Uninterruptible power supply

An uninterruptible power supply, or UPS, is a device or system that maintains a continuous supply of electric power to certain essential equipment that must not be shut down unexpectedly. The equipment is inserted between a primary power source, such as a commercial utility, and the primary power input of equipment to be protected, for the purpose of eliminating the effects of a temporary power outage and transient anomalies. They are generally associated with telecommunications equipment, computer systems, and other facilities such as airport landing systems and air traffic control systems where even brief commercial power interruptions could cause injuries or fatalities, serious business disruption or data loss.


UPS design

Most uninterruptible power supply designs for telecommunications equipment use a transformer along with one or more rectifiers to convert the incoming commercial AC power into a low voltage DC supply, typically in the range of 12 to 50 volts. One or more rechargeable batteries are connected in parallel with the rectifiers to maintain the voltage should the power fail. Various arrangements exist to ensure that the batteries, which are on a continuous trickle charge, can be maintained at an appropriate voltage and state of charge, as well as be given a boost charge should the charge state become too low. Because a battery backed DC output is used, this type of uninterruptible power supply is only suitable in specialised telecommunications applications where the equipment does not require a commercial AC power feed.

Older uninterruptible power supply designs that supply commercial quality AC power to equipment contain a motor-generator system with a large flywheel that keeps the generator rotating and producing electric power while an auxiliary motor is started at the moment of power interruption. Sometimes the flywheel itself is used to start the motor. These systems can typically cover a 30 second interruption until the auxiliary motor started. Modern uninterruptible power supply systems used with commercially available computer equipment consist of a transformer along with a static (electronic) rectifier that rectifies the AC power from the incoming power line fed by the utility. The rectified power keeps a battery trickle-charged and also powers a static (electronic) inverter. In the event of a power interruption or transient anomaly, the inverter draws its power from the battery and takes over without the loss of even a fraction of a cycle in the AC output of the UPS. The inverter/battery arrangement normally requires an output filter which also provides additional protection against transients. The duration of the longest outage for which protection is ensured depends on the battery capacity, and to a certain degree, on the rate at which the battery is drained.

The nine power problems

There are nine power problems that a UPS encounters. They are as follows:

  1. Power failure.
  2. Power sag (undervoltage for up to a few seconds).
  3. Power surge (overvoltage for up to a few seconds).
  4. Brownout (long term undervoltage for minutes or days).
  5. Long term overvoltage for minutes or days.
  6. Line noise superimposed on the power waveform.
  7. Frequency variation of the power waveform.
  8. Switching transient (undervoltage or overvoltage for up to a few nanoseconds).
  9. Harmonic multiples of power frequency superimposed on the power waveform.

A UPS is rated as a level 3, 5, or 9, if it can handle the first 3, 5, or 9 power problems respectively. Often, especially in larger installations, a static (electronic) switch connects the incoming commercial power directly to the equipment. This arrangement permits the inverter to run in hot standby, synchronised with the AC power but under no load and allows the rectifier(s), inverter(s) or battery to be removed from service for maintenance or in the event of a fault. Output sizes from under 1 kilowatt to several hundred kilowatts are commercially available. While most UPS equipment will only operate for about 10 minutes after an outage occurs, some telecommunications systems are designed to operate for over 24 hours without power. Some modern uninterruptible power supplies are specially designed switched-mode power supplies that have an integrated battery backup system. Depending on the design there may be one or two switched-mode power supplies.

  • NOTE: Do not confuse a UPS with a standby generator, which does not provide protection from a momentary power interruption, or which may result in a momentary power interruption when it is switched into service, whether manually or automatically. However, such a generator may be placed before the UPS to provide cover for lengthy outages.

Power correction technologies


Standby uninterruptible power supplies run offline (meaning that the battery is not engaged until a power outage occurs), offering level 1 protection against power failures only. These are the cheapest variety of uninterruptible power supplies and are intended only for the home user.

Line-interactive voltage regulation

Also called automatic voltage regulation, this is an offline technology that corrects short voltage surges and sags for level 3 protection. This technology is also available in surge suppressors.

Delta conversion online

Delta conversion is a technology that keeps the battery online (meaning that the battery is always connected to the output line) and precisely regulates the output voltage while still providing the current to connected devices directly from the incoming AC power.This provides protection from all power anomalies except #7. Delta conversion is efficient, with system efficiency of up to 95% under nominal conditions. A downside is in the changes in operating state that occur depending on the type of problem. Also efficiency is reduced when anomalies occur.

Double power conversion online

Double power conversion online uninterruptible power supplies convert AC power to DC and then convert the DC back to AC to power the connected equipment. The batteries are directly connected to the DC level. This effectively filters out line noise and other anomalies from the AC power for level 9 protection. An additional upside of this technology is in the continuity: in all 9 problem conditions, the system remains in the same operating mode. A downside of this technology is that it is expensive and there are efficiency losses due to the double conversion. In modern systems technological improvements have reduced this problem to a level of 94% efficiency.

See also

Part of this article was originally taken from a public-domain entry in Federal Standard 1037C de:Unterbrechungsfreie Stromversorgung nl:Noodstroomvoeding pl:Zasilacz bezprzerwowy sv:Avbrottsfri kraftf顤s顤jning


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