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I've got a 2200VA UPS with AVR and power conditioning that's over 10 years old.

Does a UPS lose its ability to protect equipment over time? I'm not asking about batteries, but the UPS hardware itself.

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4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

It depends on what the UPS is doing and how it is made.

There are two main purposes in a UPS:

  1. Ensure that the equipment plugged into it is kept live in the even of a power loss, over-voltage, or under-voltage condition;
  2. Ensure that power line badness (spikes) are mitigated and the equipment protected.

Part 1 is easy to test, and most good UPSs will do a periodic test. This tests more than the battery; it tests the UPS itself and even to a lesser extent the equipment behind it.

Part 2 is harder. Many UPSs (and power strips) which claim to protect against spikes and lightening strikes do so using a small device called a metal oxide varistor. These devices sit on the input line and wait to catch a spike. When they do, they are damaged to some extent.

A nearby lightening strike can take them out completely, yet they will appear to be perfectly intact physically. Basically you can think of it as a can of paint you use to touch up a house. As you touch up more and more, your can gets empty, and eventually you run out of paint.

When these are damaged enough you start to lose fast-spike protection. In some areas it can take as little as a year to make a surge protector almost useless. In others, you may go for 10 without a problem if the input power is very clean.

So, to finally answer your question: I would consider replacing a 10 year old unit for this reason alone.

Another reason is that you can likely get a larger one for cheaper, it may be more energy efficient, and may even be smaller.

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nice analogy and authoritative answer. –  Knox Jan 14 '10 at 22:26
    
+! Great detailed answer and especially about the MOVs. Very common in less expensive units and can do their job and then provide no protection. Very often overlooked. –  Dave M Jan 15 '10 at 12:58

Ignoring the batteries, a UPS is just another piece of electronic equipment. Unless components fail or are degrade beyond tolerances the UPS will continue to function indefinitely. As components can and do degrade over time, although vastly less than they did "in the old days", the UPS may benefit from a recalibration, so that the various trigger points are accurate.

Calibration, together with an overall check of the device, is normally a procedure best left to specialists. As this should be a relatively small price (about $120 Australian a couple of years ago for a UPS worth $3,500) it is worth getting done. The calibration procedure should also detect if components are far enough out of spec to be a problem.

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How would I go about locating such a specialist? –  Boden Jan 15 '10 at 5:15
    
Sometimes the UPS manufacturer can give you a list of repair centers in your area. Failing that the only thing I can think of, and what I had to do, is to Google. In my case it turned out to be a company in the next street. :) –  John Gardeniers Jan 15 '10 at 21:50

If it's treated well then the only thing that should really wear out is the batteries, so as long as these are maintained and test regularly you should be fine.

That said, you may find that your older UPS's are not as economical or 'green' and you may be able to reduce power consumption with a new UPS (if that is something you are concerned about). However, whether the outlay on a new UPS would be recouped by the energy savings is hard to say.

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I have a couple Eaton PowerWare UPSs that are on their third set of batteries since their installation in 1998 and are working just fine. –  Evan Anderson Jan 14 '10 at 21:49

If the equipment is operated under ideal conditions they should last for a long time.

It might be a good idea to setup some kind of testing schedule to verify they are still working.

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