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  • #2263470

    power fluctuations… from outages to spikes


    by jaqui ·

    In my 40 years living in the Lower Mainland, I seriously do not remember getting as many power failures in one year as we have had this year.
    I have been hit with 6 since August.
    even with a surge protector and ups, these have permanently crashed one system and destroyed 3 hard drives.

    seems that UPS with surge protection built in and a surge protection line is not enough to protect the hardware, when a transformer explodes a block away… and the power company circuit interrupt is directly behind the building I’m in.
    [ they pull the switch behind here before working on the damaged line / transformer a block away, the reconnect it to restore power to the area. ]
    even powered down, the last one [ friday night ] destroyed a hard drive.

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    • #2500901

      No simple or cheap solution

      by mjd420nova ·

      In reply to power fluctuations… from outages to spikes

      There are technologies available to store energy and basically isolate yourself from the energy source that is causing the problem. For home, there are combinations of collection methods and delivery methods, adjusted for your needs. UPS units should be sufficent isolation, if not, go bigger. Some times you need to test a unit by unpluging it and see if the thing holds the load. Lightning strikes are nasty and good grounding will help.

      • #2500868

        these weren’t

        by jaqui ·

        In reply to No simple or cheap solution

        lightening strikes, they were local transformers giving up the ghost and exploding, or the same bloody line deciding it wanted down from the pole
        [ 3 times now for that last, once the transformer, once a car knocked the power out at the other end of this block, and a crane took a line out two days after the car did ]

        it’s just the local circuit for the city has a cutoff switch used for all 6 power failures right behind the building, so the poweron spike is huge through here.

        I’ve tested the battery, it’s working perfectly, but they don’t come large enough for home use to deal with the power company turning power on spike we get.

        • #2500812

          The cheap and easy solution

          by jamesrl ·

          In reply to these weren’t

          When the power goes down, unplug the equipment from the mains. Or if the equipment is plugged into UPSs, unplug them from the mains.

          My father worked for an electrical utility for 35 years. He isn’t worried about lightning strikes so much as many of the lines are grounded along the delivery path so you would need a very local hit to get you. But he always had us unplug the TV during a storm, as when the power is brought back there is always a spike.

          So set your UPS to shutdown the server/PC after 5 mins. And unplug the UPSs from the wall. Don’t plug them back in until the lights are on.

          The alternative is there are UPSs that isolate the power so well that spikes are meaningless, but they are not cheap.


        • #2502990


          by jaqui ·

          In reply to The cheap and easy solution

          I do, but when it goes down at 4 am and is on by 7 am.. I sleep until noon.. kind of hard to do so. :p

          I was going to be replacing the one system that died completely soon anyway.

          I’ll hit a small local retailer and get myself a new dual core system, they only want $369+tx for a system [ no monitor or software ]

 is their site.
          tiny little hole in the wall shop, one of the few that will sell a linux box, and has a linux box in the shop to generate the linux sales.

        • #2486157

          How About a Voltage Regulator?

          by nabilmish ·

          In reply to usually

          I don’t know how many workstations you need to protect, but years ago I lived in Amman, Jordan and the power was terrible – I remember the picture on my monitor wavering because the power got so low in the afternoon (after going through a 220-110 stepdown transformer). Then I got a small voltage regulator and no more problem – not even when some wires slipped in our building and gave us the power from our upstairs neighbors as well as our own! I don’t know much about electricity, but they had no power and we had way higher voltage than we were supposed to – light bulbs, doorbell and TV went “poof”, fluorescent lights came on immediately without a single flicker, but my computer wasn’t damaged at all.

        • #2483813

          hardware hack

          by zclayton2 ·

          In reply to The cheap and easy solution

          You can do a home brew hardware hack that will isolate the mains when the power fails for about $20. Wire a latching relay so the mains power the latching circuit and the relay is set to interrupt the hot leg of the supply circuit. Put a momentary-on contact switch into the latching circuit to reset/power on. You can add a power indicator lamp is desired. When the power goes out, the relay releases, breaks the mains circuit. the whole thing fits into a double outlet junction box and an outlet cover with extra holes drilled for the contact switch and light. Sacrifice an old power cable for the line in and use grounded outlets for the suply side out.

          Your own inexpensive homebrew isolation circuit.

        • #2485546

          I like that!

          by lastchip ·

          In reply to hardware hack

          Simple, cheap and effective.

          I’m going to look at that for my home network set-up.

          Strangely enough, we lost our power last night for about an hour. First time in “donkeys years”, but apparently, the utility services are so hell bent on profit in the UK, they forgot all about investment and it seems we’re likely to get some more of the same!

    • #2500845

      In the US anyway..

      by jdmercha ·

      In reply to power fluctuations… from outages to spikes

      and maybe the same thing applies to Canada.

      The cost of generating and delivering power has skyrocketed over the past 20 years. New generating plants are not being built, and the grid is not being maintained as it once was.

      Power companies can no longer afford to invest in new equipment to keep the grid up and running, the way it used to.

      This has led to an increase in isolated power outages as well as lerger scale brownouts.

      • #2500814


        by jamesrl ·

        In reply to In the US anyway..

        This was weather. Winds of 120 KPH knocked down trees all over the place in Vancouver. My companies office there was closed and the calls rerouted here.


        • #2502995

          not only the power

          by jaqui ·

          In reply to Naaah

          the front page of this morning’s Province was on the massive devastation in Stanley Park, seems the winds killed thousands of the trees in the old growth forest in the park.

          literally blew them down.

          my response to the concern of the parks oard:
          clear the trails blocked, repair the buildings damaged, leave the trees where they are, they will start new life then.

          editing to add:

          that’s odd, that your office was closed, the power was back on here by 7:30 am and burnaby would have been on by 9 am at the latest.
          [ I am only a block from St Paul’s Hospital, and surrounded by Medical Office towers, very high priority on getting power back to this area, most buildings around here have diesel backup generators, the one I’m in is so old they can’t put one in. ]

      • #2502993

        as James pointed out

        by jaqui ·

        In reply to In the US anyway..

        it was a windstorm that caused the problem.

        a couple of weeks back we had a storm drop a few inches of snow here, that killed the power for most of Vancouver Island [ and the “Gulf Islands” in the Georgia Straight ] some of those areas have not had power since, there was that much damage.

        Severe weather.. a situation increased by the warming of the global climate. [ Global Warming ]
        and yes, the number and severity of the hurricanes that hit the southern states in the last few years is caused by the same thing. Katrina was a result of global warming.
        [ on top of natural cycles in weather patterns for periods of more severe storms ]

        but you are right, the maintenance has not been what it should be on the power grid here either, which is why the damage was as bad as it was.

    • #2484027

      power fluctuations… – Surge Protectors

      by scriptdummy ·

      In reply to power fluctuations… from outages to spikes

      If you read up on surge protectors , including the ones in UPSs, you will find that they are rated for specific sizes of surges AND for a limited number of surges. They typically are also designed to “fail closed’ meaning that when the surge protection circuit fails you will not lose power. I would wager the one of the previous power failure/Power on surges ‘blew’ the surge protection in your UPS so it was doing nothing to protect you during later power transitions. All UIPS manufactures recommend testing the surge protection periodically (or replacing it) especially following repeated transitions. Read the section on Surge Protection in this link.

      Google this for better info – UL 1449 specifically the section on “Duty Cycles”

      • #2483979

        Thanks for the reminder

        by nakitko ·

        In reply to power fluctuations… – Surge Protectors

        I may have experienced a power surge large enough to burn out the circuit board on my gas furnace. It had to be replaced. However the tech did add that a small percentage of these failures (furnace circuit board) are due to slight imperfections in the welds. My computer is protected by a good size UPS. I knew a storm was coming so I shut down or disconnected all computers and other electronic equipment even though they were on “surge protectors”. When all was said and done, my UPS restarted my computer! and my answering machine (which I didn’t disconnect) was dead (as well as my furnace). End of long story…. I didn’t think to check my UPS after the storms. Thanks for the reminder.

    • #2484023

      The best Surge Protector

      by ike_c ·

      In reply to power fluctuations… from outages to spikes

      Go to a repudable store that sells Surge Protecors and ask for their best one. Around $20.00 USD. Give the clerk the twenty bucks, turn around and go back home, leave the surge protector at the store. It will give you as much protection there as it will next to your desk. If you want protection you will need a battery type UPS. A small cheap one will give you about 2-3 minutes of backup, and will probably not suppress a good size surge. A unit equivalent to the APS 1200 series will give a small to mid size server about 20-40 minutes. The size of the batteries will also absorb any up or down surges that hit your building. Also see if you can get an isolated ground circuit. If your ground is connected to the building water pipe and every electric stapler, every heater, every fan in the building is putting static on that line, then you could be asking for problems.

      • #2483938

        my best advice

        by melfinatheblue ·

        In reply to The best Surge Protector

        I live in a house that has been hit by lightning 3 times, in an area with lots of pine trees. We get a power outage on average about once a month. Oh, and the house isn’t grounded. Get a good UPS, check it frequently, and keep up with the weather reports. If a piece of equipment doesn’t need to be on, don’t have it plugged in. If a storm or high winds are coming, turn off everything that’s not critical and unplug it. This is how our computer from 1995 is still functional. Best of luck.

      • #2483933

        Not just any UPS will do…

        by Anonymous ·

        In reply to The best Surge Protector

        Most of the cheaper UPS’s use a surge suppression technology similar to that of a typical surge supressor (an RLC circuit, which can smooth out little bumps, but that is about it).

        Ike_C’s number of 1200KVa is just about right as the smallest size you are going to find good power isolation in. I believe the classification you are looking for is Dual Conversion Online.

        These units use an inverter system to convert the power from AC to DC, then regenerate to AC. Cheaper units in this class regenerate a stepped square wave (approximating a SineWave, The quality one’s actually generate a true Sine wave (and are more expensive, of course).

        • #2483845

          I agree, You get what you pay for

          by jgp_dba ·

          In reply to Not just any UPS will do…

          I used to work for MGE UPS Systems, one of the other UPS Manufacturers (largest outside the US and they make nifty super size industrial units for whole buildings that cant be beat).

          The best protection is the “Online” or “Double Conversion UPS” that converts the AC to DC and back to AC. These are quite expensive to purchase and are now in the mid 90% efficiency range(That means that it costs you money to turn it on since power is lost to heat in the double conversion process).

          The next level is a good quality line interactive UPS with a good size transformer that conditions the power before it hits your computer.

          I have 2 MGE UPS units, an older ESV14+ line interactive that has a good size transformer and very good protection. I also have one of their current Ellipse standby units with an RLC circuit.

          Both have been good for Nebraska thunderstorms and several blackouts and countless spikes after I moved from Southern California. The video equipment is still working well and I usually power down the PCs when not in use. Grounding for the house is fair.

        • #2485435

          Dual Conversion Online is Inline

          by hlavsa ·

          In reply to Not just any UPS will do…

          It’s Inline and it means you keep charging the batteries and the power to computer is drawn from the batteries through inverter. You will never be exposed to outside power lines. This UPS also come with good software for shutdown and restart after power comes on. Not sure about price in the US or Canada, but here in Australia they retail around $600. Normal computer needs about 800VA + so you would make no mistake having 1000VAmp (VoltAmp) UPS.

        • #2485434

          Dual Conversion Online is Inline

          by hlavsa ·

          In reply to Not just any UPS will do…

          It’s Inline and it means you keep charging the batteries and the power to computer is drawn from the batteries through inverter. You will never be exposed to outside power lines. This UPS also come with good software for shutdown and restart after power comes on. Not sure about price in the US or Canada, but here in Australia they retail around $600. Normal computer needs about 800VA + so you would make no mistake having 1000VAmp (VoltAmp) UPS.

        • #2485266

          Not cheap.

          by orefa ·

          In reply to Dual Conversion Online is Inline

          $600 is steep. A 1000VA UPS is a relatively large UPS for home use so that’s part of the higher purchase price. That, and the Double Conversion circuitry which adds to it. And then the lack of volume trade would also force higher costs. I guess that’s the price to pay for nice big DCUPS. 😉

    • #2483934

      You are not alone…

      by orefa ·

      In reply to power fluctuations… from outages to spikes

      I also live in the Lower Mainland area where I’ve used a home computer for years without a UPS. No problem, the power grid seemed solid and failures were rare. A couple of years ago I bought a 450 VA Energizer on sale at Future Shop (hey, the bunny can’t go wrong). This was just for my PC and monitor, nothing else. Shortly after, power fluctuations started to occur.

      Unfortunately it was frequently as though there was no UPS at all. Very short glitches would reset my clock radio and also get right through that UPS. My PC would reboot. What a piece of junk that UPS, I thought.

      Later, I bought a 850 VA from APC, these guys have been in business long enough to know what they’re doing. I gave it the plug pulling test and I got over half an hour of work time. Still, it didn’t perform any better than the Energizer during our more frequent power fluctuations: my PC would also reset like there was nothing there.

      Finally I plugged the APC in the Energizer so as to have both UPS systems form serial protection. That seemed to solve it for little fluctuations and I finally felt safer. Yet, over last Thursday night’s storm, my motherboard got fried. Something still went through both protectors.

      What’s a geek to do… This seems to confirm what was said above: if you live in this area, just pull the plug during a wind storm. If you can.

      • #2483830

        Quality UPS

        by micker3779 ·

        In reply to You are not alone…

        I’ve got two UPS’s. Both come with a money guarantee, “If damage occurs, we will reimburse you for up to …” Doesn’t your unit com with any guarantees?

        • #2485523

          Receipt? What receipt?

          by orefa ·

          In reply to Quality UPS

          Oh, maybe it does. Maybe I should look for the documentation. Maybe I would be able to submit some proof of failure. And maybe I could locate a receipt just for the damaged part. But I don’t really care for the $100 to replace the board. What bothers me is the two days of lost downtime for which there was no coverage, so I won’t spend any time trying to get a refund. And forget about trying to sue the power company, who’s kidding? But I will keep an eye open for a double conversion UPS now. A 10% increase in power consumption for my PC sounds to me like a bargain if it actually works. I’ve already spent money on products from two different companies and they didn’t help at all.

          Hey, I have a couple of great nearly-new UPSes for sale, wink-wink!

    • #2485529

      Bill the electric Co for your losses!

      by arvisn ·

      In reply to power fluctuations… from outages to spikes

      I live in Canada, and we wouldn’t take that sitting down. Our Hydro Electric system is
      kept up to specs at all times. My computers have never been demaged due to power outages or spikes.
      If you can proove that the Electric Co is responcible for the demage to your computers
      you should bill them for your losses.
      That will get them to maintain their equipment better and to protect their users.

      • #2485261


        by jaqui ·

        In reply to Bill the electric Co for your losses!

        since Bc is officially part of Canada and BC Hydro doesn’t care about ruining their reputation I wouldn’t have thought of that.

        since the Federal Government bodies responsible have the same attitude you imply with the “I live in Canada. Our Hydro Electric system kept to specs” that anywhere outside of Ontario is not part of Canada and can go Fsck themselves if they want anything from Ottawa.

        maybe we should nuke Ontario.
        kill all the braindead monkeys in there.
        [ 95% of the population ]

    • #2486223

      OK Jaqui, but what about nearby lightning strikes ?

      by kaspencer ·

      In reply to power fluctuations… from outages to spikes

      We’ve had [in SW England, that is] quite a few thunderstorms in the last year or two – after a gap of a few years where I think there were relatively fewer.
      As a result I have had residential clients with blown routers (4 or 5), one unfortunate person with a blown MODEM, PSU, motherboard and keyboard. In NO cases were their houses or buildings hit, just a thunderstorm nearby. So what do we do about that eh ?

      And, Jaqui, although there are lots of places I’d sort of recommend for your “nuking” suggestion [were I a more violent person] it would HAVE to be a long way from me, because I wouldn’t want the EMP blowing all my ICs in everything I own!!


      • #2500669

        Isolate the modem

        by jgp_dba ·

        In reply to OK Jaqui, but what about nearby lightning strikes ?

        I run the phone line to the surge suppressor (Fellows Brand) then to the fax – no problem there.

        Monster makes a surge suppressor that includes protection for cable and video equipment so you could use it for a cable modem too. Don’t know if it will work; never bought one. I run the cat5 cable to my UPS then to the Router.

        I’ve lost a cable modem since it was before the surge suppression on the UPS Cat5 line (don’t recall if there was a thunderstorm as a possible cause) the router, UPS survived. The TV and VCR were not affected at the same time so I think the modem just went south on its own.

        Good luck.

    • #2486212

      Well I can only talk about the situation here

      by hal 9000 ·

      In reply to power fluctuations… from outages to spikes

      What the sequence of events is when the Power Goes out is that after a 15 second loss of power the nearest Sub Station automatically resets the Circuit Breaker and if it trips out again they wait another 35 seconds and the reset the breaker once again. If it still cuts out they leave it for 15 minutes and then reset the Circuit Breaker again and the if it again trips out they call in a Maned Crew to look for damage before resetting the Circuit Breaker again.

      Quite often these outages are caused by high winds causing the Active & Neutral lines coming into contact with each other or some wildlife shorting them out or shorting out between the High Voltage to the Mains as here we have 33 KV lines above the Domestic Mains without Insulated Spreaders between the bare wires.

      Most of these problems happen at night so the Power Company here gets away with Murder as they claim that when you ring up complaining at 3.00 AM no one else has complained as if that is some form of justification for their Distribution Grid. I just keep asking them how many people are normally awake working at 3.00 am so I don’t find it unsurprising that they haven’t got any complaints.

      Their advice is to contact your Household Insurance Company as it’s not their problem. Over the years I’ve lost far more than a few HDD’s and would love to only have suffered that type of damage. I’ve lost entire computer systems with the expensive M’Boards and not the cheap ones with a Single CPU on them but Multi CPU M’Boards with On Board SCSI that bare cost more than the average computer. That’s with both Filters on the Mains Line mounted in the Fuse Box that is supposed to stop a Lighting Strike at 100 meters and UPS’s on every computer.

      Though I’ve found that since I’ve switched to 1100 VA UPS’s I haven’t had a single hardware failure because of a power outage and my computers tend to run 24/7 unless there is a Thunder Storm present at the time or once the power goes out I disconnect every piece of Computer related hardware and wait till the power comes back on before plugging things in again.

      Generally speaking I wait a few minutes after the power is reapplied before plugging anything in just to allow any spikes to dissipate through the system and much more importantly to make sure that the power isn’t going to go out again.


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