We’ve found a cheap UPS solution for load shedding, which we thought we’d share in case it helps others. Like many people who work in the age of intelligence, we are totally dependent on the Internet to work. No Internet and we can’t do anything. The loss in productivity is significant (no more practical and affordable legal solutions) and very hard to plan for because load shedding takes place at different times. You can get a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) for each computer or a big UPS, a generator or some other form of alternative power to keep everything going during load shedding. Problem is that two and a half hours is a long time to keep many things going. It gets expensive to buy something that can generate that much power.
After trying various options, we have found a solution that works for us. Both at the office and at each of our houses. Instead of trying to keep everything going, we focussed on the essentials. Each of us uses a Macbook or laptop, which has a battery in it that lasts at least three hours, but how do we keep the Internet and the phones going?
A UPS Solution for Load Shedding at the office
At the office, we have a fiber optic line from Rocking Connect. To work it needs a switch, a router, and a modem. We also have a phone, which has a base station. Together they need about 65W of power to run. We bought a UPS for about R1, 698 (two 12V 7AH batteries) from Takealot that can keep those things going for about three hours. Problem solved. When the power goes out, our Internet stays on and we continue to work. The key factor for choosing a UPS is not the VA rating (how much load it can take), but rather the size of the battery because that determines how long it can power things for. A critical requirement is obviously that your broadband will continue to work if the power goes off. Ours does, but apparently not everyone is so lucky. I think it depends on the exchange that you connect to.
A UPS Solution for Load Shedding at home
The solution is the same as for the office, but at home you probably only have one modem or router, which needs less power (about 30W). So, you can get a UPS with a smaller battery. We use a UPS that costs about R663 (one 12V 9AH battery) from Laptop Direct or Computer Mania and has only one battery in it (the one above has two batteries so lasts for double the time). Works like a charm. Powering less, it lasts for about three hours. You can also get an LED Solar Camping Lantern so that you have light and charge your phone via USB. If you boil a kettle before load shedding, you can also have coffee. What more do you need?
Servicing your UPS
When we serviced our UPS we faced two challenges. These included the battery and the beeper.
The UPS battery will last longer if you only connect the UPS to your devices when load shedding occurs repeatedly and not several months apart. The batteries deteriorate faster when they are constantly connected to the mains electricity. If you use your UPS consistently and run the battery to 0% then you will likely need to replace the UPS battery. Ideally, you should not run the battery to 0% as this deteriorates the battery faster. You will need the star PH2x150mm and star PH1x100mm screwdrivers in order to access, remove and then replace the battery. The length of the first screwdriver is important to be able to reach into the body of the UPS. A magnetic screwdriver makes the job easier.
Our UPS has two 12V7AH batteries that need to be replaced. The 12V cannot change but the amp-hour can range between 7AH and 9AH. Anything higher will change the size of the battery and it will be too big. We found a 12V7.2AH battery for about R234 from Takealot.
A UPS contains a speaker (seen above) which will beep repeatedly during load shedding and beep more urgently to alert you when the battery is running low. However, it beeps rather frequently and so can be incredibly annoying, at least we have found it to be. There are a variety of solutions to solving this annoyance.
- Remove the speaker entirely (most destructive and you need to ensure you do not damage the motherboard).
- Encapsulate the speaker in Prestik (it will continue to beep but much quieter).
- Use the UPS software to disable the alarm remotely (the speaker will stop beeping until the battery runs flat at which point you will need to disable the alarm again).