UPS Basics: Common Electrical Power Problems Explained

Do you know the difference between a power sag and a surge? Why is a blackout worse than a brownout? Our UPS Basics video explains everything you need to know about electrical power problems.

We all know how damaging downtime can be. Even the “least-worst” analysis suggests an electrical power outage costs companies a minimum of £5,000 per minute.

No wonder data centres and other mission-critical businesses install uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems as their ultimate insurance against going offline.

But do you know what these invaluable UPS units actually protect against? In this short video, we explore the most common power problems IT and facilities managers face.

We cover relatively minor disruptions such as sags and spikes. In addition, it explains other, more serious, incidents such as a power surge or a blackout, the most damaging type of power failure you’ll face.

Video Transcript

Hello there I’m Steve. In this video, we’ll be looking at the most common power problems that we experience in the UK.

An uninterruptible power supply, also known as a UPS, can provide power protection with the highest levels of resilience. The system ensures continuous operation of critical loads irrespective of the quality or availability of the local mains supply.

A UPS will typically use batteries to provide short duration power during the power outage. Enough for you to save your work… Or finish that episode of Breaking Bad!

Or in a more commercial or industrial environment, enough time to allow the standby generator to start up and take over providing the power.

Due to the way that electricity is generated and distributed throughout the UK, we experience many different power problems. Let’s take a look at the most common and troublesome problems that we experience.

Sags are a short duration voltage reduction below the normal main supply level.

Brownouts, these are similar to sags, but can last for several hours or even days.

Surges, this is the opposite to a sag, where the voltage increases above the nominal supply level for a short time.

Spikes and transients, a fast-moving high-energy burst lasting only a few milliseconds.

Harmonics, a distortion of the waveform generally caused by the load.

Electrical noise, a high-frequency disturbance that can occur between phase-to-earth, neutral-to-earth, or phase-to-neutral.

Last but not least, blackouts, total mains supply failure lasting milliseconds to several hours or more.

The consequences of these problems can include: flickering of lights, damage to equipment, and complete system downtime with corruption and loss of data.

Any of these power problems can cause catastrophic failure of industrial, commercial, or domestic loads.

Watch the complete UPS Basics series: