November 28, 2007 4:52 PM   Subscribe

What is wrong with my surge protector??!!

My surge protector/UPS may be malfunctioning. Whenever I turn my computer that is plugged into it on, it gives out a shrill, continuous beep. I think LED flashed, but I was too busy being freaked out and shutting down to observe it well. I looked in the manual for it, and a continuous tone + LED flash means the battery needs to be replaced. However, the UPC is plugged into the wall, so it shouldn't be using the battery, should it? The manual also said that continuous beep + no LED means an overload, which really, really freaks me out.

The most recent thing I've installed are a GeForce 7800GS graphics card and 512MB of RAM, but they were both a number of months ago now. The UPC is an APC Back-UPS ES BE350U, and may be getting somewhat old, but I'm not certain.

So, what can I do? Get a new battery, new UPC? I can't afford to be without my main PC for more than a day or so; please help!
posted by Hargrimm to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
UPS units have batteries, batteries have a limited life, sounds like the manual is correct...

buy a new UPS or take it to your local battery store and see if they can rebuild/replace the batteries...

And...plug the PC into a wall standard surge protector until you can get it fixed... if you're concerned about it.
posted by HuronBob at 5:07 PM on November 28, 2007

Your UPS may not have enough go juice to provide to the machines asking for go juice. Make sure your machine isn't asking for more than the UPS can supply.

APC sells replacement batteries.
posted by iamabot at 5:12 PM on November 28, 2007

Best answer: If you haven't replace the battery in your UPS in the last 24 months, you need to do so. An APC BackUPS is a standby type UPS, so it is true that the battery is not continuously in line for constant boost/buck operation, but the logic of the UPS may not provide a "run flat" capability, since, without a charged battery to cut over to in case of power outage, there is no load protection.

You could just plug your PC into the wall (or a surge protector) for a day or two while you get a battery to change out. You'll have no safe shutdown protection, but you'll at least have the use of your PC.
posted by paulsc at 5:14 PM on November 28, 2007

The battery is dead??!! You need to replace the battery!!?? If the power goes out, it needs a battery, or else it's not uninterruptible??!!

Batteries wear out over time!!??
posted by ikkyu2 at 6:23 PM on November 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

absolutely the battery wears out over time. Make sure you're using the right-sized ups for your system. If your system isn't pulling enough power across, there won't be enough to charge the batteries.
posted by Kioki-Silver at 8:50 PM on November 28, 2007

ikkyu2: yes, batteries wear out. UPS batteries are usually lead-acid sealed cells ("gel cells") and they suffer from sulphating, i.e. the sulphuric acid electrolyte decomposes and leaves sulphate on the lead plates, reducing the area of lead that is exposed to the electrolyte.

The real problem is that UPS manufacturers grossly underspecify the batteries in consumer UPSes so when the power goes out, the battery is often running at 10x its rated long-term current limit. This KILLS the battery very very quickly and means they get to sell you new batteries every 12-24 months at twice the market rate. The proper discharge rate for small gel-cells would have them exhaust in about 10 hours and the battery would last a decade or two in those conditions, but the UPSes are designed to discharge their batteries in 10-20 minutes, which is so much current that the batteries die. When you pull the old one out, you'll probably see it has started bulging badly due to gassing, i.e. it is running so hot that the electrolyte evaporated inside the case.

Yes, you can buy new batteries from APC or whoever but it will be a standard size that you can buy from any decent electronic component retailer for a lot less. Take the old one in so the staff can sell you the right sort.

If it's a good UPS, it will permit you to use arbitrary quantities of external batteries. Doing so will extend the battery life and runtime dramatically but extra batteries are expensive and take up space. 2x as much battery could give 3-4x as much runtime off-line and have the batteries last 3x longer before needing replacement. An alternative to external batteries is to buy a UPS capable of supplying 3-4x as much power as your system uses, which will give it a long runtime and longer battery life. Yes, that costs but it means more peace of mind and sometimes lower long-term costs due to less frequent battery replacements.

Kioki-Silver: don't spout crap; the load on the UPS has absolutely no bearing on how the batteries get charged. One often charges a UPS completely with NO load before attaching the load.
posted by polyglot at 9:28 PM on November 28, 2007

I had a UPS that did that because the voltage in my house (or at least at that outlet) was slightly low. It was still within spec for the computer and I was able to silence the UPS by changing some dip switches on the unit so that it tolerated a lower voltage before switching to battery power. Look under transfer voltage in your manual to see if you can change the setting; if you have access to a mutimeter you can easily check the wall voltage yourself.
posted by TedW at 6:44 AM on November 29, 2007

Did you guys think ikkyu2 was serious? Haha.

nthing the need to replace the battery.
posted by DMan at 8:07 AM on November 29, 2007

Best answer: UPS batteries die, period. That's part of the price of having your systems UPS'd.

Usually the units come apart with just a phillips screwdriver. If you unplug the unit, you can open up the unit and BE VERY CAREFUL NOT TO TOUCH ANY METAL CONTACTS, as this system is designed to be live even when it's not powered externally.

The battery is usually a large black square. It has two contacts. Touching only plastic, remove the contacts from the battery and lift it out.

See if there's a Batteries+ in your area. If you take the old battery in, they can help you match it to one they have in stock. Sometimes, they'll have a higher capacity cell with the same form factor as your old battery. This is a good thing, so buy a higher capacity cell if you can afford it.

UPS's tend to be expensive, so I like to troll second-hand shops for burned-out UPS's and replace the batteries. This nets me a perfectly working UPS for about half the cost of a new one.

Also, I like to mod larger batteries into the UPS units than they are intended for. I've put cells twice the size of the originals in UPS's to great effect. It helps to have a dremel and a working knowledge of it, if you want to do this.

Just remember: Don't touch any of the internal electronics, ever. There are rules and tips that could keep you safe, but I'm not your safety officer, and there's too much to cover here. So just don't touch anything metal inside your UPS, especially can-shaped capacitors.
posted by SlyBevel at 9:32 AM on November 29, 2007

I hate having to explain my joke, but since it seems to have caused great confusion: I replaced all the periods in my answer with the OP's preferred punctuation. In order to parse my answer, please to replace all the !!??s and ??!!s with a single period. Thank you and have a nice day.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:24 AM on November 29, 2007

Response by poster: ikkyu2: How extraordinarily clever. Your adept use of gross exaggeration truly brings a much-needed light to this thread.

Everyone else: Thank you. I'll buy a new battery. This is the first computer I've really had full responsibility for (I'm 17), so I was worried that something had blown up or melted inside my PC.
posted by Hargrimm at 4:32 PM on November 29, 2007

Polyglot - several ups units attached to workstations I was responsible for in a factory after four months started reporting low batteries. When we contacted the manufacturer, we were told that just having a single workstation plugged into that model was not drawing enough power thorugh the UPS to keep the batteries trickle-charged.
posted by Kioki-Silver at 7:37 PM on November 29, 2007

« Older I need my cafe con leche. Help me make it.   |   I got them ol' DHCP blues Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.