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My New APC 1500 UPS | Kevin Rye.net - Main

Kevin Rye

Geek Extraordinaire. Yeh, I said it.

My New APC 1500 UPS

I had an APC 1000 UPS for years. I don’t know when I got it exactly, but it was probably somewhere around 2008. We used to use them at work on the servers. When the batteries died, the department just tossed them out in favor of getting new ones. At $500 a pop you’d think they’d want to order replacement batteries and just swap out the old ones. Whenever I suggested it, my boss would tell me that “we didn’t have anyone willing to do that”. Hell, I would have done it, but that’s corporate for you. They love wasting money.

One day the company told all the labs to do some spring cleaning and toss any old equipment taking up space on shelves. We tossed a good 10 or so UPSs that had dead batteries. I spoke to facilities and persuaded them to let me take one home after they’d scrapped them out of inventory.

With a “new” UPS in hand, I hopped online and ordered a replacement battery. I remember it costing me about $40. I went with an authentic APC battery instead of some cheap knockoff brand. I didn’t want the thing to catch fire and I certainly didn’t want to damaged my precious Mac Pro.

I felt pretty proud of myself. I had turned a $500 UPS pulled from the garbage into a perfectly usable battery backup for $40.

fried UPS 2

Fast forward about 4 years. I got home from work and was punched in the face with an obnoxious burned popcorn smell, as my kids described it. It was really strong. The whole house stunk of it. I thought it smelled like a blown ballast. Since none of the lights in my house have a ballast, I was stumped as to what could be causing the smell.

The traced the smell to my computer room where it seemed to be the strongest. I thought maybe one of my vintage machines was the culprit, but none of them are powered on while I’m not at home. The only machines powered on are my Mac Pro and Mac Mini. They both looked good to me.

Since it was a warm day, I had left my window open. Through the window I could see that my next door neighbor was in the middle of redoing their roof. I’m on the second floor and my room is pretty much on-level with next door’s roof. A couple of guys were up top applying new shingles. I wondered if they were using some sort of adhesive that was blowing right into my room.

I continued to smell around the house and although I could smell it through the whole house, it was definitely the strongest in my computer room. I opened up both windows all the way and turned a fan on and pointed it towards the window. For the rest of the day, I put up with it.

The next day: same story. I got home from work and the smell was just as strong. It had to be in my computer room. The roofers next door had finished the job and most of the windows in the house had been open all day. If they were using some sort of adhesive, there’s no way I’d still be smelling it in the house. I went outside and smelled around the side of the house. There was no smell outside. It had to be coming from my computer room.

That’s when it hit me. My UPS! It’s the only other thing in my room that’s powered on. Why did I not think of that? I ran back in the house, up the stairs, and into the computer room. I approached the UPS with caution. That’s when I noticed that the LEDs for the battery status were blinking. Houston, we have a problem!

I slowly moved my hand over the top of the UPS and could immediately feel the heat. Once I tapped the top of it, it was clear that the unit was burning up. I could have fried an egg on it. It was red hot. I moved in a little closer for a smell. Yup. that’s it alright. The smell was coming from the UPS. It smelled like a blown ballast/burned popcorn.

I immediately powered down my Mac Pro and unplugged the UPS. I picked it up by the sides and carried it outside. It was really hot all over the enclosure. I tossed it outside and let it cool down for 15 minutes. I grabbed a screw driver and pulled the front panel off. The batteries inside were on the verge of a total meltdown. They looked leaky on the top and all the sides has expanded to the point where I had to completely disassemble the UPS to pull that batteries out.

I never thought to take a picture of the disassembled unit, but I did take some pictures of the batteries afterwards.

The tops of the batteries were all pushed out.

fried UPS 1

All the sides had expanded out.

fried UPS 3

The top was all warped and buckled. You can see some of the cells on the middle-left look leaky.

fried UPS 4

That was a close one! Good job I didn’t burn the whole house down. So much for authentic APC batteries!

With that said, there was no way I was going to refurbish the unit a second time. First of all, it smelled. Secondly, I didn’t trust the unit anymore. I threw a new APC 1500 on my Amazon wish list. My wife was more than happy to oblige and buy it for me for Christmas.

APC1500_0001

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The battery is disconnected during shipping. You have to reconnect it before you can power on the unit.

APC1500_0006

It’s pretty smart the way they did it. The old unit had a battery disconnect dongle on the rear of the unit that you had to plug in. The new unit has a much more elegant solution.

You remove the battery cover….

APC1500_0009

…pull the battery out….

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…and flip it over….

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Boom. That’s it. The battery is now connected.

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Put the cover back on , and you’re good to go.

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What a nice looking unit. It’s a little bigger than I had envisioned. The pictures online don’t really give a good sense of scale. I didn’t bother looking at dimensions. I just assumed it was on par with the old unit. It’s slimmer than the old one, but taller. It’s about the same size as my kids’ little eMachines.

APC1500_0015

The rear offers more than enough sockets for my equipment. The row on the left offers battery backup and surge protection while the row on the right offers just surge protection. There’s connections for coax, Ethernet, as well as a USB connection to your computer.

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The front panel is awesome. My old unit just had a few LEDs to let you know what was going on. This new unit has a control panel full of goodies. Even with a Mac Pro (2 video cards and 4 hard drives), 2 Cinema Displays, a Drobo with 3 drives, and a Mac Mini, the battery load is only 60%.

APC1500_0024

OS X is awesome; no drivers necessary. OS X knows what a UPS is and knows how to handle it without any 3rd party software. The CD that shipped with the unit was for Windows only.

All you have to do is plug the UPS into a USB port, launch System Preferences, and select “Energy Saver”. There’s a menu for “UPS”.

EnergySaver2

OS X will see your UPS and give you all the options you need to handle a power outage. I configured my system to shut down after it’s been on battery for 3 minutes. My Mac Pro will then power back on once power has been restored.

EnergySaver2

I tried it out and it works like a charm.

I highly recommend putting your machine on a UPS. Abrupt shutdowns are never good for your precious hardware. I was in-between UPSs when hurricane Sandy hit. When the power went out, my system was unprotected. When we finally got power back, I had discovered that one of the drives in my Drobo was toast. The drive was only 11 months old and should’t have failed. These things happen, but I’m not totally convinced it was a coincidence.

I did get that drive replaced, but that’s another story. You should do all you can to protect your data and your hardware.