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Super UPS from South Africa

WingaWinga South Africa Icrontian
edited Dec 2011 in Technology
The craziest, best UPS you've ever seen: it powers my office for 2 hours (at maximum load on 2 PCs and a printer) and only cost $411.
It's public knowledge that South Africa's sole electric company is battling to keep up with demand. You only have to look at my UPS performance summary to appreciate the amount of brownouts we experience in our area of Margate.
Sometimes the brownouts last up to eight hours or more. As a result, I have collected all manner of uninterruptible power supplies which are linked to all the computers scattered around my house. This ensures I�m not left in the dark halfway through a game or a spreadsheet I spent the last hour compiling. Those of you who have experienced this know how infuriating power loss can be.
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Comments

  • primesuspectprimesuspect HumanGarbageDisposal Detroit, MI Icrontian
    edited May 2007
    What an awesome article. Great work, Mike!
  • LeonardoLeonardo Eagle River, Alaska Icrontian
    edited May 2007
    Great. I'm at work so just had time to scan the article and look at pics. This will get a detailed reading from me later! I'm already thinking about a new project for next winter. (heavy snowfall sometimes knocks out our power)
  • RWBRWB Icrontian
    edited May 2007
    Been looking for something like this, having a laptop is nice because of the battery, but mine only lasts like 2-3hrs, having a much bigger battery would make it much more awesome in the event of a power outage.
  • ketoketo Occupied. Or is it preoccupied? Icrontian
    edited May 2007
    *if* that is, as it appears to me, a car battery (or a pair of them), I sincerely hope you have the area well ventilated. They can and do give off hydrogen gas, which, if allowed to accumulate, is highly explosive. Let me reword that, it's explosive in any quantity but DANGEROUS if allowed to accumulate. Oh, the humanity, etc.

    I admit I scanned the article rather than giving it a detailed reading, so if this is covered in there I apologize for redundancy.
  • edcentricedcentric near Milwaukee, Wisconsin Icrontian
    edited May 2007
    You use sealed lead acid batteries, no hydrogen venting it is all internally re-absorbed.

    This is the right track for serious backup. (do you have a basement? does it have a sump pump? Does the pump run during big storms?)

    We were building these for field equipment when I was working in oil and gas. We bought lightning arrestors/line filters from one source (I wish that I could remember because they were real good), inverters from another and battery charging/monitoring stuff from a third.
    We had a small Li ion battery to back up the electronics and three or four big ass deep draw sealed lead acid batteries for power.
    They are big and don't look pretty, but they were 1/4 the price of pre-built units and worked very well.
  • ThraxThrax Professional Shill, Pokémaster, Watch Slut Toronto, ON Icrontian
    edited May 2007
    SM/IC/whatever needs more articles like this.
  • RWBRWB Icrontian
    edited May 2007
    keto said:
    *if* that is, as it appears to me, a car battery (or a pair of them), I sincerely hope you have the area well ventilated. They can and do give off hydrogen gas, which, if allowed to accumulate, is highly explosive. Let me reword that, it's explosive in any quantity but DANGEROUS if allowed to accumulate. Oh, the humanity, etc.

    I admit I scanned the article rather than giving it a detailed reading, so if this is covered in there I apologize for redundancy.
    Hydrogen gas doesn't tend to accumulate unless it's in a sealed area... it's a very light gas. Imagine a hydrogen balloon?
  • BuddyJBuddyJ Dept. of Propaganda OKC Icrontian
    edited May 2007
  • RobRob Detroit, MI
    edited May 2007
    It is not advisable to run any laser printers on UPS or inverters unless they are of an on-line type and have been specifically rated to handle the current required to heat the element. If you are running a laser printer directly off batteries you are likely to blow your unit. I ran the laser printer off batteries only once, and only as a means to push the inverter to its maximum in order to gauge its performance.
    I would never have thought of this... My laser printer dims the lights in the room, so I can believe it.
  • profdlpprofdlp The Holy City Of Westlake, Ohio
    edited May 2007
    That is a great job, Winga. :cheers:
  • TheSmJTheSmJ Farmington Hills (Metro Detroit)
    edited May 2007
    Fun read Winga!
  • WingaWinga South Africa Icrontian
    edited Oct 2007
    Well as I hinted in the beginning of my article, the inevitable is happening and the state owned power stations we have are not able to keep up with demand. At the moment they are load sharing, where they shut down entire grids for 3-5 hours so they can rout sufficient power to the remaining grids. These are rotated so everybody gets a turn.

    This electricity supply interruption is sending my folding stats to hell, but the good news is I finally get a chance to field test my UPS :)

    I shut down all the other gizmos and peripherals bar the router and the 2 PC's and LCD monitors. (Since writing the article the CRT has also been upgraded to a Wide Screen 19") The UPS has been running both PC's for the last 4 1/2 hours, both of which are still folding so are using 100% of the CPU and my kid has been gaming for about an hour and there is as yet no signs of the batteries giving out.

    I thought I would get this post out before it gives up the ghost and will let you guys know how how long it took before the final death knell :D
  • primesuspectprimesuspect HumanGarbageDisposal Detroit, MI Icrontian
    edited Oct 2007
    Nice! :eek2:

    Hang in there! If you can weather an entire blackout, you could probably go into business with your setup! :D
  • GHoosdumGHoosdum Orange, CA Icrontian
    edited Oct 2007
    Wow that's impressive!
  • WingaWinga South Africa Icrontian
    edited Oct 2007
    :grumble: power restored before the UPS gave out. There goes my field test.
    However 5 hours 20 minutes is nothing to sneeze at in my books. The Inverter had begun to beep indicating low battery and with the test I ran the last time with it on full load it beeped for about half an hour and then died. So I guess it had another 15 minutes of life left in it max.
  • GHoosdumGHoosdum Orange, CA Icrontian
    edited Oct 2007
    I'd consider yours a successful test. It's great that the UPS didn't give out!

    I'm lucky to get 15 minutes out of my UPS total with just one PC connected...
  • edited Oct 2007
    We have 10 computers at the office all on separate UPS's. we also have about 10 dead UPS's (sealed batteries are dead) laying about the office.

    Is there any reason why we shouldn't buy a 300 amp/hour deep cycle battery, similar to what is used on solar installations, and take those 10 cheap UPS's with dead batteries, pull out the batteries and wire them all to the deep cycle battery. Then put a charger on the deep cycle battery. Shouldn't the deep cycle battery run all those UPS's for a good amount of time in case of a power outage?

    Been looking around the Internet and wondering why this isn't done.
  • edited Oct 2007
    trphoto said:
    We have 10 computers at the office all on separate UPS's. we also have about 10 dead UPS's (sealed batteries are dead) laying about the office.

    Is there any reason why we shouldn't buy a 300 amp/hour deep cycle battery, similar to what is used on solar installations, and take those 10 cheap UPS's with dead batteries, pull out the batteries and wire them all to the deep cycle battery. Then put a charger on the deep cycle battery. Shouldn't the deep cycle battery run all those UPS's for a good amount of time in case of a power outage?

    Been looking around the Internet and wondering why this isn't done.

    I bought a UPS from an auction, paid a US dollar for it. Dead battery. Went to local store (Walmart) and bought 6 12v lawn mower batterys. Hooked them up in parrellel (UPS took 12v) and was able to run from it for 3 hours at a time when the power went out. It finally died after 2 years of service... right after I got a laser printer, I guess I went over the max draw, didn't realise how much they pulled.
  • SnarkasmSnarkasm 's-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands Icrontian
    edited Oct 2007
    You guys made Slashdot. Congratulations?
  • BuddyJBuddyJ Dept. of Propaganda OKC Icrontian
    edited Oct 2007
    We did? Where?
  • BuddyJBuddyJ Dept. of Propaganda OKC Icrontian
    edited Oct 2007
    trphoto said:
    We have 10 computers at the office all on separate UPS's. we also have about 10 dead UPS's (sealed batteries are dead) laying about the office.

    Is there any reason why we shouldn't buy a 300 amp/hour deep cycle battery, similar to what is used on solar installations, and take those 10 cheap UPS's with dead batteries, pull out the batteries and wire them all to the deep cycle battery. Then put a charger on the deep cycle battery. Shouldn't the deep cycle battery run all those UPS's for a good amount of time in case of a power outage?

    Been looking around the Internet and wondering why this isn't done.
    I think that'd put you on the right track provided your UPSs and the charger could handle the 300 amp/hour battery.
  • edited Oct 2007
    Mike,
    This is an excellent article and helps me allot with a similar problem I have. I am curious though in that if, 24V (i.e. in your case, 2 times 12 batteries wired in series) provided you with approx 2 hours, what do you speculate would happen if you added additional 24 v batteries in series? Would you have in effect extended the up time by almost double? Who would the outcome be if you added another 24V but in this time in parallel?
    Cheers
    Mark
  • edited Oct 2007
    mshiels said:
    Mike,
    This is an excellent article and helps me allot with a similar problem I have. I am curious though in that if, 24V (i.e. in your case, 2 times 12 batteries wired in series) provided you with approx 2 hours, what do you speculate would happen if you added additional 24 v batteries in series? Would you have in effect extended the up time by almost double? Who would the outcome be if you added another 24V but in this time in parallel?
    Cheers
    Mark
    Adding in series would up the voltage, a bad thing if the UPS's voltage regulator couldn't handle the extra voltage.

    If you added more batteries in parellel (I think he mentions that in the article) it would increase the up time. 2 batteries last 2 hours, 4 batteries would last almost 4 hours, 6 batteries would last about 5.5 hours. You lose a small fraction each time you add batteries because of the added resistance of the extra wiring and the batteries' internal resistance.
  • SnarkasmSnarkasm 's-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands Icrontian
    edited Oct 2007
    Buddy Jesus said:
    We did? Where?
    Whoops, I made a mistake. You made Engadget.
  • primesuspectprimesuspect HumanGarbageDisposal Detroit, MI Icrontian
    edited Oct 2007
  • edited Oct 2007
    I live in the Florida Keys, and 15 years ago our power situation was only a little better than South Africa. Daily, hour long outages were common. It has improved a lot, though we're still at the end of a long extension cord.

    I was part of a ISP startup that ran on a shoestring budget and the UPS being one of the places that we saved the $$$ to put into good modems. We used an 800kva UPS with dead batteries and two group 27 Lifeline sealed Lead Acid batteries ( series, for 24V ). We removed the dead batteries from the UPS, cut a small hole in the side of the case and added our own 4ga. battery cable extensions.

    After using it for a bit, it seemed that the UPS's internal battery charger got confused by the additional capacity of the larger batteries ( though it's possible that it had an issue the whole time, and that's why the original batteries were dead :rolleyes: ) and didn't fully recharge the batteries, so I added an external float charger to keep the batteries at the correct voltage.

    It worked well, gave us something like 3+ hours of runtime ( enough for someone to run down and start the generator) and cost us about $425 ( $200 each for the batteries, $25 for the float charger- the UPS was free ).

    After the ISP went under, it came to my house to run my entertainment center through hurricane Georges.
  • Your-Amish-DaddyYour-Amish-Daddy The heart of Texas
    edited Oct 2007
    This made hackaday a long time ago..
  • GrayFoxGrayFox /dev/urandom
    edited Oct 2007
    I hate to say this but its not that impressive, you should see the franken ups jim made with 4 boat battery's and a old apc ups.
  • edited Oct 2007
    Junkymagi said:

    If you added more batteries in parellel (I think he mentions that in the article) it would increase the up time. 2 batteries last 2 hours, 4 batteries would last almost 4 hours, 6 batteries would last about 5.5 hours. You lose a small fraction each time you add batteries because of the added resistance of the extra wiring and the batteries' internal resistance.

    You're right about it being a bad idea to add more batteries in series, but actually, I think you'll get BETTER than three times the runtime by tripling the number of batteries. ( Pairs of batteries in parallel, that is two batteries in series for 24V, and those pairs each in parallel )

    like this:

    -[__UPS___]-

    -[bat]-[bat]-

    -[bat]-[bat]-

    -[bat]-[bat]-


    Battery or wiring resistance should only go down since the pairs ( two batteries in series ) are connected in parallel. The one part of the string where the current is flowing through single wires shouldn't have any more current than a single pair.

    Besides, if you're getting significant resistance from the wiring, it's too small, at least at this scale.

    Next, battery capacity goes UP when you lower the demand. ( I can't post a link, I'm too new. Look up "Peukert's Law" on Wikipedia to learn more and see the equations...)


    The numbers below are made up, but they illustrate the principal. The actual equation will vary a lot with battery chemistry and construction. Flooded lead acid batteries are affected by this more than sealed lead acid batteries.

    Batteries are normally rated for a 20 hour discharge. That is to say a 100Ah battery is rated to deliver 5A for 20 hours when tested to full discharge.

    If you pull the power faster, you get less power out of the battery. If you drain the battery in 10 hours, you might only get 85Ah. If you did it in 5 hours, you might get just 70Ah. If you did it in 1 hour, you might get as little as 50Ah, or just half the energy you'd get in a 20 hour discharge.

    Let's apply this to the UPS example. Let's say your UPS draws 50A from a battery to run your stuff.

    If you use the 100Ah battery from my example above, a 50A draw will drain the battery in just an hour, since the high current draw will make the battery able to deliver just 50Ah.

    However, if you triple the number of batteries ( thus tripling the rated capacity of the batteries ) you get more than 3 times the runtime. Since the drain rate is slower ( at least three times the single runtime...) each battery delivers it's power more slowly and you'll get more out of each battery, perhaps 65Ah. 65Ah time three ( the number of batteries ) is 205Ah. That's a runtime of a little over 4 hours.

    So a tripling of the batteries might quadruple the runtime, more or less.

    YMMV.
  • edited Oct 2007
    Any thoughts on doing the accumulation/buffering on the DC side of the PC-PSU (to avoid the extra up-down conversion)? If the device in question is a fairly low-power headless server which could be made from notebook parts? On the surface it seems relatively simple (notebook vendors do it all the time), which means it's probably ridiculously difficult.

    (I know, this is for a setup with only a few devices in need of backup, which is not what the article was about, but since we're on the topic of UPSs ...)
  • WingaWinga South Africa Icrontian
    edited Oct 2007
    It seems it helps reviving old threads now and then, they get more attention the second time around :D I got an e-mail from a friend I haven't heard from for ages saying his son found my article on the net.

    You guys must bear in mind that when I did the initial test after installing the UPS I had everything maxed out on 2 computers where the CPU's were running 100% the graphics cards were working hard, the wireless router was under load and I had a huge 3-in-1 lazer scanner/copier/printer spewing out pages of print. (Lazer printers and UPS don't mix so I wouldn't recommend anyone runs one off the UPS unless they rated to handle it)

    With our recent power outage I shut down all the peripherals and only had 1 PC and monitor going. The CPU was still at max load and the graphics card was working hard for some of the time. I got over 5 hours out of. I'm quite sure that if I had another set of batteries wired in parallel I could get a straight 10 -12 hours out of it. That supports what airmon has said. (great post BTW)

    The batteries I used were deep discharge and recommended for a UPS. However as someone suggested to me the other day, if you used a car battery, there's nothing stopping you from popping it into the car and going for a drive around the block to recharge it. That way if you had a spare, you could have an endless supply of power :D
  • LincLinc Community Instigator Detroit, MI Icrontian
    edited Oct 2007
    Winga said:
    I got an e-mail from a friend I haven't heard from for ages saying his son found my article on the net.
    Peter (Buddy J) has been at work - Engadget and others picked up on this over the weekend :)

    Digg!
  • ThelemechThelemech Victoria Member
    edited Oct 2007
    I loved this! Excellent read Winga. Congrats! And I agree with Thrax; Icrontic would benefit immensely with more articles like this!
  • edited Nov 2007
    Awesome article. Funny how I'm halfway around the world in SoCal with some of the same power problems; we haven't had large-scale rolling blackouts in a couple years, but they keep threatening.

    I've been playing around with photovoltaics the last few weeks (for glamping) and your write-up cleared up a few things I was wondering about.

    One thing I noticed is that, in your diagram of multiple batteries in parallel, you have both leads connecting from the inverter/charger to the same battery. I recently read that in a battery bank the two leads should be connected to opposite ends of the bank; i.e. in your "Parallel battery connection" diagram the negative wire should run from the leftmost battery back to the inverter. Otherwise that right-hand battery gets charged and discharged much more than the others.
  • WingaWinga South Africa Icrontian
    edited Nov 2007
    debren27 said:

    One thing I noticed is that, in your diagram of multiple batteries in parallel, you have both leads connecting from the inverter/charger to the same battery. I recently read that in a battery bank the two leads should be connected to opposite ends of the bank; i.e. in your "Parallel battery connection" diagram the negative wire should run from the leftmost battery back to the inverter. Otherwise that right-hand battery gets charged and discharged much more than the others.
    That's a good point you raised. I will find out whether it makes much of an impact on the scale I'm using i.e. 2 batteries.
  • jj Easpointe, MI Icrontian
    edited Nov 2007
    Oh, man I hope that's not an African conflict UPS's
  • edited Jan 2009
    i want to make my own ups at home for my pc requiring nearly 700 watts i need please help me if you can..............
  • WingaWinga South Africa Icrontian
    edited Jan 2009
    Ased, I'm sorry for only picking up your post now. There are a number of very capable people in this forum who will be able to help you with your UPS build. I am also more than happy to advise you on your build.

    Why don't you register (It's quick and easy) head over to the general hardware section of the forum, post your request and we can take it from there.
  • WingaWinga South Africa Icrontian
    edited Jan 2009
    I've been messing around with off the shelf UPS's lately. Adding larger batteries to them, testing charge times etc. I plan to hook one of them up to solar power to see if I can get stable, reliable, continuous power that's totally independent of the grid.

    It's in it's infancy but I'm sure that would make for an interesting follow up article :D
  • Your-Amish-DaddyYour-Amish-Daddy The heart of Texas
    edited Jan 2009
    The article link is 404'd, Just when I need it too.
  • BuddyJBuddyJ Dept. of Propaganda OKC Icrontian
    edited Jan 2009
  • SiftahSiftah Manchester, UK
    edited Apr 2009
    Winga said:
    I've been messing around with off the shelf UPS's lately. Adding larger batteries to them, testing charge times etc. I plan to hook one of them up to solar power to see if I can get stable, reliable, continuous power that's totally independent of the grid.

    It's in it's infancy but I'm sure that would make for an interesting follow up article :D
    I'd be interested in reading that - I've been reading up on similar things myself recently and managed to acquire a 1400va APC Smart UPS for £1.20 off eBay.

    Just need to find a few solar panels now... :)
  • edited Jul 2009
    This is a great artical, thanks for the write up mike, I got a great deal on ups's last year i bought a pallet of them from a conpany here in portland when it went out of business and got 14 for 50 bucks, none of whice had good batteries, after wards i bought 7 12V 55 Amp/Hour batteries that were designed for telephone backup systems for 40 Dollars each, i run two mac G4's with 3 14 inch lcd flat screens, each item has its own ups and they all have there own batterys, i get around 12 hours of run time, also dont give up on solar, it works grteat, i have one batteries hooked up to 2 ups that are charged only by a 45watt solar panel setup, and it runs a gaming computer just fine, iv never ran this setup more then a couple hours but its always ready to go when i want it, BTW i live in oregon, USA

    Thanks for listening and thanks for writing such a great artical. feel free to e-mail me

    Pockets
  • edited Mar 2010
    i have an intex ups that runs my system...can i add battery to the ups so that i cun electrical appliances such as fun ,light...how can increase the back up time to 2-3hrs
  • edited Jul 2010
    can we make a 5 kva ups which will give atleast 15 mins of backup.
  • edited Jul 2010
    Hey i dont know if you will even answer this, but i too am from SA. I want to make something like this but i dont want to use the wall socket plug to AC. Instead i want to use a solar panel. How much power should my panels be producing/ what type of panels should i use?
  • edited Aug 2010
    Umm...you need to add more batteries in parallel NOW! Lead acid batteries should not be dicharged more than 50-60%. In fact their lifetime can be calculated as inversely proportional to depth of discharge(dod). Your run everything until it dies "test" cost you a lot of batter life and did permanate damage. When your batts fail it will happen like this,power fail, batts kick in discharging, power restores, batteries charge but since the plates are damaged they just generate heat and hydrogen,providing the batts haven't cracked split open or boiled their ACID electrolite into the air or their H2 hasn't been ignited,when the power fails again they'll only last a short time if at all 0-1hr.
    I am a auto/diesel/industrial master technician and have personally seen all above conditions and failure modes. Sealed,maint free,vrla,gel cell all have vents for emergy venting.
    Almost forgot 600cca 12v batt exploding sounds like a shotgun and spray acid in all directions ask me how I know. No disrespect meant by this post, keep your dod below 50-60%, enjoy none of the above problems and battery life measured in years not months.
  • edited Sep 2011
    I use a 1kva UPS fitted with external 100ah/12v for charging with mains and 3 panels of 75w for charging by solar. I use a contactor such that where there is not mains, solar charging picks up automatically.
  • edited Dec 2011
    excellent. why don't you also hook up a couple of solar panels with a charge controller so the batteries charge during the day through solar and not mains.
  • QCHQCH Chicago Area - USA Icrontian
    edited Dec 2011
    Over 4 years later and this article STILL bring folks in. Such a great and successful project.
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