Grid Power is No Better for Electronics than Unfiltered Tap Water is for Human Consumption
It was late 2008 in Southwestern Oklahoma. A rural natural gas utility company was in the middle of modernizing its offices and equipment. The utility was attempting to reduce costs by leveraging below average rural labor expenses, cloud based technology, and up to date computers and software to double the productivity of each employee. What had worked in Silicon Valley and Southern California was not working in Oklahoma, but it wasn’t for the reasons most would initially have suspected. The employees were all more capable, willing to work, and accepting of new technology than those elsewhere in the country.
No matter what computer manufacturer the utility purchased its workstations from, they would only last 6 months on average. The VPN and all other internet based connections would periodically drop out throughout the work day. New VOIP phones and devices proved to be unreliable. Any new energy efficient Active PFC or Energy Star electronic device would fail within 12 months. Two rumors began to spread around suggesting that the offices were cursed and that electronics just weren’t built like they used to be. Both rumors ended up being true.
It turned out that the offices were (and actually most of the country is) cursed with transients, power outages, brown outs, voltage issues, and other nasty undesirables that accompany a 100% reliance on unfiltered grid power. Older non-energy efficient electronics weren’t as sensitive to all these issues and as newer electronics started to replace ancient equipment, failure rates went up. Newer electronics optimize A/C power as it comes in sine wave form. When the sine wave isn’t perfect or is constantly disrupted, performance will suffer.
After watching the lights flicker periodically throughout the work day while visiting a problem office, the IT director of the utility company ordered line interactive pure sine wave uninterruptible power supplies (UPS’) for all the equipment. It was a costly upfront purchase, but after the uninterruptible power supplies were installed, equipment failure rates dropped to near zero. Since the line interactive pure sine wave uninterruptible power supplies were installed 2009, none of the computers, routers, POE switches, TVs, VOIP devices, or other electronics have failed. Repair costs, IT costs, and employee idle time due to equipment related failures have all decreased dramatically. The company now has a policy that every electronic device essential to employee work is protected by a pure sine wave line interactive or online (double conversion) uninterruptible power supply.
Line interactive and online (double conversion) uninterruptible power supplies such as those sold by Battery Backup Power, Inc. (www.batterybackuppower.com) condition grid power in real-time while also providing temporary backup battery power for when complete power outages occur. It’s like sending the electrons from the power company to rehab and getting clean, strong, uniform electrons to the electronic(s) attached to the uninterruptible power supply (UPS). Getting constant clean power is even more important for laboratory, medical, high end manufacturing, or analytical equipment that carries out critical functions or makes precise calculations. For those with backup generators, all of the online (double conversion) uninterruptible power supplies sold by Battery Backup Power, Inc. (www.batterybackuppower.com) have a “Generator Mode” option built in that just needs to be turned on using the menu and buttons on the front of the uninterruptible power supply. This allows the UPS to accept power directly from a generator or generator on an automatic transfer switch. Most consumer uninterruptible supplies won’t work with generator power due to frequency fluctuations. Uninterruptible power supplies can be purchased in small sizes protecting single electronics or small groups of electronics like a computer and its monitor or in large sizes installed on a branch circuit protecting everything on that circuit in a particular building.