There are a few things many of us take for granted in life: air, water, health ... electricity, internet. We are so conditioned to our creature comforts that any interruptions to "normal" can cause major flow on effects. I remember a period when the kids (and their mother) thinks the world has ended if WiFi has gone down, and I am sure many parents could sympathise here. With thanks to CyberPower, we get to bring the focus on keeping one of our essentials running longer, and better.
In a previous life as a network manager, I had a server room with huge banks of batteries for the on-line Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS) to keep critical systems alive. I have sized, recommended and installed plenty of UPS for customers to keep their data centers running. I don't even remember when I have had to deal with a power outage for work other than planned maintenance hours, but the story is always the same - you buy your insurance policy for potential interruptions to your power grid and give yourself time to gracefully shut down your systems. But is that all it is good for?
A Powerful Hidden Problem
From the outside looking in, Australia has a fairly robust, national energy grid (Western Australia and Northern Territories notwithstanding). We are not like Haiti where over 3 years on from Hurricane Matthew, only 40% of the population has access to electricity. Nor are we like Japan which consists of two wide area synchronous grids which run at different frequencies for the North and South of the country.
The power is generally on across the board, flick the switch and whatever appliance you want to work works because there is a constant electricity supply. Sure when the weather get stupidly hot and everyone is running their air conditioners, we can suffer brown outs and localised outages. A storm or an accident can take out power lines affecting a few hundred homes, but generally the macro perspective is that we believe it is ok.
Spiraling into the micro perspective though, is what happens between the generator and the General Purpose Outlet (GPO) in your home. The nominal voltage for Australian households is 230 volts at 50 Hz, with the exception of Western Australia who have yet to adopt Australian Standard AS60038. Queensland is "hoping" to complete their transition to the preferred range (of 230V) by July 2020. AS60038 allows for a +10% to –6% variation at the point of supply, which makes the actual operating range of voltage between 216V and 253V. That is a pretty big range!
What can happen in that voltage range? If the voltage is too low, then the amperage (the strength of the electric current) increases which may result in the components melting down or causing the appliance to malfunction. If there is an over voltage, it may result in appliances to run "too fast and too high" which will shorten their service life. It may also vent the excess power as heat - a waste of electricity and potentially contribute to increase in the cooling costs.
I am on the cusp of moving into an old house, which have had some "interesting" decisions made about how the power was originally connected to the premises. A small fortune has been spent upgrading the available amperage, as well as reversing the unusual fuse box decisions and replacing Bakelite wiring where they still existed. The takeaway of it is, I really don't know the full story on the electrical backbone of the house without throwing a king's ransom at it, and blowing up my appliances will be an inefficient way of telling me issues such as surges, sags and dips in power, circuit overload and general poor quality power.
CyberPower First Impressions
I was offered a CyberPower CP1500EPFCLCD, a small tower form factor, line-interactive 1500VA UPS targeted for the consumer market. UPS are generally not very sexy devices, but CyberPower has made their's less utilitarian with a decent sized LCD display and a modern black finish. It wouldn't be a centerpiece of a room, but it does not need to be hidden away in shame either.
The CP1500EPFCLCD has a Pure Sine Wave output, is Active Power Factor Correction (PFC) compatible, provides Automatic Voltage Regulation (AVR), and designed with GreenPower UPS technology. It is all a bit of a mouthful of jargons but bear with me, we will look deeper into each of these features.
Power into the CP1500EPFCLCD is via a IEC 60320 C14 socket, aka kettle cord. On the back it has 6 x AS/NZS 3112 outlets in two rows of three sockets, each reasonably spaced out which helps to cater for some chunkier power adaptors. There is a pair of RJ11/RJ45 ports for surge and spikes protection. Additionally there is an USB host port as well as a serial port (DB9 - haven't had to use one of these for a while!) for the PowerPanel software to communicate with a PC.
A multifunction LCD display takes up roughly one-third of the front panel, with three buttons underneath - display, silence alarm and control.
Getting the CP1500EPFCLCD going was a no brainer. The unit is shipped ready to be used, although it is recommended to charge it for at least 8 hours to achieve maximum charge capacity. It does require AC power to be plugged in for the first power up.
On my unit I have my NBN termination device, router, HP Proliant DL385G2 server, Synology DS-916+, a NVR device and a Ubiquiti 16-port POE switch. All up the CP1500EPFCLCD is at around one-third load. From a power continuity and graceful shutdown perspective, my Synology and the NVR are the two devices I care about the most, followed by my connectivity devices. My Proliant server is mostly a testbed where I can handle the loss of most of the data, with the exception of my Pi-Hole server which is not exactly difficult to rebuild. Accordingly, the Synology is connected to the USB host port of the CP1500 so that in the event of a power loss, it will be gracefully shutdown.
What I do care about though, is the cleanness of the power going to these devices. They form the core of my ability to work and test things. While nothing is irreplaceable, it would be an expensive annoyance though to replace. This is where the CP1500EPFCLCD comes into play, and we have to look behind the buzzwords mentioned earlier.
Just because I can, I ran the CAT6e lead from my NBN termination device into the CP1500EPFCLCD and back out into my modem.
What is a line-interactive UPS? A very basic explanation is, a line-interactive UPS conditions and regulates the AC power from the utility, generally using only one main power converter. When AC input is present, a power interface filters the AC power, suppresses voltage spikes and provides sufficient voltage regulation to operate well within the specifications of the power load. In the SOHO range of power needs, line-interactive is generally the preferred topology due to cost and lower complexity reasons.
So what is pure Sine-Wave and why is it important? Well the power we get from the power grid is a pure sine wave, and generally manufacturer specifications expects this, rather than a "modified sine wave" or "square wave" which will result in a fluctuating output voltage.
What about Active PFC compatibility? The PFC, or Power Factor Correction, minimises the amount of reactive power produced by devices - this is the power stored and released by the capacitors and inductors of a device, and has no real value in the operation of an appliance. Active PFC uses electronic circuits in efficiently distributing power to devices connected to the power supply. Active PFC compatibility means they will all play nice together.
And Automatic Voltage Regulation? The AVR is a device designed to regulate voltage automatically – taking a fluctuating voltage level and turn it into a constant voltage level. With a line-interactive UPS, AVR control is bypassed during normal AC operations, but kicks in if there is an interruption of incoming AC power.
Given that I do a lot of my work at an unfinished abode at the moment, on and off I suffer through some short power outages as various things are being done. Having my router and modem hooked up to the CP1500EPFCLCD means short power outages do not affect my ability to work at all as everything I need stays alive. At the current UPS load, I could sustain a power out for about 24 minutes.
What is GreenPower UPS technology? This is a CyberPower specific term, consisting of three different energy-saving strategies that improve operating efficiency, reduce heat generation, and consume less power than conventional UPS design. To be honest, some of this is marketing speak, but CyberPower defines the three strategies as:
ECO Mode - a form of bypass technology that can be switched on full time, set for noncritical times (such as nights and weekends), or switched off.
Bypass Design - allows current to bypass the transformer and AVR when utility power is normal, thus reducing energy consumption and associated costs. This technology also reduces heat generation, an important factor in decreasing operating costs.
High-Efficiency Design - significantly decreases power consumption to create an ultra-efficient backup battery for home and office use.
To help keep track of what is happening with the CP1500EPFCLCD, CyberPower provides free editions of their PowerPanel software. I used the Personal Edition to see just how much information I can glean from the unit, and how much configuration is available. It requires a connection to the CP1500EPFCLCD using the HID-compliant USB port or serial port to your computer. For this I switched the UPS cable from my Synology NAS to my laptop.
The installation software is easily found on CyberPower's website, and requires escalated privileges to install. Once running, it provides all the key status at a glance: supply of power, output voltage, power condition, remaining battery capacity, battery status, runtime and UPS load. It keeps a count of power issues and their types so that it can be tracked over a period of time.
In this current age of environmental concerns, PowerPanel does an abridged energy report providing figures for power consumption and carbon dioxide (CO2) output. To reduce power consumption, the PowerPanel allows configuration of one shutdown period per day - it can be configured for restart or no restart.
You can also set the lower and upper voltage thresholds for when the UPS will intervene. The lower range can be selected between 170V-180V, and the upper range between 260V-270V. I find this unusual as I would have preferred to set my thresholds inline with AS60038, which is between 216V and 253V.
There are also two USB ports at the front of the unit, rated at 2.1A for charging mobile devices.
Ideally I would have like to run the Business Edition 4 Virtual Machines, but the VMWare ESXi (free version) is not supported. I did give it a crack, CyberPower provides an OVF templates for easy deployment of the CentOS image. It was quick to deploy and run up, it just does not work with the free edition of ESXi.
This would be a dealbreaker for me for some business environments, where they are not big enough to warrant full blown ESX licence but need a small virtualisation hypervisor.
It would also be nice to be able to schedule multiple shutdown periods in one day. For example I could be up and working early in the morning, head out to work and have my equipment powered off, then have my equipment power up before I come home and shutdown again when I sleep.
If you have a SOHO, or work from home regularly with a reliance on your internet, investing in an UPS is a no-brainer. We won't talk about the elephant in the room - the reliability of the NBN network, but for what is within your control, you could keep things going longer in the event of a localised power loss.
For those who have equipment that is sensitive to abrupt shutdowns, such as a projector, consider it an insurance policy.
It is important to note that like all batteries, the one inside the UPS will degrade over time and will require replacement.
The CyberPower CP1500EPFCLCD is readily available for around AUD$345-$450 mark, but shop around for a deal. DRN would like to thank CyberPower for their continued support (pun intended), there is now one less excuse here if I miss a publishing deadline.
UPS Topology: Line-interactive
Energy Saving Technology: GreenPower UPS Bypass
Active PFC Compatibility: Yes
Nominal Input Voltage (VAC): 230
Input Voltage Range (VAC): 170 - 270
Input Frequency (Hz): 50±3, 60±3
Input Frequency Detection: Auto-sensing
Rated Input Current (A): 10
Input Connector Type: IEC C14
Output Capacity (VA): 1500
Output Capacity (W): 900
Output On Battery Waveform: Pure Sine Wave
On Battery Voltage(s) (VAC): 230±10%
On Battery Frequency (Hz): 50±1, 60±1
Automatic Voltage Regulation (AVR): Single Boost
Overload Protection: Internal current limiter, Circuit breaker
Outlets (Total): 6 x AS/NZS 3112, all battery and surge protected
USB Charging Ports: 2
USB Charging Current (A): 2.1
Typical Transfer Time (ms): 4
Battery Runtime at Half Load (min): 10
Battery Runtime at Full Load (min): 3
Typical Recharge Time (hours): 8
Start on Battery: Yes
User-replaceable Battery: Yes
Battery Type: Sealed Lead-acid
Replacement Battery Pack: RBP0016, 1x
Surge Suppression (Joules): 405
EMI/RFI Filtration: Yes
Phone/Network Protection RJ11/RJ45 (Combo): 1 in, 1 out
LCD Panel: Yes
LCD Information Display: Operation Type, Power Status, Battery Status, Load Status, Fault & Warning, Other Information, Event & Log
LCD Setting and Control: Mode Setting, Alarm Setting, Input & Output, Battery Setting, Fault & Warning, Event & Log
LED Indicators: Power On
HID Compliant USB Port(s): 1
Audible Alarms: Battery Mode, Low Battery, Overload, UPS Fault
Power Management Software: PowerPanel® Personal (Recommended)
Form Factor: Tower
Enclosure Construction: Plastic
Dimensions (mm): 100 x 265 x 370 (WxHxD)
Weight (kg): 11.3
Operating Temperature (°C): 0 - 40
Operating Relative Humidity (Non-condensing) (%) : 0 -95
Operating Elevation (m): 0 - 3000
Online Thermal Dissipation (BTU/hr): 61