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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | Power | External Power | Uninterruptible Power Supplies | Uninterruptible Power Supply Types ]

"Home Brew" Backup Power

Commercially-made UPSes are sufficient for most people who need backup power and power protection capabilities for their PCs. However, it must be recognized that the capacity of these units is quite limited: most people will find that their UPS keeps their system running for less than an hour. This is fine in most cases: while it is inconvenient to not be able to use your PC during an extended power failure , the real risk you are protecting against with a UPS is a sudden outage, which could cause you to lose data. The UPS gives you time to shut down your PC in an orderly manner. However, what if you do need to run your PC for an extended period of time when the power is off?

If you want to do this, you either need a commercial UPS that is sized for much greater capacity than your PC needs for simple shut-down insurance, or you have to "roll your own". To do this, you purchase the functional components of a UPS and set them up yourself to provide power when you need it. Normally this will require manually switching to the backup power system, so this type of setup will not protect in the event of sudden power failure. It's more of an "extended UPS" to use after your small, commercial one has run out of juice and you have been forced to shut down your PC. The core components you need are a battery charger, batteries, and an inverter. The advantage of purchasing these components yourself and setting up your own system is that large, high-capacity batteries can be purchased relatively inexpensively, where high-capacity UPSes are very expensive. The battery charger can be one that runs off line power, or can be an alternative energy source such as solar panels. The inverter can be sized and specified to match the exact needs of your system, and any other loads you want to run. This type of home backup power system falls into the general category called alternative energy. One good site to read about the basics of alternative energy is Arizona Wind & Sun. Another is Jade Mountain. One of the most popular name brands for stand-alone inverters, and combination inverter/converters is Trace Engineering.

For very long use during power failures, one piece of equipment you may want to consider is a generator, a discussion of which is beyond the scope of this site. Another option, of course, is a laptop PC. Laptops use very little power compared to desktop PCs, and many come with adapters that will let you run them directly from a car's cigarette lighter.

Next: Parts of the Uninterruptible Power Supply

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