The Home UPS/Inverter Buying Guide
Enough of power cuts in the region I live and it became inevitable to buy an inverter/home UPS system. So I went ahead and did some very basic research before deciding upon buying the same. I am sharing the same over here in anticipation that it would help someone 🙂
With loads of power backup options available in the market, it becomes quite a bit of an exercise to get to the right product. More so because of the aggressive marketing of the products, which may be misleading. Before even getting into the options, one needs to figure out the needs. For example, in my case I wanted a solution which would give a back-up of 2-3 hours for the following:
|S. No.||Equipment||No. of Units||Approx. Wattage / Unit||Total Wattage|
|1.||Fan||3||70||70*3 = 210|
|2.||CFL||4||25||25*4 = 100|
|3..||Notebook||2||75||75*2 = 150|
|4.||TV||1||120||120*1 = 120|
|5.||Miscellaneous (Modem, Router etc.)||NA||50||50*1 = 50|
So, I need a solution which can give me 630 W of power for 3 hours at a stretch (assuming I run all of the above for 3 hours). Now let’s do some high school physics calculations:
P (Power in Watts) = V (Voltage in Volts) * I (Current in Amperes)
Before we move ahead into the calculations, let’s clarify a couple of points:
What is the difference between an inverter and a UPS?
Well some think that these two are competing concepts, however the bottom line is that an ‘inverter’ is an equipment to convert Direct Current (D.C.) into Alternating Current (A.C.) where as an UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) is a circuitry which allows an instantaneous switch to the backup power source in case of a power failure thereby ensuring an uninterrupted power supply to sensitive equipments like a computer.
Now the only thing which needs an uninterrupted power supply in my list of equipments is the notebook, but that is anyway ensured by the notebook battery. So do I need a UPS? Well yes, I would want an uninterrupted internet connection in case of a power failure so I need the modem and router running in continuum.
Now that I know I need an inverter with UPS, do I need to look into anything else? Well yes, there are different types of inverters available in the market:
Square Wave Inverters: Popularly known as ‘Digital Inverters’ produce a Square Wave AC output which is not so great to run appliances as all the appliances are designed to run on a Sine Wave Alternating Current Pattern. Also, you would notice a humming sound in some of the appliances. Though electrical appliances would bear this, running electronic appliances over Square Wave is not at all recommended.
Sine Wave Inverters: These inverters produce the right wave pattern (Sine Wave) for which the appliances are designed. One can safely run most of the appliances on such current output.
Quasi Sine Wave Inverters: These fall somewhere in-between the above. I am not too sure about the internals. Also, didn’t find them in the market. But apparently they offer a low cost solution to run PCs and other electronic equipments on inverters.
Now what remains is the power storage medium, which, of course, is the battery. Again loads of options available which only confuse you. I didn’t think a lot over this and decided to go with an Exide Tubular Battery. Let’s have a real quick glance at the main options available relevant to inverters:
Standard Batteries: Loads of them available in the market. But they need maintenance i.e. putting in the distilled water on an ongoing basis.
Maintenance Free Batteries: While some claim they don’t need maintenance throughout their life-time, most of the maintenance free batteries need maintenance once a year or so.
Tubular Batteries: These batteries are superior in technology, construction and the quality of material used within. While you can figure out some nitty gritty here and here, they offer the following advantage:
- They are maintenance free.
- Long life (5+ years)
- Faster Charging
- More efficient
Though tubular batteries are a bit expensive, but considering their advantages I concluded that in the long-run, they actually turn out cheaper.
To wrap this up, let’s quickly get back to the calculations. So I needed a solution which could provide me with 630 Watts of power for 3 hours. Inverters available in the market are generally rated in VA/KVA.
Since, V*A=P, I need a 630 VA inverter. A very important point to keep in mind is the power factor. You would never get the rating mentioned in the inverter specifications. Considering a power factor of 0.8 (again figured out with some research) I would need an inverter with the following rating:
xVA * 0.8 = 630 VA
=> x= 630/0.8 = 787 VA
Luckily, for me we have 800 VA inverters available in the market, which perfectly fit to my needs. Note that this is a limiting factor w.r.t. the total wattage of appliances you can use. For instance I can’t run a 1000 watt appliance on an 800 VA inverter!
Now the battery. Inverter batteries are usually available in 12 V and are rated in Ampere Hours (AH). Since P=V*I and I need a backup for 3 hours,
630 W * 3 Hours = 12V * x (Ampere Hours)
=> x = (630 * 3)/12 = 157.5 AH
Again, luckily I discovered that we have batteries rated 165 AH in the market. So I decided to go with it.
Bingo! I have the details now. I need an 800VA inverter and a 165 AH battery for my needs. I just need to decide upon a brand based on the reviews.
Also, note that the above calculations are indicative. To quickly figure out how much back-up you would get while running a subset of the wattage considered at the time of buying, use the following:
Backup Time (Hours) = (Battery Voltage * Rating (in AH))/ Wattage required.
So if I just run 3 fans, i.e. 210 Watts, I would get a backup time of (on a fully charged battery):
12*165/210 = 9.4 hours
I can also run two moderate air coolers for about 7 hours. That’s sufficient for a night’s sleep 🙂