Choice of UPS



  • Dear fellows,

    Can you please recommend me a good UPS for my pfSense box.

    My hardware configuration is:

    Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-C1037UN-EU (Intel® Dual-core Celeron® 1037U processor (1.8 GHz))
    Case: E-mini I5 Black, Brushed Aluminium, 120W DC/DC + 12V/5A adapter, Mini-ITX
    RAM: KINGSTON 2GB DDR3 1600 HYPER X (Part Number: KHX1600C9D3B1K2)
    SSD/DOM: 16GB Apacer SDM4-M APSDM016G15AN-CCM 22pin 90° Industrial S-ATA DOM

    pfSense installed: 2.1.5-RELEASE (amd64)

    Since my box is located in a different country I would like to be able to control and monitor the UPS status remotely, so I'm looking for suggestions for a reliable devices compatible with USB monitoring package.

    I'm looking forward to hearing from you!

    Regards,
    Nick



  • I've had good luck with APC UPS systems, and apcupsd monitoring daemon.  apcupsd is now available as a pfSense package, and it has an email notification feature that you might find helpful for your remote system.

    Seems too bad there is no easy way (AFAIK) to supply DC directly from the UPS battery to your MB; that would at least eliminate the 120W adapter as a point of failure.



  • @charliem:

    I've had good luck with APC UPS systems, and apcupsd monitoring daemon.  apcupsd is now available as a pfSense package, and it has an email notification feature that you might find helpful for your remote system.

    Seems too bad there is no easy way (AFAIK) to supply DC directly from the UPS battery to your MB; that would at least eliminate the 120W adapter as a point of failure.

    I second the vote for APC - it's all I've used on many different systems with apcupsd for monitoring and has always been solid.

    MotherBoards require 12V, 5V, and various combinations with positive and negative. The batteries supply only +12VDC so it has to be converted and regulated before reaching the MB.



  • @ember1205:

    MotherBoards require 12V, 5V, and various combinations with positive and negative. The batteries supply only +12VDC so it has to be converted and regulated before reaching the MB.

    Yes, normally, of course.  But many small systems now are using external power supplies like laptops; I have many that use +12VDC, and I thought the OP had one as well.  Looking closer, seems he has a battery already, since the adapter is listed as 120W DC-DC converter.



  • Thank you very much for your replies!

    Can you point me to some specific APC model, because I would expect that apcupsd would not 100% compatible with all APC devices :) ? My budget is about 170 USD.

    Thanks

    Regards,
    Nikolay



  • Should support anything made in the last decade or two.  I use mostly Smart-UPS 1500 units.  Manual and more details are here:
    http://www.apcupsd.org/manual/manual.html#supported-upses-and-cables



  • Hi charliem,

    Thanks for the info. Smart-UPS 1500 is great, but it's way out of my budget. Is it the same reliability in the lower class APC UPS?

    Regards,
    Nick



  • Understand the difference with some of the products… That will help you choose.

    BackUPS is a surge protecting device that will switch to battery power in the event of a sag or outage.
    SmartUPS is a power filtering device that provides anti-surge, anti-sag, anti-outage protection. These devices run electrical power into one side of the battery, filtered and regulated, and then use the other side of the battery to run your equipment (over-generalization). As such, you are running on 100% filtered battery power all of the time and the unit is constantly re-charging the battery.

    The SmartUPS devices will extend the life of your devices and they are mostly what I use throughout my home. I have them on my servers and on my LCD TVs / DVRs / Media Players / etc.



  • You gave us your budget (that's a good start), but there are a few other considerations:

    • What is the utility voltage where the box is installed? 230VAC?
    • In the past, how long have the power outages usually lasted?
    • How long do you need the box to remain online during a power outage before it automatically shuts down?

    I also have had good success with APC and suggest using the answers to the above questions in their online tool to see which products are available for the region where the server is installed: http://www.apc.com/tools/ups_selector/index.cfm

    A common mistake people make is to overestimate the UPS capacity required to keep their equipment powered during a typical outage.  If a typical power outage in that region lasts < 5 minutes, buying a UPS capable of powering the server for 12 hours might be a bit excessive - unless you truly need that level of uninterrupted run time during a catastrophe.

    If the online price is still too high and you are not afraid of using a screwdriver (or have someone in country whom you trust), you can find good prices on used UPS units sold without a battery.  There is always a risk that more than the battery was dead, of course, but often the owner simply does not know how to replace the battery or cannot be bothered.  On that topic, you do realize that the battery will need to be replaced in a few years, yes?

    Buying used and replacing the batteries myself is how I obtained five APC Smart-UPS units in perfect condition for myself and family members.

    Good luck!



  • I use n APC smart 650 power supply, I don't protect against a lengthy outage. it will run my pfSense box, modem and backbone switch for several minutes.



  • Hi all,

    @blinkenlights

    Thanks for the guide. Here are some answers:

    1. The utility voltage where the box is installed is 230VAC.
    2. The power outages in the area where the server is installed usually lasts around 5 minutes.
    3. I would like the box to be online until the electricity comes back. So I'm guessing around 5 minutes :) (Max 10 minutes).

    Despite the fact that my power supply is 120W, I'm pretty sure I'm using around 60-80 W, since my CPU load is between 10-20% in loaded mode and I don't have HDD, but I'm using S-ATA DOM. Only one FAN 12 cm, so overall I think the system consumption is below 120 W.

    Regarding e-bay, I don't have any problems replacing the batteries by myself, but honestly I prefer not to risk, since the problem could be more serious if I buy one form e-bay. If the server was not so important, I would go for e-bay option, but in my situation, I'm not at the same place, where the server is located, therefore I prefer to buy a new one.

    Regarding the batteries, yes I'm aware that in couple of years I will have to change the main batteries. Any suggestions how much a battery replacement will cost? Is it possible to use non-genuine (not APC) batteries or each UPS has a unique form factor?

    The question is: how bad is the off-line technology and is it worth it to buy one with USB monitoring and control function or not?

    I saw couple of line-interactive UPS devices without USB, the price is very good, but I can't decide whether the USB is essential or not. (http://www.amazon.co.uk/APC-Back-500VA-Power-Supply/dp/B00IG2P92I/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1414048855&sr=8-3&keywords=APC+UPS)

    Also I saw couple of off-line UPS devices with USB option for a very good price. (http://www.amazon.co.uk/APC-BK500EI-Interface-Desktop-Back-UPS/dp/B00006BBIL/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1414049199&sr=8-1&keywords=APC+BK500EI)

    So it's kind a trade-off.

    Regards,
    Nikolay


  • Netgate Administrator

    There's no way you're using close to 80W with that system. Your 12V power brick is only 60W! I would estimate 20-30W.

    There are big efficiency gains to be made by running from DC. However, as mentioned, your board requires a range of different voltages thus you need a dc-dc power supply. You already have one. It may appear that you could run directly from a 12V battery but in reality you probably can't. As a battery is charged/discharged its voltage varies, say between 10-15V, but your psu expects exactly 12V. Wide input dc-dc psus are available to cope with this.

    Steve



  • Hi stephenw10,

    You're absolutely right! I was speaking nonsense! My power adapter is 60W of course (12x5) :), so that makes my estimated runtime on UPS even more.

    However, I would prefer to buy a complete ready to use equipment, rather than making one. Thanks for the suggestion.

    Regards,
    Nick


  • Netgate Administrator

    I understand, I was just pointing out why you can't run from a battery directly as someone suggested it.
    There are ready built 'direct battery' style UPSs available, for example:
    http://www.mini-box.com/micro-UPS-load-sharing

    Steve



  • Hi all,

    @stephenw10 - thanks for the link, that's quite interesting.

    However I'm thinking of going for this UPS:

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/APC-330W-Master-Control-Back/dp/B002RL0CKI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1414070518&sr=8-1&keywords=BR550GI

    What's your opinion?

    Regards,
    Nick





  • I'm using an APC BR-800i with my Intel Atom-powered pfSense connected via USB, and I'm using NUT package for monitoring. Works great.
    I was lucky enough to catch a used SUA1500RMI2U without batteries for about 140USD also. All it needed was to reset its internal battery age counter via a serial cable hack, in order to properly charge the new batteries.



  • Hi Nick,

    @Nikolay_Zhelev:

    1. The utility voltage where the box is installed is 230VAC.
    2. The power outages in the area where the server is installed usually lasts around 5 minutes.
    3. I would like the box to be online until the electricity comes back. So I'm guessing around 5 minutes :) (Max 10 minutes).

    Right, so you are just looking to bridge a short gap in the power and not to stay online during a hurricane/blizzard/the apocalypse.  I would take your load estimate, add 25% for good measure, and see what the APC online guide recommends for that length of time.

    Regarding e-bay, I don't have any problems replacing the batteries by myself, but honestly I prefer not to risk, since the problem could be more serious if I buy one form e-bay. If the server was not so important, I would go for e-bay option, but in my situation, I'm not at the same place, where the server is located, therefore I prefer to buy a new one.

    I understand the concern, but your budget does limit your choices for new units.  I make that statement with an assumption that you are either in the UK or Western Europe, or will purchase the unit from an establishment located in that region.  If you are located in the UK, your budget of ~100 GBP will probably have to cover VAT, shipping, and import duties if you ship the equipment outside of the trade zone.  In other words, once you have paid the Crown, there is not much left to spend on the UPS.

    Regarding the batteries, yes I'm aware that in couple of years I will have to change the main batteries. Any suggestions how much a battery replacement will cost? Is it possible to use non-genuine (not APC) batteries or each UPS has a unique form factor?

    That completely depends on the type of UPS and the number of batteries required.  I have spent under 100 USD on replacement batteries for a 1500VA unit, and I have spent over 100 USD on replacement batteries for a 1000VA unit because it required 2 batteries.  It is possible to use third-party batteries in an APC UPS (in fact, none of mine have had a genuine APC battery since 2007) but you must be very careful when choosing a vendor.  I have had good success with Power-Sonic batteries myself.

    The question is: how bad is the off-line technology and is it worth it to buy one with USB monitoring and control function or not?

    There is nothing inherently "bad" with the off-line/standby topology if implemented properly, but it would not be my first or second choice.  Just like there is nothing "bad" about driving a Skoda instead of a Mercedes.  However, just as a Mercedes should give you a smoother ride, a line-interactive or online (double conversion) UPS will be less "bumpy" for your equipment than an off-line UPS.

    I consider monitoring essential for any piece of equipment I have to rely on.  The USB or serial connection will also signal apcupsd to gently shut down the server when the battery is drained, instead of abruptly cutting the power.

    The way I see it, your buying choices are limited by your budget.  Some people can only afford to buy a Skoda, and that's okay.  Some people can afford to buy a Mercedes but choose to buy an Opel, and that's okay too.

    Hope that helps..



  • Hi blinkenlights,

    Sorry for my late reply, but I was away for a week. Thank you for your time and complete reply. I decided to go for this UPS:

    https://www.apc.com/products/resource/include/techspec_index.cfm?base_sku=BR550GI

    It's line-interactive topology, has USB and it will support my equipment long enough to overcome any power problems. The price tag is also within my budget.

    If anyone is using this UPS device, can you share how is apcupsd behaving with this device?

    Which software package will be more stable for this device: apcupsd or NUT package?

    I'm looking forward to hearing from you guys!

    Regards,
    Nick