How to Calculate UPS Run Time

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An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) is a critical component of any computer system in areas where power losses happen frequently or without warning. These battery backup devices ensure that no open files are damaged or lost due to an unexpected power surge, brownout or interruption of service. Backup power units come in many sizes and have varying run times depending on the electrical load generated by the computer(s) that they are connected to. Sizing a UPS for your individual needs is a simple task.

Power outage.
Power outage.

Step 1

Take a complete inventory of the devices you want to connect to the UPS. Make sure you know what processor you have and what voltage your devices run on. In the United States this will generally be 120 volts. In Europe and elsewhere it is usually 220 volts.

Electrical cord in socket.
Electrical cord in socket.

Step 2

Use an online calculator to determine the best UPS for your needs. This is the easy way to figure out your power requirements. Several UPS vendors offer sizing guides online:

APC: (http://www.apc.com/tools/ups_selector/index.cfm) Tripp-Lite: http://www.tripplite.com/en/products/selectors/ups/index.cfm?gclid=CISHqPec-6QCFUtJ2godHXPtiA Dell: http://www.dellups.com/byDevice_01.asp?ByLoad=Configure+by+Devices

Woman using laptop to figure out UPS needs.
Woman using laptop to figure out UPS needs.

Step 3

Manually calculate the UPS. Figuring the best UPS for your needs involves simple math. All UPS units have a voltage and amperage rating commonly referred to as "VA." To determine the VA necessary for your own needs, look at the nameplate on each piece of equipment you want to connect to the UPS. Find the voltage and amperage. They will be listed in the format 120V and 3.5A and will vary based on the power draw of the equipment. Multiply volts by amps to get each device's VA and then total the results for all devices.

Calculator keys close up.
Calculator keys close up.

Step 4

Add 25 percent to the total VA number. Shop for a UPS that is rated for that VA number or higher.

Add 25% to the total number.
Add 25% to the total number.

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Tips & Warnings

  • Most UPS manufacturers offer a warranty for any damage to computer equipment connected to their UPS devices; however, these warranties never cover damage to or loss of your important files. Back up important files -- a UPS does not protect you from hard drive failures.
  • Use caution when working with electricity.
  • Purchase your UPS from a reputable manufacturer.
  • UPS batteries can contain hazardous components that are harmful to the environment. Check with your community's hazardous waste site to find out how to safely dispose of old batteries.
  • Recycle your old UPS. Most major manufacturers have recycling programs and drop-off locations or shipping instructions on their websites.

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