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Some Surging Home Office Tips

Published by John W. Wagonis in Home Improvement · 6 December 2020
The year 2020 became the year of working at home. And sadly, we need to show compassion for those who are unable to work, either in the home or at their job. Before you read on, please remember the people who are in need of help.

This little blog will be about Home Based Office Set Ups. With most emphasis on the Ups or UPS. UPS stands for Uninterrupted Power Supply. It also stands for United Parcel Service which is an important part of a home based office too. But let's talk about the ins and outs of battery backups.

Battery Backup UPS Brands
There are many. Two that seem to dominate the market place are APC and Cyberpower. They also seem to get the majority of reviews when you are searching for information on them. They come in a variety of sizes and power capacity. The larger capacity in the 1300 to 1500 VA range will cost more than those in the 625 VA range, but there is a strong reason for opting for one of the larger units in your home based office.

Most likely one of the main tools in your home based office will be a Personal Computer, the PC. Not a whole heck of a lot of people are running a business from home on their smartphone. You like typing with one or two fingers on a 5" screen? Or do you like the real estate of a 27 to 32" monitor with a full size keyboard with a 10-key on the side? I like the PC and my nice big 32" monitor. So the PC is the prime hub of the home based office. The PC needs to sit on a comfortable and spacious desktop. One with some room for paper stack trays, maybe even a roll out tray to use as a hideaway desktop to extend out when needed. My keyboard sits on the platform of one of these variable height desks. I seldom stand and work, but if I need to I can raise that and stretch my back a bit. My roll out tray is 44" wide and 16" deep, I made it custom for this desk. I wanted a lot of space because there are many tasks that I do not work on right away, but they stay close for me to grab when I can work on them. And I have quick reference and rate charts taped to the top of my tray to keep from reaching for 3-ring binders for info I use daily.

So we have our fabulous PC and desk and we go to work. Whatever our home based business is, is not what we are discussing at the moment. That is for you to decide, or have decided upon. What we are doing now is getting the function of that business working in our home and what we need to do it. Turn on the computer, get started.

That was just a lightening strike in the neighborhood that just took out the power for several miles of homes. Your PC just went black, the customer credit card you were processing just disappeared. Uh oh, business is closed for the moment with a nasty interruption that you need to go back to, and figure out where you were. And figure out what was NOT saved. Thus, for the battery backup UPS on your PC, here is why it is important. All your neighbors might be sitting in the dark right now, but your PC will still be on. You will finish processing that credit card. You will have time to save your file and other programs you have open. You have a few more minutes to a half hour to get some more work done.

How long will my UPS stay on?
That depends on the load. Most larger capacity UPS's have a front display. That display has two common readouts of load and remaining battery capacity. The load is what you have attached to the Battery+Surge outlets. This will of course be your PC and your Monitor. You could also have your computer speakers attached and maybe a low wattage LED desk lamp. You want to be able to still see what you are working on. You could also have your cordless phone base connected to the Battery+Surge outlets to retain use of your business phone.

What you most certainly NOT plug into the Battery+Surge outlets is a laser printer. Repeat, do not plug your laser printer into the battery outlets. When a laser printer receives a signal to print, it takes a lot of wattage. It takes less wattage to run, but that initial start up draws a lot of power. It can drain or potentially damage a UPS. So it is not wise to power backup your printer through the UPS. Plug the printer into a separate surge strip to protect it, and just do without printing for a while if the power goes out.

The 1300 to 1500 VA battery backup UPS units could potentially run for a half hour or more if you just have your PC and monitor on the backup outlets. There are additional outlets on them that say Surge Only. Those outlets are not protected by the battery. If the power goes out, anything in the surge only outlets will turn off and stay off till power is restored.

Something else to consider plugging into the Battery+Surge outlets is your router. Your home router allows you access to the Internet. It is plugged in. If the power goes out, you will lose the Internet. If you have a UPS on your router, you can continue working on the Internet. BUT, part two of that Internet power is the battery backup on your service provider equipment too. You will have your exterior equipment on the outside wall of your house, and then inside equipment opposite on the interior wall. On the inside, there most likely is a 6 volt battery or even 12 volt in that case to back up your TV, phone, and Internet service from your provider. Those are replaceable, non-rechargeable batteries. And if you have had power outages and they are a few years old, they might be dead. Best to check them. We want our home office to function smoothly.

To review: the equipment that we should have connected to our battery backup UPS is
  • personal computer
  • computer monitor
  • possibly computer speakers
  • small low power desk lamp
  • household router for Internet
  • our business phone

You could have a separate UPS for the phone and router. The smaller, lesser expensive 625 VA battery backups are fine for that, and you may even get a few hours use out of them with such a tiny load on them. Most of us have become dependent upon our smartphones as our main phone. Yet, in a home based business it is a really good idea to have a land line. And the land line should have a power backup on it.

What else adds to a home based office?
We have our desk, PC set up, laser printer, phone, Internet access, and our battery backup. We of course will need the proper software to run our business. Most businesses do not need too much, but at least an accounting or inventory control software should be high on the list. There are several to choose from, I am not going to endorse any here as I have my gripes with some. We also need the functioning space to do what we need to do. Possibly some or all of the garage will need to become workspace. One of the bedrooms or half of the dining room might need to become that control center for the desk and PC. It will take a little planning. Get out your tape measure. Most of that planning is up to you.

Battery Beware
We want to tell you about a very important factor about your battery backup UPS. The smaller units have one battery in them. Most of the normal tower units have two batteries in them. Some of the really large expensive units have multiple batteries. Prices can range on some of these units to well over $1000 each. Those in the $140 to $180 neighborhood are generally sufficient for a One PC office.

The batteries in your UPS are constantly being charged. You leave the unit plugged in all the time, and for the most part you probably even ignore that it is there. Many of the UPS's come with a 3-year warranty, and many of those warranties even cover battery failure for the time period. I just purchased a Cyberpower unit that comes with a 5-year warranty, including the battery. Well, batteries do fail. They do not last forever. If you have the UPS connected to your PC via a USB cable for monitoring, it should tell you if your battery is still charged ... or KAPUT. I think most of us do not connect the UPS to the PC for monitoring. We just expect it to perform.

Well, when the battery goes dead in the UPS while it is ON, it may not tell you that it is dead. Seems like the majority of UPS's do not. Thus when the power goes out, and the battery is dead, the UPS goes off. And then you lose all your work again and Windows or OS shuts down wrong, and you might be dealing with a rough restart the next time you boot your PC. Windows 10 is really good about recovery, but you do not want too many harsh shut downs.

So when the UPS goes off suddenly with a dead battery in it that you did not know about, when the power comes back on, the UPS generally will not come back on automatically. When you try to turn it on, it might chirp or give you an error message. And at the moment it is nothing more than an overpriced surge strip without the battery backup. The batteries are replaceable and usually pretty expensive. But losing your work can be equally expensive. So get new batteries or a new UPS when one acts up. Sad thing is, you do not know when the batteries will go dead. Presume about a month past when the warranty is up, seems to work that way. But sometimes sooner, which is what inspired me to write this little story.

So my last tips for battery backup UPS's are:
  • Opt for the stronger rated units around 1300 VA or even up to 1500 VA.
  • Tape a copy of your purchase receipt to the side of it, in case you need to call in for warranty service, you will have all the info you need ready, and clearly know your purchase date.
  • Do not block any air vents on the sides of them when taping your receipt to their sides.
  • Be ready to replace the whole unit or the batteries near the warranty expiration. Shit happens.
  • Batteries are easy to replace, and please dispose of the dead batteries properly.
  • Consider having multiple UPS's for various equipment instead of just one.
  • Best not to use one UPS for two computers, have a separate UPS for each.
  • You can use a UPS on your TV sets and DVD players too.

There obviously is a whole lot more to consider when setting up a home based office, but the main computer, the phone, and a battery backup to both are the brains of the office. The center. The place where most of the action happens.

Eclectic-ware has been a home based business for 20 years. Just remember that a backup UPS is something that requires some attention every few years. Don't be caught thinking that your battery inside it is just fine. Put it through a test every year. Unplug the PC and monitor (after the PC is properly shut down and turned off), leave the desk lamp plugged in. Then pull the plug on the UPS to simulate a power outage. Did the lamp stay on or not?

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