Anyone who has lived or worked in the Santa Barbara area knows that the power here goes out a lot. Whether it's because of lightning, rain, wind or some piece of equipment failing on the power grid at one point or another you'll be sitting in the dark wondering when the power will be back. Santa Barbara has a known issue with aging power infrastructure. In the charts below you will see that over 60% of power outages are cause by equipment failure with another 22% being caused by weather, fire or earthquakes. Several other slides in the report below show that Santa Barbara has around 50% more power incidents then the average city that uses Southern California Edison power.
What all this means is that we have to be prepared for power outages at our homes and offices because they will happen often. There are several things that you can do to minimize the impact of an outage.
The first thing that most people think of when they are trying to protect their devices from a power outage would be a surge protector. These have been around for a while and they work great when a power surge happens. What most people don't realize is that what you have you computer plugged into right now may not actually be a surge protector. Often times it is just a power strip, no real protection there, just extra power plugs and if there is a power surge then you will likely have some damaged equipment.
When purchasing a surge protector make sure to take a look at the specifications and ensure that you are getting the protection that you are expecting. An Ethernet pass through and the number and types of outlets are usually top of mind when buying one of these but what you should really be looking at is a Clamping Voltage of 330 Volts and an AC Suppression Joule Rating of more than 1000. A surge protector with these specifications will protect from your standard everyday power surge and it will typically be able to protect you devices for a number of years. Over time these devices will lose some of their protection so if there have been a lot of power outages lately or it's been a few years then it's probably time to replace them.
Moving up a level from here would be a UPS or battery backup. Not only do these devices provide temporary battery power to your devices but they also include surge protection. (The same rules apply for the Joules and Clamping Voltage rating above.) Typically when purchasing a UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply) there are two bits of information you will need first; how much wattage you need to provide and how long you want to have battery power. How much wattage you need will be the sum of all of the components plugged in. Monitors, computers and phone chargers will all typically have a maximum wattage rating listed on them, add all that up and you'll probably have around 300-500watts. Next you will need to come up with a reasonable run time. We're talking minutes here, not hours. 10 minutes is a reasonable amount of time for you to assess that the power will be out for a considerable time and to shut everything down safely. I have included a UPS calculator so that you can get a sense of which one you will need.
My last bit of advice is that if you know there are going to be power issues in your area then you should simply unplug your sensitive devices. No amount of consumer grade Surge Protectors or UPS Batteries will protect your devices from a direct lightning strike. Likewise, power coming on and off due to an outage can cause several surges over just a few minutes essentially wearing down and disabling your surge protectors ability to mitigate damage.
So take a quick look right now and see what you have protecting your devises, hopefully it's a surge protector or a UPS with a good amount of protection. If you need help with picking out a UPS battery or surge protector feel free to contact our team here at CIO.
Field Services Engineer