Units. When I go into Multi-Million Dollar Server Rooms / Data Comm Server Rooms...what brand do I see the most? APC. Not Tripp-Lite, not CyberPower, not Belkin, etc. etc. It's APC.

The thing with UPS Units is the Volt Amp Rating. You want a balanced Load with the UPS. Too much load on the UPS, it can prematurely kill the battery. Too little load on a UPS Unit, can prematurely kill the battery. So it's a balancing act of what your power needs are, how long do you want it to last before a Graceful Shutdown occurs, does it connect to your computer to make this happen, and if you can replace the battery  yourself when you need to. Which are replaceable, BTW...at least the fancier Models I recommend. Often the cheaper models don't want you to swap the battery OR connect to your computer, so you need to be careful. Yes, I often recommend the higher-priced models, but there is a method to my madness. I hate wasting money or having Buyer's Remorse.

Oh, in case you are wondering, the average life-span of a battery in a UPS is about 5 years, give or take. I've seen them last anywhere from 3-5 years on the average. Heck, I've seen them go for 6-7 years, but that's REALLY RARE. 5 Years is the average. I have also found that buying Genuine OEM Replacement Batteries from APC is the best way to go. Sure, you can go to Batteries+Bulbs, or a similar 3rd-party store, but I only get 1-2 years out of those batteries. There is a quality difference, but you do pay more for APC Genuine OEM Batteries. 

APC does have a Configuration Tool, but I feel that with today's computers, 1300VA - 1500VA should be fine for the average person. Now, if you have 1000 Watt Power Supplies and other equipment, you might have to go bigger, something in the 2000VA + range. I'm running a 2017 27" iMac with a 1500VA UPS and it's fine.

One important note!! There are two sides for the plugs, one is for things that are powered by the battery if the power goes out, the other side is just a normal surge protector. If you own a Laser Printer, DO NOT PLUG IT INTO THE BATTERY SIDE, PUT IT ON THE "SURGE PROTECTOR" SIDE ONLY!! The current draw for the Fuser puts way too much load and you will really wear out the battery fast. So just put things like the computer, monitor, backup HDs, etc on the "Battery Side." Oh, sometimes Power Bricks are all that you have for things like External Hard Drives, and there just isn't enough space to hook everything next to one another. This is where these 1 Foot AC Cables come in handy. I also have a bunch of these in various lengths. I'd buy a 2-Pack for the 1-foot length at the very least, purchase more if you need to.

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Thank you so much for this information Brian.  Just a few questions.  I have a laser printer in a separate room, my computer in another room, TV in another room and Router in another room.  So I think I will need 4 different APC units.  What size do you think I should get for each of these?  (Maybe next year looking at more up to date computer to handle the new software but trying to hold off for the moment.)  Thanks.

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Well, the Laser Printer is easy. Just use a APC Power Strip / Surge Protector. 

The Modem / Router probably doesn’t need much as their wattage tends to be on the lower side, 100 watts is way more than what your reality is. It’s probably closer to less than 35-50 watts, so you don’t need many Volt Amps. But I could be wrong, you will need to check the specs for the particulars.

My Home Theater Setup has a 1300VA version of the 1500VA Sine Wave that I linked to above, and it’s fine. My Living Room TV, which is just a TV, Cable Box and DVD player, an APC 400VA is fine. My Wife’s Computer, a Dell and Monitor has a 750VA APC UPS. My Home Network Backboard, yes…I have a commercial grade backboard setup with hard-wired Ethernet because I’m Me and I absolutely HATE WiFi, has a 800VA APC, but I bought that one for just the extra plugs. It’s way overkill for my Modem, 24 Port Switch and Ubiquity Router. (Plus a few other gizmos.) I ran a 600VA for years and was fine. 

To answer your question, I’d say you need three APC UPS units and one Surge Protector. Now, if your Laser Printer is hooked up next to say your Router, then use the “Surge Only” side of the UPS  as to which ones to buy…you have to balance your wattage / current draw against the Volt Amp Rating of the UPS  I used the APC Tool to figure out that I should have been using a 1500VA unit instead of a 750VA. Since I went bigger, the batteries have lasted longer.

It’s all a balancing act and isn’t a “one size fits all,” you really need to look at what you are hooking up to the particular UPS. Light current draw / low wattage, 400VA. 750VA-900VA for the Mid-Range Stuff and if you are running a gaming PC with like a 800 watt power supply, you are looking at 1500VA models. I like the Sine Wave UPS models from APC for my really important hardware…in my case, my computer and Home Theatre Setup get the fancy UPS units.


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