UPS or Inverter – or both – putting the ‘power’ in your hands

As businesses and consumers struggle to cope with the global energy crisis, governments and the private sector alike are actively looking towards alternative, greener energy sources to preserve both the planet and power.

January 17, 2012

Competing, or working together to run your home and SME? 

By Robert Brandt, AEC Product Specialist at Drive Control Corporation

As businesses and consumers struggle to cope with the global energy crisis, governments and the private sector alike are actively looking towards alternative, greener energy sources to preserve both the planet and power.

Until such time that the crisis is over, it is imperative to have solutions in place that provide backup and protect equipment from power surges and power outages.  Many companies invest in power solutions, such as UPS’s, especially for their IT environments, but as businesses and homes also need backup power sources, the inverter is coming to fore.   However, not many people understand the differences (and similarities) between a UPS and inverter.

A UPS is fairly simple in its working, yet provides something essential to any business – uninterrupted power, as well as lightning and power surge protection.  The inverter is similar in its purpose yet offers slightly different functionality.  Both have been around for decades and not only assist with the increasing power shortage, but also provide a short-term solution.  Manufacturers have even started enabling these devices to assist in providing a long-term solution where carbon footprints and energy conservation are concerned.

Put simply, a UPS contains an inverter, yet distinguishes itself with additional features such as lighting and power surge protection through automated voltage regulation (AVR).  It provides a limited autonomy to enable statefull shutdowns with IT equipment such as servers, which ensures information and software is not corrupted which can happen with a sudden power outage. 
 
An Inverter is comparatively inexpensive, basic equipment, which is entrenched in the electronic industry and used to keep production going for up to 12 hours after a power outage. It does this by converting the output DC power from its battery source, into an AC current.

UPS’s and inverters have co-existed for decades in their separate markets, but as we are moving to an ever-increasing technologically advanced environment where automated, or smart homes is a new buzz word, so the lines between the UPS and Inverter have blurred.  A home user would benefit from an Inverter that can not only run the geyser and everything else connected electronically, while the power is out, but also do it in an environmentally friendly manner.  A generator serves the purpose of extended run time in the home and office, but the accompanying noise and carbon-loaded fuel consumption, will not suffice in our green day and age. 

For example, the AEC ST2X home inverter has an average lifespan of three to five years and would be connected to your home electrical system and can automatically charge its batteries, using a combination of Eskom power and solar energy. It would also have a line auto failover switch, which allows for a line interactive switch from Eskom to battery power in case of an outage. As a result the switch is so incredibly fast, that no data will be lost or damage caused in the nanosecond of downtime.

The cost of such a unit depends on how long you want to run your home of office, as well as how large or small the required load is.  That means you can have anything between 800 and 1300 watts of energy, generated from up to 24 100ah batteries, running your home or office in an environmentally friendly manner during power outages, as well as protecting your equipment from fluctuations in power.

Businesses and home users can take advantage of both the UPS and inverter in an effort to ensure productivity, save money and harness the distinct benefits of lightning and surge protection whilst enjoying the added benefit of an additional power source than can keep equipment running for up to eight hours. As they say, knowledge is power.