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UPS Systems, Surge Protectors and Power Conditioners: What's the Difference?

by Teddi Strassburger on November 18, 2021

AdobeStock_388007290-2As severe weather events, like storms and blizzards, become stronger and more common, our aging power grid is struggling to keep up and handle the increasing stressors on the system. Severe weather can hit virtually any time of the year, now, and being prepared and ready for whatever might happen is paramount. 

So much can put your devices and our data at risk, from lightning strikes and voltage drops to power failures and worse. These dangers can affect both individuals in their homes and employees at companies, and it's a risk we all need to prepare for. With an average of 120 power problems each month, this is a serious concern. Generally speaking, if you plug it in, it needs protection. Without protection, any device can fall victim to surges, spikes, brownouts, and even total power failure.

The best way to protect devices is with an electrical surge protector, a power conditioner (a.k.a. line conditioner) or an uninterruptible power supply (UPS system). The solution you choose depends on several factors, including the quality of your facility’s electricity, your equipment’s environment and the type of equipment needing protection.

Let’s take a look at each solution, so you can see what sets each apart and make the right decision for your power needs. 

Surge Protectors

With as common and costly as power surges often re, it's important to provide adequate protection to the devices that rely on power. Tripp Lite provides us with some important facts to keep in mind about power surges:

"The effects of a surge can be subtle or dramatic, depending on the surge’s duration, intensity, and whether the affected devices have adequate protection. Smaller surges destroy internal circuitry slowly, over the course of several months. Larger surges, on the other hand, inflict the same damage, but in less than a millisecond. If the surge is long enough and strong enough, it may even heat up the internal electronic circuits to the point that they catch fire. In addition to the obvious costs needed to replace damaged devices, surges also cause lost productivity (when employees are idle in business environments) and loss of use (when home theater equipment and appliances are idle in home environments)."

So how do you protect your devices from surges? Well, you might have guessed the answer: surge protectors. Surge protectors are offered in many configurations, and most include EMI/RFI filtering to decrease line noise and improve audio/video quality. They're ideal for devices like TVs, phones and the like, but they do need to be replaced every few years. However, if you consider your equipment to be mission-critical, if you have many devices to protect or if you experience frequent outages, you'll likely need something that offers more dependable and broader protection. 

Power Conditioners

Now that we know how surge protectors work, let's look at the upgrade option: power conditioners. What's neat about these is that they protect against both surges and brownouts. They also come with built-in voltage regulators, they continuously monitor power, then condition it and keep it steady. However, unlike surge protectors, power conditioners don't provide EMI/RFI shielding. That's something to consider if improving video quality or reducing line noise are concerns for you. 

So, what's the use case? Power conditioners are great for copiers, laser printers and the types of devices you'd find in factories and hospitals. 

UPS Systems

Alright, finally, let's look at uninterruptible power supply systems, otherwise known as UPS systems. A UPS can do everything a surge protector can do, but it also features a battery backup, meaning you can stay up and running, even during power failures. A surge protector can't do that! Like power conditioners, many UPS systems have voltage regulators. These models not only provide battery backup, but they also keep voltage at an acceptable level.

So, where should you consider using a UPS? Data centers or server rooms. Many include special features that make them great for these applications, including LCD panels, hot-swappable batteries and even energy-saving options. 

This chart from Tripp Lite gives you the details: 

  Surge Protector Power Conditioner UPS System
Protection Against Surges and Spikes YES YES YES
Protection Against Brownouts NO YES YES
EMI/RFI Line Noise Filtering YES NO YES
Voltage Regulation NO YES YES
Battery Backup Power NO NO YES
Options for Special Features YES NO YES
  Browse Surge Protectors Browse Power Conditioners Browse UPS Systems

Ready to learn more? Contact your local Accu-Tech representative to learn more about these power options, or visit Tripp Lite's page on our website. 

Shop Tripp Lite

Topics: Tripp Lite surge protection power solutions power surge

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