UPS Batteries for Power Backup
Do you have an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) connected to a server, telephone system, workstation or to a home computer? UPS systems are a must for anyone that doesn’t want to experience the frustration of losing data, hours of work or just access to essential electronic equipment during a power outage.
Setting up a UPS unit is fairly straight forward, put it under the desk or close to the equipment that will be connected to the outlets in the back of the unit. Plug in the equipment that you want to access the back up power generated by the UPS. Then plug the UPS into the wall. That is really all the basic requirements. Some UPS units are more advanced and have load balancing software, and many more fancy features but the general set up and operation of a UPS system is pretty simple. However, what happens when the alarm on the UPS starts going off and signals that it is time to replace the battery in the unit?
There are generally two options: buy a new UPS or replace the battery in the UPS unit. The financial choice is easy, replacing the battery is much less expensive and much easier on the landfill! Now all you have to do is find the right replacement battery. Are all replacement batteries created equal or are there any differences? How can you tell a quality battery from a cheap battery? It isn’t always clear how to choose a quality replacement battery since most replacement batteries are the same color, shape, and have the same number of contacts. It doesn’t have to be difficult to find and purchase the right battery and get a good quality battery at the same time.
To find the right battery, first determine the correct battery model for your UPS. Most batteries have the voltage and capacity printed right on the battery. Voltage is measured in volts and will typically either be 6 volts or 12 volts for most UPS batteries. Capacity is typically measured in Amp Hours. UPS batteries will vary widely in capacity so be sure that you find the correct battery capacity. Look for a number like 5AH, 7AH, 12AH, or 17AH. These measurements are usually printed on the side of the battery. A word of caution...if your UPS has more than one battery take a picture of the batteries and how they are connected before you start taking things apart. To avoid potential frustration, you can reference the picture when you start putting things back together.
Once you have identified the specifications of the battery, how do you determine what constitutes a quality replacement battery? UPS replacement batteries are almost always Sealed Lead Acid - Absorbent Glass Mat batteries or SLA/AGM for short. Inside the battery are a series of lead plates and a fine fiberglass mat that have been infused with an acid medium. The more lead surface that is inside the battery, the more energy storage that is achieved. Thicker lead plates with an efficient web design and use of high quality fiberglass and acid medium are essential in building a high quality battery. Because the battery is sealed, the consumer can't open the battery to look at the plates or other materials.
One way to identify a good quality battery is to examine the weight. Assuming the voltage and capacity of the battery are the same, the battery that is heavier will most likely contain more lead inside. If the battery contains “virgin lead” this is also a sign of a high quality battery. Virgin lead is essentially lead that hasn’t been recycled. This lead is much more expensive to smelter, but will last much longer than a battery made from recycled lead. A better quality battery will likely cost more than those that contain less lead or have inferior components. A high quality battery will last longer and will be ready for use when the power goes out. There is nothing worse than having the power go off and then finding out that the cheap battery you purchased and installed in your UPS is also napping and your hard work has just disappeared into cyber-space!