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Red Squirrel 06-19-2010 06:44 PM

Whole house UPS
We've had a few power outages latetly due to trees hitting power lines and shorting them out, making the pole fuse go. I was talking with the neighbors and it's a common issue in this area. The HydroOne crews are pretty quick at restoring power which is good, but these outages can still be a nuissance especially because they make my server go off and on a lot.

I'm wondering how hard it would be to make a whole house UPS. What I'm thinking is something that would be standby mode (I'm sure inline would be way too expensive and require lot of maintenance) so when the power goes out, I can turn off major appliances that use lot of power, then switch over to this UPS. All I really need is maybe 1 or 2 kw that can last a few hours.

If something like this would be too complex, how about just a regular PC UPS that can last longer? I heard APC UPSes can handle car batteries and can last an hour or so. Has anyone tried this? What if I put a couple batteries in paralell, will the UPS be able to properly charge em?

I was also thinking of getting a smart charger and hooking it up to a bank of batteries, then hook up an inverter on the other end (or same end, does it even matter?) and run the server equipment off that. Would that basically make an inline UPS? Would the charger and inverter have trouble dealing with each other? I'm not really good in electronics otherwise I could probably setup something electronic that switches over like a normal UPS does.

Just a few ideas I've though of, curious to see what others think. My main concern is keeping my server/network equipment up as long as possible, or at least be able to shut it down properly. My current UPS does not have a well documented program for Linux, and I can't seem to get it to perform a proper shutdown.

goose134 06-19-2010 07:05 PM

I'd stay focused on putting UPS on the equipment you need running. I've set up a few systems, but I've never had to design one, so I wouldn't be much help trying to assess your needs. APC does make some units that might fit your bill. Here's a line they have that might suit you. No idea of the cost.

tdeg807 06-19-2010 07:14 PM

What UPS do you have?

I haven't played too much with mine on my Linux server, APC UPS though. Ats a SmartUPS 1400 so it gives my server around 15 minutes of run time.

Putting your entire house on a UPS might require a huge UPS. Imagine the draw if your fridge and furnace both turned on at the same time? I know I've installed a 10kVA unit for about 10 servers that only gave them about 10 minutes of run time. The cost on that UPS was around C$3000, couldn't imagine what a UPS for your entire house would run.

There would also be a massive draw when the utility power returned and your charger tried to start charging that bank of batteries again.

Red Squirrel 06-19-2010 07:24 PM

Another thing I just remembered is I do have an old APC UPS with a dead battery. I heard of people using a car battery on these (the replacement batteries cost an arm and a leg) but I'm worried the UPSes use trickle charging, which would eventually kill the battery. Would a deep cycle handle trickle charging ok? My current UPS is an Ultra. Hardly documented anywhere.

And yeah think I'll stick to just powering what I want. By "whole house" I meant that it would be centralized and I can choose what circuits are actually protected, but it would be lot of work to set this up. Would need some kind of transfer switch. Maybe later on if I get a generator I could set this up properly.

hayewe farm 06-19-2010 07:49 PM

How about getting a 1kva inverter for you car? You'll need to have the car running to keep up with power usage. Probably the cheapest solution would be to get a small generator that you can plug your UPS into.

Yoyizit 06-19-2010 07:55 PM

How much power do you need for how long to ride through 95% of the outages?

tdeg807 06-19-2010 08:33 PM

What model APC UPS has the dead batteries?

Its pretty easy to figure out the voltage and amperage they are. Lots of places sell equivalent batteries.

The SmartUPS 1400 I have costs about $60 to replace the batteries.

Red Squirrel 06-19-2010 08:35 PM


Originally Posted by Yoyizit (Post 458705)
How much power do you need for how long to ride through 95% of the outages?

As a rough estimate, I'd say maybe 1000 watts at most. These outages are maybe 3 hours tops, so I'm not that worried about the fridge and freezer. Really the more I think about it, if I can get my PC and server running, and a few lights, I'd be happy.

Though the more I think about it, this will end up getting expensive if I want to do it properly, so think I might just try out the car battery idea with the APC, so I can at least keep the server going through these outages.

darren 06-19-2010 08:46 PM

Are you trying to save on money with this project because you could always install a generator for the house.

tdeg807 06-19-2010 08:49 PM

I would not try a car battery at all!!!!

For one, the car battery is 12V not all UPS batteries are. Plus the UPS battery might be cheaper than a car battery and will fit inside the UPS. Leaving a car battery next to my server sounds like asking for an issue.

APC Battery Guide (Note the RBC battery type)

Check prices here (TigerDirect if your close to Toronto)

APC-> Generic cross reference

AllanJ 06-19-2010 10:13 PM

If the battery that came with the UPS is 12 volts, then you can substitute a 12 volt car battery.

This will give longer run time (if the UPS' own battery was much smaller physically) but you are still restricted to the amperes or watts specified by the UPS ratings or instructions.

Yoyizit 06-19-2010 10:23 PM


Originally Posted by Red Squirrel (Post 458715)
maybe 1000 watts at most.
maybe 3 hours tops

So 3000 w-h of energy to be stored.
At 12v, this is 250 Amp-hours of charge.
Use a deep-cycle battery.

Red Squirrel 06-19-2010 11:29 PM


Originally Posted by tdeg807 (Post 458723)
I would not try a car battery at all!!!!

For one, the car battery is 12V not all UPS batteries are. Plus the UPS battery might be cheaper than a car battery and will fit inside the UPS. Leaving a car battery next to my server sounds like asking for an issue.

APC Battery Guide (Note the RBC battery type)

Check prices here (TigerDirect if your close to Toronto)

APC-> Generic cross reference

Most UPSes use 12 volt sealed lead acid battery. My only concern really is if the UPS charging circuit can handle a much bigger battery and if it will know when the battery is near dead, so it can signal a proper shut down, and not do it too early, or too late.

And the battery would most likely be far away from the servers. If I go ahead with this, I will most likely seal my garage crawlspace properly (currently it is a haven for spiders) and house the batterie(s) there securely, and add some kind of ventilation system as they release hydrogen. Though, if I go with sealed lead acid, is hydrogen still an issue? I would possibly pay a bit more and get a proper sealed battery. I rather pay 100-200 bucks for a battery that will last a long time, then to pay 100 bucks for a replacement UPS battery that will only last 5 minutes.

I've thought of a generator too. Home depot actually sells (according to their site) standby generators that will run on propane or natural gas. Or I could go with a cheaper portable one that I can take out and plug in as needed. I would imagine a generator plug and transfer switch is not too hard to setup.

Think for now I'll worry about just the server by getting a longer lasting battery for the UPS, then look into a generator.

tdeg807 06-20-2010 12:15 AM

I'd look at extended run time packs for your UPS (if available) before I would start hooking car batteries to it.

If you plan on doing controlled shutdowns and are having issues with that now, I don't see how it will be easier when you put do modifications to the UPS.

I'm not sure how big your server, but does it have redundant power? If so you could effectively double your run time by putting one power supply on each server. TigerDirect has those Ultra UPS's. A 1kVA unit was under $200. I don't see how you could even jury rig car batteries and chargers to give you a solution that would give you an equivalent return on your dollar.

If your serious about uptime, then stick with a factory built UPS.

Red Squirrel 06-20-2010 12:18 AM

Actually it's an Ultra I have, the issue with it is the software that comes with it sucks for Linux, so it wont shut down the server properly.

So what I'd do is use an old APC unit instead, this unit has a dead battery, and it would cost about 200 bucks to replace, so I'd put a car/marine battery instead. I am nearly positive it's 12 volts but I'd have to check before I hook it up. I believe there is better software for linux for APCs as it's a more well known brand. So not only would I get an extended run time, but I'd also get a proper shut down if I'm not home when the power goes out.

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