Surge protectors, Uninterrupted Power Supply, and Power conditioners–oh my! All computers need some type of electrical protection, but which of these options are best for your setup? The three power solutions are different, so it depends on your setup, needs, and environment. The following describes the purpose of each and should help you make a decision implementing a power protection plan.
Types Of Power Loss
Before we get into it, we should discuss the various types of power problems you might encounter with your valuable computer equipment. If your home is prone to certain types of power issues, you will need to base your decision on those issues.
- Power Failure – A power failure is a total loss of power. Electrical power is zero for a sustained time.
- Power Surge – A power surge is a sustained increase in voltage.
- Power Spike – A power spike is a short increase in voltage.
- Sag or Brown-out – A power sag is a sustained dip in voltage. You might notice the lights dim for five seconds then return to normal.
A surge protector is something you see at stores near all computers, TVs and other electronics. They come in all shapes and sizes and can range in price from $5 to $100. Some will have phone jacks, network cable ports, coaxial jacks and anything else you can plug into it that separates your PC from anything that might be connected to a telephone pole outside of your house. The purpose or a surge protector is to save your computer and other electrical devices from power surges and power spikes.
We recommend the Belkin 12-Outlet Home/Office Surge Protector which has a Joule rating of 3960.
Uninterrupted Power Supply
A Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) can look similar to a surge protector except much larger, as there is a battery enclosed in the unit. It can also look like a large metal box. These can be quite expensive, especially over the years as their internal batteries will eventually fail and need to be replaced. The batteries themselves can cost a couple hundred dollars each.
A UPS can protect you from everything a surge protector does, but the main advantage of a UPS is it gives you the opportunity to save your work and safely shut down the computer. A UPS is ideal for a home or business that does work which would be costly and time-consuming to reproduce should a power failure occur.
We recommend the APC SUA750 6-Outlet Standalone Smart Uninterruptible Power Supply for home use.
A power conditioner is a device that sits between your computer and the brutal, ragged, wild electrical voltages of the outside world. If you live in an area where the electricity coming into your home is less than perfect, a power conditioner can be used to try and regulate that dirty electricity and keep it near acceptable voltage limits. How do you know if you have dirty power? Well, if you tend to replace your hard drives, motherboards or power supplies frequently, and if you do not notice the extreme spikes or dips apparent during electrical storms, then it’s likely you have dirty power and need a power conditioner to clean it up a little.
We recommend the APC LE600 Line-R 600VA Automatic Voltage Regulator for power conditioning.
A good power strip will do just fine for most people. A UPS is often overkill for most homes, and a power conditioner is not necessary unless you have a reason to believe you have dirty power. But no matter which of these you buy, make sure you register the product, as most will have a warranty for any devices damaged if their product fails to perform as advertised.