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The little battery backup that couldn't

APC, close your eyes and cover your ears.  I’m about to tell a little story about your products.

Once upon a time, there was a cute little battery backup unit.  This little unit was rated at 750Watts worth of backup power.  It’s owner was practically religious when it comes to having backup power, as power “events” happen frequently where he lives.  The owner happily took the battery backup unit home and plugged it into the wall.  Into the “battery protected outlets”, he plugged one computer and one LCD flat-panel monitor.  He was so happy becuase he picked out a battery backup unit with more power rating than the rated draw of the devices he plugged into it.  He thought, “There now, I’m safe from all the bad little power events.”

One day, when the owner was working on his computer, a bad power event hit his home.  Instead of the comforting “I think I can, I think I can” coming from his battery backup for those 4 seconds, it died.  The owner was perplexed.  He had heard no warning toots of the horn, no flashing lights indicating overload, and the management software happily reported 9 minutes of runtime.  The owner was not amused, for he received not even 9 seconds of runtime.  Now, the owner was faced with paying the recycling company money to take his battery backup unit to the scrap yard.

Unfortunately, this story is not the first of it’s kind for the “owner”.  I’ve had roughly a half-dozen of these things die on me in similar, if not identical, manners.  Would it kill the manufacturers to put in a simple warning circuit that would beep when the load is too high for the battery to handle?  How much, in component costs, could that possibly add to their cost in building their devices?  How much would it add to consumer confidence in their products?

I wish I had a good alternative to purchasing these units, but I don’t want to buy the $200+ models to provide backup power to my cable modem.  They’re too big and way too overpriced.  I have about a dozen of the smaller units around my house and three of the 2200′s in my basement for test systems.  It almost makes me want to buy a Liebert unit to drive my whole house, but that’d be a tad expensive.

I’ve tried other manufacturers than APC as well: Tripplite, Connext, and probably a few other no-namers.  All of them suffered the same fate.  I have a feeling they’re all made by the same company anyway.

It seems to me that this shouldn’t be that complicated of a problem.  After all, I bought my little battery backup unit to get rid of my power problems, not introduce some.