No more reasons not to use a UPS

uninterruptible power supply

“Would you be interested in reviewing a Back-UPS?” a lady from Karyaku, the public relations agency hired by APC, asked me over the phone. “What?” I responded in surprise. “How can I test drive a UPS?”

Well, actually, it should be easy. First, the uninterruptible power supply (UPS) is made by APC, one of the top leadersUPS products, so there are many aspects to talk about. Second, the only thing to do would be to unplug the UPS from the wall outlet and see how long the battery would provide my PC with power. So, why not?

A couple of days later, a box arrived at my home. It was more or less as big as the box for a small car battery. When I took the unit out of the box, I got my first surprise. Unlike the UPS I had bought in the past, this one felt much lighter. Perhaps it was because the casing was made of fiberglass.

In the past, most UPS devices came in metal casing. Another possible answer is because the rechargeable battery inside the unit was also smaller.

The Back-UPS I received was RS 500. It is a high performance UPS with 500 VA, three outlets at the back, and comes with two power cords for the PC and a monitor.

A circuit breaker helps preserve battery power when the unit is not in use. Even the transfer voltage and sensitivity settings can be adjusted just by pressing and holding the only button on the front panel.

I planned to test it with my own work desktop PC. The power-consuming components on that PC are an Intel Core 2 Quad processor running at 2.4 GHz, 4 GB RAM and a 160 GB SATA hard disk.

The monitor is a FlexScan L685 from Eizo. Although the LCD is only 18 inches in diameter, the monitor is already a couple of years old. I do not know its power rating, but because it uses old LCD technology I would assume it consumes as much power as a 22-inch LED backlit monitor of today.

So, I did exactly what I thought I should do. I pulled the plug of the UPS power cable and checked the time. I kept working on this article, pressing Ctrl-S after typing a few words to save my work. At the same time I continued to watch the clock on the system tray.

An intermittent beep sound was produced when the UPS was drawing the power from its battery pack. Lo and behold, the PC was still working 15 minutes after I unplugged the UPS. That should be more than ample time to safely save work.

At 16 minutes, a rapid beep told me the battery juice was already at a critical level. It went totally dead after 19 minutes, exactly as specified on the box.

APC offers different types of UPSs for home users, small offices to large data centers. There are two value lines as well, the Back-UPS ES Series for the home and the Back-UPS CS for the office. The price of the RS 500, I was told, was around Rp 300,000 but I think it was incorrect or the product had actually been discontinued. At any rate, you can buy a slightly different model, BE500R AS, for Rp 556,000 from

Strange as it seems, even in the country’s capital city many of us are suffering losses due to the poor quality of electricity provided by the grid. Computer components including hard disks get burned out. Data files including family photos and videos become damaged, work is lost.

In my case, the situation is worse. My house is just at the end of the line, the farthest away from the nearest transformer. Between the transformer and my house, there must be people who steal electricity by dangerously tapping the gridlines and pushing my average voltage down below the safe limit.

Worse, the voltage is so unstable that I have to use a huge stabilizer for the entire home. A UPS is also a must for me, as the circuit breaker often drops due to overload.

Keep in mind that a good UPS does not only supply clean power to the computer and monitor, it also guards against potentially damaging spikes and surges in the electrical current. It takes over the house current when there is sustained over- or under-voltage.

It also protects our computer equipment from lightning. A more complete UPS provides protection to modems and fax machines as well by keeping the telephone line safe from lightning. Some models provide software that will automatically shut down all running applications when the battery power level is dangerously low.

In general, two main types of UPS’s are available. One type only kicks in and begins using its battery power when it detects problems in the house current.

The other type continuously supplies electricity to the PC from its battery pack that is at the same time continuously recharged with the house current. The earlier is called the “standby UPS” and the latter the “online UPS”. There are also other variants in between.

The drawback of the standby UPS is that there may be some milliseconds of interruption during which the unit detects the lost utility voltage and switch on the DC-AC inverter.

For this reason, it is highly important to use a good-quality power supply inside your PC. It can hold up much longer to prevent data loses. The online UPS is much more expensive and is used primarily for highly sensitive equipment.

If you want to calculate how big a capacity you need for your PC or server, you can go to for guidance. However, you can spare yourself the formula for converting VA to watts or vice versa by following these general rules: The RS 500 will keep a mini tower PC with a 15-inch monitor running for 11 minutes.

A CRT monitor consumes much more power, so the same PC with a 17-inch CRT will continue to run for five minutes after the electricity goes out.

What all this means, is that if you still have not put a UPS between your wall outlet and your desktop PC, now you should seriously consider doing it.

There are several reputable UPS brands on the market, including ICA and Liebert. There are also many dubious brands from China that may last for a year or two.

They have become quite affordable nowadays.