An essential backup battery when lights go out
By Harold Glicken
Living in a large urban city, I watch as the lights often flicker, a prelude to a full-blown power outage. In summer months, when electricity usage is high, as people run air-conditioners at full blast, it’s not unusual to have brownouts, when electricity is at a low point. Hospitals have backup generators; even the neighborhood market uses its generator when power is out. The city where I live isn’t in a Third World country, but when the lights go out, it sure seems like it is.
Short of buying my own generator, which would keep the refrigerator going but not much else, there is a solution that would at least keep my PC from turning off in mid-sentence and keep my cable modem going for a few hours. It’s called an uninteruptable power supply, or UPS. It’s a table-top battery and surge protector that the PC and cable modem are plugged into. It takes over when the lights go out.
There are several UPS devices on the market, including ones made by Tripp-Lite, APC and CyberPower, to name just a few. All do the same thing, but some have more bells and whistles than the others.
I chose the$150 CyberPower because it has a high rating on Amazon, and for its capacity. There are consumer and office models that have capacities ranging from 450 volts to 1,500 volts, I chose a mid-range model that will handle 1,000 volts and 600 watts. My cable modem uses 15 watts, and my iPhone charger uses 5 watts, so the battery backup would last for six or seven hours when the electricity goes out. It would last much less longer with my Mac plugged in. The battery itself keeps charging as long as it is plugged in to the wall outlet. The unit has five outlets that connect to the battery and are surge protectors. Another bank of five outlets are surge protectors only.
The CyberPower comes with monitoring software for both Windows and Macs that’s entertaining to look at, but doesn’t do much. The lights on the front panel of the UPS give a running prediction of how long the battery will last, and I especially like the CyberPower because the annoying beeps that otherwise would sound when the unit goes into full swing can be muted. The CyberPower comes with a three-year warranty, and there are replacement batteries available for as little as $30, depending on the UPS model you choose.
Most of the low- to mid-range UPS batteries are designed for one user. Bigger-capacity UPS batteries are available for larger offices.
Whether you live in a Third World city or one where power lines go down during a blizzard or ice storm, a UPS will keep you up and running for several hours, just long enough to keep your wireless cable modem going and your smartphone charged. But be aware: UPS batteries are heavy and eventually their charge will wear down until the power comes back, and when they do run out of juice , you’ll still be left in the dark.