What device is used to regulate power over several circuits?
February 29, 2012 5:55 PM   Subscribe

A friend of mine has 20+ old arcade games in his basement. He has essentially set up a small arcade museum at his house. It's pretty sweet! The games are split between several circuits in the house but power is becoming a concern. These old electronics are sensitive to spikes and low voltages and we want to keep them running as long as possible - most of the circuit boards are not made and difficult to replace or repair. What should we consider for 110v line conditioning?

I'm familiar with individual battery backups for computers, I've seen power distribution boxes used by musicians in their equipment racks and I've heard electricians talk about whole house surge suppression but I'm not sure where to start here. I'm not familiar with large scale power distribution for say a data center.

That said, I'm not convinced it makes sense to invest in a whole bunch of Uninterpretable Power Supplies (~$200 ea.) per set of games whatever the number may be and if it comes out to 1 game per UPS, that doesn't seem like a desirable solution on many levels - current draw while all are recharging comes to mind as a potential problem.

We're planning to put a meter on the games to see how much current each draws next week, it's essentially a CRT TV plus a light bulb in each game in terms of power draw. While estimates are great, the ammeter will determine the actual capacity of some such device or devices that we want to get.

What is that mystery device we want to get to protect these electronics during day to day use that will ensure they get regulated clean power and won't cost us too much of an investment to install (or perhaps will cost an investment but maybe is modular - can be moved)?

The plan is to continue adding more games and perhaps move them to a business location in maybe 5 years so we're looking for an interim solution. Right now, when not in use, we usually switch off power strips and/or unplug the games so issues like lightening going through the neighborhood power grid are not currently much of a concern.
posted by rwheindl to Technology (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You need a UPS (uniterrupted power supply).

I am an electrician. I do a lot of commerical and industrial work. We use these for sensitive equipment a lot. High end ones can get very expensive, but they provide a steady constant power supply - even when power goes out. Some UPS will give you hours of back-up battery power.

What I linked above is a medium/low-end UPS. It provides steady power, but a short time of back-up power to shut down properly if the power does go out.
posted by Flood at 6:02 PM on February 29, 2012

Response by poster: Stupid auto-correct, yes, uninterruptable or however it's spelled. But 20 of them?
posted by rwheindl at 6:07 PM on February 29, 2012

Response by poster: As a follow up, I was also looking at this whole house surge. What does this do?
posted by rwheindl at 6:11 PM on February 29, 2012

The UPS I linked to above has 8 plugs. Get three or four UPS and spread them out. Use an extension cord to reach the UPS here and there if you have to. (Best to avoid extension cord if possible.)

A whole house surge protector is not what you want. That will stop sudden surges, but it will only moderate voltage coming from the street. Your electrical panel and breakers can cause voltage to change too. If you plug a an electrical tester into the wall of your house - it might read 109v now, then 112v an hour from now, then 107v, etc.

You TV and microwave and other equipment do fine with minor voltage flux like that - it is the big spike that can damage equipment. That was what the whole house surge protector prevents. The whole house protector also has no battery back-up.

If you plug into a UPS, it will be a steady 110v. It will never surge, and it will give your battery back up power in case of outage. Those old circuit boards are so sensitive to heat. Overtime, they become like dry toast and just crumble. But an even steady supply of electricity should produce nearly no heat. Heat is caused in part by the voltage flux.
posted by Flood at 6:25 PM on February 29, 2012

Maybe a power conditioner is what you need
Examples here review here
This was a cursory google search, I haven't used a power conditioner before.
Maybe talk to a commercial/industrial electrician or EE, maybe they know of some higher power equipment and can install a higher power circuit with a conditioner at the panel or something? You could also try calling schneider/siemens/ABB sales, see if anybody is offering (very) small residential power stuff...
posted by defcom1 at 5:38 AM on March 1, 2012

Response by poster: Just to follow up on this: We will be using several UPSes, we plan to buy larger than what was suggested (1000va, maybe 1500va) just so we don't need quite so many. Then later on, perhaps a backup generator for the building if/when the arcade moves out of the home. Thanks for the answers!
posted by rwheindl at 9:14 AM on July 22, 2012

« Older O Romeo, Romeo, do I explain you?   |   Awwwkwaaarrddd Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.