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New fried equipment

I came back from vacation, turned on my computer, and found that my expensive, way-over-powered APC uninterruptible power supply (APC BACK-UPS XS 1500) has been fried: The overload light blinks and the thing shrieks until you force it to shut up. It is less than a year old.

This is one in a multi-year series of electrical failures that have escaped the diagnosis of professional electricians and the power company. The UPS is rated for something like 1200 units and the equipment running off it totals under 400. An electrician installed a new panel in the basement and ran twin 20 amp lines up to my study. The power company has installed diagnostic equipment (which, by the way, blew up, although they claim that was a coincidence) and ran a new line from the pole to my house. No neighbors report similar fryings.

How many “p”s in poltergeist?

19 Responses to “New fried equipment”

  1. You must carry around you an inexplicable, not-know-to-science destructive electormagnetic pulse field of disruption because every electronic device that you get near seems to break.

  2. dude, between us, i found out a long time ago that apc is phony. they always tell you that the thing is fried, and that you need to upgrade. they prey on you sense of insecurity–sound familiar?

  3. You mean, if I upgrade my UPS, then the terrorists have won??

    Anyway, there’s no chance I need an upgrade. The UPS I have is designed for banks of servers, not my measly little home office. It’s rated for at least three times the draw I’m putting on it.

  4. The APC I have is a fairly young Back UPS 500; it was recalled about a year ago for some circuit problem. Ask APC tech about recalls.

    The batteries do die over time, but it’s gradual, and yours soungs too new for that to be the issue.

  5. I think I did suggest some time ago that an exorcist might be in order…heh.

    I’ll patch your post over to my old man, see if he’s got any suggestions to add.

    The power company has some part here, I believe; I also believe there are no coincidences. Why not do an informal poll of your neighborhood and see how many people have replaced electrical equipment or experienced some appliance weirdness over the last year? Can’t hurt, might help, particularly if the problem is wider than your neighborhood.

  6. Okay, missive sent off to the electrical engineer-father. Will copy with his reply. I figure any guy responsible for the electrical service into a manufacturing plant must have run into something like this at some point in his career.

    I should clarify that last suggestion of mine, since you did query your neighbors already. It might help to ask quantifying questions rather than qualifying questions. For instance:
    — have you replaced a clock radio/alarm clock in the last year?
    — have you replaced a television?
    — have you replaced a computer or monitor?
    — have you replaced a refrigerator or freezer?
    — are there any other electrical appliances you’ve replaced in the last year?
    — were there performance problems with any item you replaced? describe.
    — was there a particular brand of appliance that seemed to have problems?

    You get the idea. Some electrical problems don’t manifest themselves as outright frying as you’ve experienced, particularly if neighbors have already upgraded their electrical service or if they’ve not got but a portion of the draw you have. (You may also want to ask whether they own computer equipment, may tell you something about the draw they place on service.) It’s possible that they’ve replaced stuff they just thought was aged. As a culture we’ve gotten to a point where some electronics are considered disposable. We’ve been through five phones in this house in the last two years, for example; cost to repair them was far more than simply tossing them. Is that what your neighbors are doing, thinking it’s just cheap and disposable equipment versus an electrical problem?

    The last question is a red herring. Well, kind of. If you get the person surveyed to think more about the brand and quality of performance — and NOT the electrical problem — they might give better, more specific feedback. Just tell them you’re working on a piece related to marketing of electronics. You might be, after all this…

    Best of luck!

  7. Rayne, thank you and thank your father.

    Further investigation is underway…

  8. No problem…okay, Dad says check with the neighborhood, which we’ve already covered. He also said:

    >>UPS power supplies have been known to “fry”. I don’t know how APC stacks up. Haven’t seen any reports comparing different brands for reliability. I am in the market for one so have been watching. Florida is notorious for lightning in the warmer months. And we have had multiple outages here in the UP. Overall, I think he purchased the right size, maybe a little oversize, but with a good overcapacity, so that should not have been the problem. He either has a defective unit, and I hope he kept the warranty. Or he has a lot of electrical “noise” in the house being generated by one or more of his appliances or “toys”. I hope he had a high joules surge filter in the front or or before his UPS unit. The only way he can confirm electrical noise is to buy/rent/borrow a line monitor to observe his house power and leave it on line for several days. There has got to be something in his “local” power to cause those kinds of problems he has been having. I would still get a replacement UPS under warranty, unless the warranty has expired. < Hmm. Isn't there some way for you to find some helpful electrical engineering students, maybe find an engineering prof who'd want to hand a study out as extra credit? Maybe they could mess around with monitoring for you and find out what the problem is. Just doesn't sound like it's something within the house (Dad's inference about "toys" is a suggestion that perhaps you've got lots of high-tech computing equipment that could be causing a burp in power - sure sounds doesn't sound like this to me.). Also note Dad's reference to lightning - any chance there was a storm while you were on vacation? Think it would have left more damage than this, though. Keep me posted.

  9. No lightning that I know of. If there was, it went straight for my UPS because nothing else was hurt and the electricity didn’t go off.

    I thought my UPS _is_ a high-joule surge protector. Oy gevalt.

  10. I’ll go back to Dad and throw this back at him again. If there was a high-joule surge protector in front of the UPS and it fried, we’d know it was incoming power, even if the UPS went too. Because it was the UPS that went, we can’t be certain about that — but I’ll let the guy with the ME-EE degrees weigh it out. I’ll pass on the tidbit about the electricity not going out, too.

    I’m leaning towards line monitoring heavily.

    Nuts, I suppose I better ask the old man what he’s using for a high joule surge suppressor since he still hasn’t gotten his UPS in place. I know there’s been several power outages at his summer residence, too.

    More later.

  11. did you ever even question whether it’s the damded ups that’s blowing everything out to begin with? sheesh. darned philosphers.

  12. This arrived in response to my email to APC tech support:

    “It has been determined from the information you have provided that your APC product is under warranty and has has been declared defective. APC will gladly provide you with a replacement unit under our comprehensive warranty program.”

  13. Phew! that’s a relief, I’m sure. Nothing back from Dad; last missive from Mom says he’s preparing to go check out damage at their winter home after Frances passes the east coast. Might be a bit before I hear anything more from him, sorry. I’ll ask other electrical engineers if I can reach one or two.

  14. Nuts. Hubby’s passing comment just now after describing your electrical nightmare: “Sounds like a ground problem.” I’d blow it off if he wasn’t an engineering manager with electricians that work for him. Believe some other commenter also made the same suggestion previously. Worth checking if you haven’t.

  15. Got rats?
    You might try asking for help in Ratic (see prior post “Merriam-Doolittle.” “Rats” are what the electricians blamed the weird electrical problems of our little 1936 cottages.

    Don’t know what the Ratic equivalent for “poltergeist” is, but it’s worth a try. You think you need an exorcist? Last Halloween, I came home to find that my microwave LED had spelled this out in the selection window:

    No lie! I took a picture, thinking no one would ever believe me.

    Try rat-traps (they can’t resist peanut butter).

  16. Have I got a load of horsee poo for you. I have not seen any 2005 commentary here and just want to see if this blog is active.
    Michael Tobin

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