Apr 30 , 2020

How Long Will an Uninterruptible Power Supply Last? We Tested 3 of Them

When the power goes out, your home network is helpless; you can’t work from home, send that last email or keep your smart devices humming along. An inverter generator is one solution.

Generators are expensive, though, and if you just want to keep the WiFi on the benefit may not justify the cost. Enter the battery backup, or “uninterruptible power supply” (UPS). These small, affordable power units act as a power source for your sensitive electronics in case of a power outage.

But will they keep your WiFi running long enough, and if so, do they all perform the same? To answer that question, I put these three units to the test.

  • Amazon Basics 600VA
    • Cost: $60
    • Run-time: Four hours
    • Editor’s note: The price is great, but I think more run-time is worth a few extra bucks.
  • APC 600VA
    • Cost: $75
    • Run-time: Five hours and 10 minutes
    • Editor’s note: APC has a reputation for reliability, which may justify the slightly higher cost.
  • Cyberpower 600VA
    • Cost: $70
    • Run-time: Five hours and 30 minutes
    • Editor’s note: The best run-time and a competitive price makes this my top pick.

How a UPS Works

A UPS is basically a battery with built-in electronic controls. Plugging it into an outlet keeps the battery charged and provides power to your electronics. When the power goes out, the battery kicks in automatically, powering whatever you have plugged into the UPS without interruption.

What Size UPS Should I Get?

UPS units are rated by volt-amps and watts, which is a power limit and a rough estimate of how long the battery will last. Many UPS systems are marketed using the volt-amps measurement, but sometimes include the wattage too.

A 350-VA unit costs about $50 and should power a router for almost two hours, depending on the router’s wattage. A 2,200-VA system costs about $700 and can power a router for about 18 hours.

A big, pricey system might make sense if you need your computer and home network powered for your livelihood. But for the rest of us who want to keep the WiFi running, I think a small UPS is adequate. So I tested 600-VA units.

HomeLAB’s UPS Test

I charged each UPS unit for eight hours as recommended. When they were fully charged, I plugged in the homeLAB’s WiFi router, which uses 15 watts, and unplugged the UPS to activate the battery. I connected to the WiFi, waited until the battery died and disconnected from the internet.

The Results

CyberPower lasted the longest at five hours and 30 minutes, though APC was close behind. The Amazon Basics UPS didn’t maintain power nearly as long as the other two. The full prices are provided, but the units can be found on sale online.

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