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Power Problems FAQs

Surges | Line Noise | Brownouts | Blackouts | Technical FAQ

What if your database recorded that customer "A" owes you $100 when it's supposed to be $10,000? Or what if all of your invoices from last month became corrupt and unreadable?

Everybody knows that strong electrical surges will fry your computer... but many people don't realize that most power-related problems are not so obvious. They come in the form of errors in data files, wear and tear on your hard drive, and hours of lost work. When people do notice them, they often assume they have a "virus."

Where do power problems come from? What causes them? Can you do anything about the problems that are affecting your system? Tripp Lite wants to help you learn - in plain language - how to fight power problems, avoid lost data and protect your electronic investments.

SURGES

What Are They?
Power surges are an increase in the voltage that powers your electrical equipment.

Surges often go unnoticed, often lasting only 1/120th of a second, but they are much more common and destructive than you might think. According to recent studies, your electrical equipment is constantly experiencing surges of varying power. Some of them can be absorbed by your power supply while others can only be handled by a quality surge suppressor. The most destructive power surges will wipe out anything that gets in their way!

Where Do They Come From?
In this power-hungry computer age, utility power systems are often pushed beyond their capacity, resulting in unstable, unreliable power for consumers. Overburdened power grids can generate powerful surges as they switch between sources or generate "rolling surges" when power is momentarily disrupted. Local sources can also generate surges - for example, if your neighbor starts up an electrical motor or the office on the floor below you blows a fuse.

What About Lightning?
Lightning can send a spectacular power surge along any conductive line to destroy everything in its path. NO MATTER WHAT OTHER MANUFACTURES CLAIM, NO SURGE SUPPRESSOR IN THE WORLD WILL SURVIVE A DIRECT LIGHTNING STRIKE. It’s like saying your car would make it through nuclear explosion! However, if you make the right choice in power protection, your surge suppressor will take the hit - ending up melted - but your equipment will stay protected.

What Can I Do?
Power surges are a fact of life, but protecting yourself is relatively easy with Tripp Lite power protection. All our high-quality Surge Suppressors, Line Conditioners and UPS Systems feature exceptional surge handling circuitry. Our systems come with Ultimate Lifetime Insurance covering all your connected equipment - even against direct lightning strikes! With Tripp Lite Ultimate Lifetime Insurance, if your connected equipment is ever directly damaged by a power surge from any source, Tripp Lite will pay up to the level of the unit’s policy to have it replaced or repaired.

How can I compare and choose the level of protection I need?
There are many rating systems that measure surge protection:

Joule Ratings - The Bigger The Better! Joule ratings measure your surge suppressors ability to absorb surges. Joules are a way of measuring energy. Unfortunately some companies may inflate their joule ratings without adding any extra protection circuitry to their products! In general, 200 joules will give you basic protection, 400 joules provide good protection and anything with over 600 joules can be considered exceptional. Tripp Lite surge suppressors boast ratings of up to 1500 joules - and have the advanced circuitry to back them up!

Surge Amp Ratings - Higher Ratings Offer More Protection. Although often replaced by Joule ratings, Amp levels are another important factor in determining surge strength. Once again, you should go for the highest amp protection levels you can find.

UL 1449 Voltage Let-through Ratings - 500, 400 & 330 Underwriter Laboratories tests each surge suppressor and rates them according to the amount of voltage they let-through to your equipment. The lower the let-through voltage, the better the surge suppressor is. UL established the 330 volt let-through as the benchmark because lower ratings added no real benefit to equipment protection, while surge components, forced to work harder, failed prematurely. Be wary of companies claiming lower let-through ratings! Not only are they misleading, they’re also an admission that a product may not have the specs to tell it like it is!

See the products you need to protect your investment

Surges | Line Noise | Brownouts | Blackouts | Technical FAQ | Back To Top

LINE NOISE

What Is It?
The term "line noise" refers to random fluctuations - electrical impulses that are carried along with standard AC current. Turning on the florescent lights overhead, your refrigerator, laser printers, working near a radio station, using a power generator, or simply working during a lightning storm can all introduce line noise into your systems.

Ever notice the "snow" on your TV when you use a blender or a hair-dryer? That’s line noise being sent back into your electrical system and up into your TV.

What Can It Do?
Line noise interference can result in many different symptoms depending on your particular situation. Noise can introduce glitches and errors into programs and files. Hard Drive components can be damaged. Televisions and computer monitors can display interference as "static" or "snow," and audio systems experience increased distortion levels.

What Can I Do?
Tripp Lite Surge Suppressors, Line Conditioners and UPS units include special noise filters that remove line noise. The amount of filtration is indicated in the technical specifications for each unit. Noise suppression is stated as Decibel level (Db) at a specific frequency (KHz or MHz). The higher the Db, the greater the protection. Be wary of "surge/noise suppressors" that don’t provide this information!

Isobar surge suppressors take noise suppression to a new level with their exclusive Isolated Filter Banks. These special banks prevent line noise generated from one device from traveling through the surge suppressor to interfere with other connected equipment. So if you use a laser printer (a notorious source for line noise) you can connect it to the same Isobar that powers your computer without putting your equipment in danger.

                             

Tripp Lite Isolators, with their Faraday Shield design provide true line isolation and exceptional line noise rejection - even at low frequencies where it is difficult to control. Isolators eliminate the need for costly rewiring or dedicated lines by providing clean, computer grade electrical current from even the "dirtiest" power.

Surges | Line Noise | Brownouts | Blackouts | Technical FAQ | Back To Top

BROWNOUTS

What Are They?
Brownouts are periods of low voltage in utility lines that can cause lights to dim and equipment to fail. Also known as voltage sags, this is the most common power problem, accounting for up to 87% of all power disturbances.

Where Do They Come From?
Overburdened utilities sometimes reduce their voltage output to deal with high power. Recent statistics show that the U.S. population tries to pull an average of 5% more than utility companies can provide. The demand for power is rapidly increasing, but the supply of power is not.

Damage to electrical lines and other factors can also cause utility brownouts. Locally, equipment that draws massive amounts of power such as hair dryers, air conditioners, or laser printers can cause momentary brownouts to occur.

Under voltages are often followed by over voltages - "spikes" - which are also damaging to computer components and data.

What Do They Do?
Voltage variation can be the most damaging power problem to threaten your equipment. All electronic devices expect to receive a steady voltage (120 VAC in North America and 220/240 volts in many other parts of the world) in order to operate correctly.

Brownouts place undue strain on power supplies and other internal components, forcing them to work harder in order to function. Extended brownouts can destroy electrical components and cause data glitches and hardware failure.

Over voltages burn out power supplies and other components and can cause massive damage to your electronic hardware. Extended over voltages can even cause fires as electronics "fry" in the extra electricity.

What Can I Do?
Surge suppressors only do the job - protecting you from over-voltages. Tripp Lite Line Conditioners and Uninterruptable Power Supplies (UPS) are your best defense against both voltage problems.

Designed to regulate both over and under voltages, our Line Conditioners provide three separate levels of voltage correction. This advanced design adjusts voltages from 87 to 140 VAC (168 to 278 for INT models) to provide your equipment with safe, computer-grade AC power meeting ANSI C84.1 specifications. And since all Tripp Lite Line Conditioners include advanced surge and suppression circuitry, you can protect against all three types of power problems with a single unit.

If you need protection against voltage problems and complete power outages (blackouts), you should consider a UPS system. Standby UPS models like Tripp Lite’s BC series control voltages by switching over to battery power when line voltages move beyond preset limits. Line Interactive models like Tripp Lite’s OmniPro or SMART series provide voltage regulation as well as battery power. These units keep you working through brownouts and overvoltages without using backup power - saving it for true blackout conditions.

Surges | Line Noise | Brownouts | Blackouts | Technical FAQ | Back To Top

BLACKOUTS

What Are They?
Power Failures, also known as blackouts, are the easiest power problem to diagnose. If the lights go out, chances are you’ve had a power failure. Any temporary, or not so temporary, interruption in the flow of electricity will result in a power failure which can cause hardware damage and data loss.

Where Do They Come From?
Violent weather is the first thing that comes to mind, but there are any number of other causes. Overburdened power grids, car accidents that bring down power lines, earthquakes, lightning strikes, balloons, animals and human error are all likely sources.

What Can They Do?
Power Failures are more than simply inconvenient and annoying. They can cause computer users to lose hours of work when their systems shut down without warning. Power failures can even damage hard drives resulting in loss of all data on a system! Consider the fact that a single power outage on high-traffic network can stall hundreds of users, and you begin to see just how serious power failures can be. Even worse - when the power returns, it often brings after-blackout spikes and surges to cause even more damage!

What Can I Do?
Computer users should consider a UPS system to protect their systems. UPS stands for Uninterruptable Power Supply and refers to a unit that monitors line levels and switches over to battery power when utility power fails. UPS units come in three basic styles:

Standby UPSs - Basic battery backup with battery powered voltage correction

1. BC Personal Series

2. BC Pro Series

3. BC Internet Series

Line-Interactive UPSs - Battery backup with built-in voltage regulation

4. OmniSmart Series

5. SmartPro Series

6. SmartPro DataCenter Series

* Watch out for some manufactures that claim to be "online." True online systems use dual inverters to constantly feed your computer power from a battery source. This eliminates switching time and provides your systems with the cleanest power available.

On-line UPSs* - Full time, dual inverter UPS systems with zero transfer times

7. SmartPro Unison Series

Extended Runtime UPS systems -- Additional battery packs add more backup power

8. SmartPro XL Series

9. Extended Run APS Series

If you just want to be able to power some of your home appliances during temporary blackouts, you might want to consider Tripp Lite's PowerVerter DC to AC inverters. They provide standard AC power from a battery source to power televisions, radios, VCRs and other home electronics.

Surges | Line Noise | Brownouts | Blackouts | Technical FAQ | Back To Top

TECHNICAL FAQs

In order to better answer your questions, we have prepared a list of Customer Support Frequently Asked Questions. If you don't find an answer to your question, please e-mail us at support@sentinelpower.com. They will individually answer all questions to make sure you are getting all the protection your Tripp Lite equipment provides.

UPS Systems | Surge Suppressors | Line Conditioners

UPS SYSTEMS

Q: How do I know which size of UPS is needed for my application?
A: To size a UPS all you need to do is add up the total power draw of your equipment and select a unit from the UPS technical specification page which can support your load for the amount of time desired.

First, decide which pieces of equipment need UPS support. Typically, only the CPU and monitor are supported to cut down on power draw to the UPS, but you may wish to include peripheral systems like modems or Inkjet printers. Laser printers should NOT be plugged into a UPS.

List the nameplate wattage ratings for all supported equipment. Manufacturers vary in how they express draw so you may have to convert numbers to determine VA load.

If the power draw is expressed in AMPS multiply by your nominal line voltage (North America = 120, Europe = 230, etc.)

If the power draw is expressed in WATTS, multiply by 1.4 for VA load

Example: Computer #1 - 230 watt power supply (x 1.4) = 322VA load

Monitor #1 - 0.7 amp (x 120) = 84VA load

Computer #2 - 2 amp power supply (x 120) = 240VA load

Total: 746VA

Once you have calculated the total VA draw of you equipment, select a Tripp Lite UPS that is rated equal to or higher than the number generated. DO NOT OVERLOAD UPS SYSTEMS! UPS systems that attempt to support excessive loads will pop their circuit breakers and provide no runtime.

Q: How do I know how much runtime a UPS will give my equipment?
A: Calculate the total VA required by your equipment and compare against the full and half load run times listed for your UPS. Fully loaded, you can expect any UPS to give between 5 and 10 minutes runtime.

The VA rating of a UPS is considered full load. Half load is simply a VA load that is half of that figure. For example, the BC PRO 850 can support an 850 VA load for 6 minutes, or a 425 VA load for 21 minutes.

Smaller UPS loads lead to ever longer runtimes. And since most equipment doesn't pull its full VA load all the time, your run times may be significantly longer.

Q: How do I know which family of products to choose for my UPS.
A: Tripp Lite manufactures many types of UPS systems. When choosing which one is best for your applications, consider the following:

Once these questions have been answered, look over the Tripp Lite product line and make your decision. Generally:

BC Series UPS systems provide full protection at an affordable price. BC Personal systems are perfect for Small/home offices while BC Pro systems provide affordable network UPS protection.

OmniSmart PNP Series UPS systems are designed for brownout/overvoltage prone areas and provide convenient LAN support.

SmartPro Net Series UPS systems offer the same line-interactive support as the OmniSmart PNP Series with advanced network management and control capabilities.

SmartPro Datacenter Series UPS systems provide SMART series support for multiple fileservers and centralized network systems.

SmartPro Unison Series UPS systems provide true online support for critical systems will all the advanced features of the SMART series.

APS / TE / XL models offer extended runtimes for telecommunications, PBX, security, and critical network systems.

Q: What is the network interface port on a UPS for?
A: In the event of an extended power outage, your UPS may run out of battery power. This poses no problem if you are there to shut down your system, but may result in data loss or hardware problems if the system is left unattended and allowed to crash.

UPS units equipped with a LAN port can connect to a computer or network and transmit information of current power status. If the computer is running PowerAlert automatic shutdown software, user settable alarm points can tell the system to save its data and shutdown before battery power runs out.

Q: How long do UPS batteries last?
A: You can expect the batteries in any Tripp Lite UPS systems to last about 5 years.

Q: Are the UPS batteries user-replaceable?
A: Yes, but anyone performing a battery replacement should be familiar and comfortable with working with electronics. In truth replacing UPS batteries is fairly simple (about as easy as replacing an automotive battery.) Tripp Lite prefers to say that batteries are replaceable only by users competent to do so.

Q: What kind of batteries are in an UPS? Are they NiCad? Do they benefit form being drained occasionally?
A: Tripp Lite UPS systems use sealed maintenance free, starved electrolyte batteries. This type of battery is used because they are safe for indoor use, they can handle repeated discharging and they do not leak.

Tripp Lite UPS batteries do not benefit by being drained or "exercised."

Q: Can I add additional batteries to my self contained UPS to get longer runtimes?
A: No. Only UPS system which are specifically designed to accommodate additional batteries can provide longer runtimes. The external battery products are equipped with higher capacity chargers and increased ventilation to dissipate the amount of heat created by long runtimes.

Q: Should I get one large UPS or several smaller models for our computer workstations?
A: There are advantages and disadvantages to either approach. You should first determine the proximity of your equipment to the UPS. Running extension cords to power remote equipment will affect your Ultimate Lifetime Insurance warranty and may be against local electrical codes.

Many feel that there is a pricing advantage in purchasing a single, large UPS, but this is becoming less and less the case. Price competition in the 400 - 675 VA range has driven prices down to the point that multiple UPS systems are within almost everyone's price range.

Q: I am very concerned with surge suppression. Can I increase the overall level of protection by placing an additional suppressor in line with my Tripp Lite UPS?
A: All Tripp Lite UPS systems already have surge suppression built-in. However, if you are in an area that experiences frequent or intense power surges, you may place an additional surge suppressor in line before the UPS system in the power chain. Never plug a surge suppressor into the output of any UPS system.

UPS Systems | Surge Suppressors | Line Conditioners

SURGE SUPPRESSORS

Q: How do I register to be eligible for the Ultimate Lifetime Insurance Policy?
A: There is no registration required. From the moment you properly connect your Tripp Lite product you are covered by Ultimate Lifetime Insurance. Simply abide by the Warranty statement and you and your equipment are covered.

Q: How do I know if my surge suppressor is still working?
A: Most Tripp Lite surge suppressors have an indicator light which will go out if your protection is compromised by a powerful surge. Units that are not equipped with an indicator light will stop working altogether if unit is damaged by a surge.

Q: I only have two-prong outlets in my home. Can I still use your surge suppressors?
A: All Tripp Lite surge suppressors rely on the 3rd prong or ground pin to channel off the excess energy of surges and line noise. With no ground pin, you get virtually no surge or noise suppression. The Ultimate Lifetime Insurance for surge suppressors will not cover you with ungrounded outlets.

Q: Am I still protected if my surge suppressor is turned off?
A: Yes. Your Tripp Lite surge suppressor continually protects your connected equipment.

Q: What is a Joule?
A: A unit of work or energy equal to the work done by a force of one Newton acting through a distance of one meter.

LINE CONDITIONERS

Q: What kind of problems can I expect if my computer is exposed to low voltages?
A: Like power surges undervoltage conditions can damage your equipment. When line voltages are lowered, electrical equipment pulls more current to compensate and generates more heat in the process. Over time, this can contribute to equipment failure.

In addition to providing superior surge suppression Tripp Lite Line Conditioners offer voltage regulation to keep lower or higher voltages from affecting the operation of your equipment. These units can accept an input voltage range between 87 and 120 volts nominal (168-278 with 230 volt nominal output on international models.)

Q: Do Line Conditioners provide "carry through" power to keep my computer running through power failures that only lasts a few seconds?
A: Line conditioners have no batteries built inside and will turn off all output power when input is interrupted. For battery support see the listing for Tripp Lite UPS Systems.

Q: Which pieces of equipment should get Line Conditioner support as opposed to UPS or Surge Suppression?
A: You can think of surge suppression, line conditioning and UPS support as a stepped network of support for your electrical systems. At the very least, all pieces of electronic equipment should be covered by any good surge suppressor. Modems, scanners, televisions, stereos and other home electronics are all suitable for surge suppression.

Line Conditioners help smooth out voltage swings while power is present and are a must in locations prone to brownouts or high voltage problems. Most computer equipment can benefit with Line Conditioner support to protect sensitive power supplies from brownout damage. Hewlett Packard recommends the use of a line conditioner with its line of laser printers.

UPS protection is usually limited to only protecting items which must continue to run when power fails. Typically, CPUs and monitors are supported with battery power while peripheral systems are connected to other forms of protection.

If you have questions that this FAQ page did not answer e-mail us at support@sentinelpower.com.

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Last Updated 03/18/10