Photo Credit: Martin Kucera posted on Florida Lightning
Last Tuesday evening, and the huge storm rolled in off the Gulf of Mexico, I stood out on the (wooden) deck watching the majesty of the power of the lightning thunder and, to a lesser extent, the wind and the waves.
But, on to the important things: Are your plugged in systems protected?
US Lightning Stike frequency Map
Consider this, my “local” readership: The Tampa Bay area is one of the most struck areas in the nation. Without getting scientific, lightning begins a lot of juice, and, your electronics don’t handle that lightly. Most of you know that, but have you taken the steps to help keep them operating, after a common afternoon or evening thunderstorm comes through during the summer months?
If you think you are all set with surge protectors, think again. For the TECO/Progress Energy electrical fluctuations, surge suppressors with usually keep you safe. The energy of the storms comes at you in the regular power lines, but also via other connections, to include sneaking in via a ground line, when conditions are right, and depending on how your utilities are laid out.
The answer, not only for your desktop, but also your TV/Home Theater/sound systems is to get yourself some battery backups, or the more technical term you’re hear is: Uninterruptible Power Supplies (or “UPS”).
A “battery backup” is not just to back up in the event of a power loss, it serves another important purpose, too: When the power coming to your UPS is less than “clean” (think those brown out moments), the backup will take over and send clean power from the batteries, until the power provided from the wall socket gets back with specifications. So, even if you don’t lose power, if you have any fluctuations (caused by large systems, such as air conditioning units) coming on, the UPS will be your savior from incrementally harming your electronics. Consider it like regularly changing oil on your car: The more frequently you do it, the longer engine life you can expect under normal use. The UPS makes sure the “oil” is constantly clean for your computers and other equipment to use.
In any of the big box stores, or CompUSA, you can pick up 350-400VA rated systems for about $40 out the store door. Unless you are running a server out of your home (and this advice is good for your office, too!), you don’t need much more than a few minutes of run time to make sure you’ve saved your files and done a stepped shutdown of your system.
Modifications to the 350-400VA range battery backups: If you have several computers in your office, you may either pick up a UPS per system, or, particularly if the systems are close together, get a larger rated UPS (you can pick them up up to 3000VA at stores) and plug in more than one system per UPS, The added amperage rating will make sure you have time for all those systems.
Important points about USP/battery backup use:
- Most all battery backup units have the outlets separated into the plugs for “Backup and Surge” and “Surge Protection”
- Not everything you use with the computer should be plugged into the battery backup side of the UPS.
- Your computer, your monitor, and, your internet modem and routers should be connected to the backup side.
- Printers and extra items should be on the “surge protection” side. Printers, particularly laser units and the larger all-in-one units, draw a significant start up current when they begin the print job, and can pull your entire system off line (hard shutdown) as a result.
- UPS units need to be plugged into a wall outlet directly. Don’t put them on an extension cord
- if you need some extra outlets for use, you can use power strips to eitehr get more room, or more plugs, but keep in mind, as you use the plugs, which side of the UPS (backup or surge) are used as I listed above
- It’s rare that even the lower rated units don’t include protection for your modem (dial up) and network/ethernet, and it’s not uncommon to see a connection to run your coaxial (cable line) through the unit as well. Recommendation: USE THEM! The cost of a few extra cables to jumper to your equipment is worth the price
Over the years, I have seen a number of systems that their only storm damage was the modem (via phone line) and the ethernet (network) card being zapped by the power surges. It’s generally an easy replacement, and the parts aren’t very expensive, but, until your tech can get there, you’re off line.
More in a bit, but this is the main issue I’d like to help share some advice on today.
Just think, if you don’t protect yourself, the next meal might be “fried computers.” The fix is easy and not very costly. On top of that, the big brand name manufacturers (and their prices are still very good) also include insurance for your equipment connected to their systems. For the price of the UPS units, you may never need to call and find out how they stand behind their pledges, but if you don’t you’ll be replacing your systems (or internal components) on your own financial accounts.
Let’s be smart out there!