When electricity fails…

Having lived in Shropshire all my life, I’ve made many observational descriptions for family and friends outside the area which are rooted in happiness… the tranquility, the fantastic views, the quaint towns and villages. Living in remote areas is bliss, I say.

Because of our modern lifestyle, we rely far too much upon electricity. And with a huge proportion of business now conducted over the internet from homes using computers, us ‘rural folk’ soon realise that there is nothing more frustrating or potentially damning than a power failure.

Yes… power failures are one of the uglier sides of rural living in Shropshire. Electricity can be off for 2 minutes, 2 hours or even days in remote locations. And if you’re running computer equipment this means lost work, downtime and general misery.

But there’s a solution which is cheap, efficient and has saved me from frustration many times. Uninterruptible Power Supplies, or UPS for short.

UPS systems can come in many shapes, sizes and ratings. Mine is literally the size of a shoebox, and sits neatly beside my Apple Mac, totally unobtrusive. So, how do they work?

Simple! The UPS is basically a backup battery which runs at mains voltage (240v). My own UPS is powerful enough to keep my computer, 2 monitors, backup hard drive and table lamp running should the power go out. The UPS recognises that the mains has failed, and continues to supply power. Mine lasts for about 5 minutes, ample time enough to save all my work and shut down the computer safely.

Most consumer UPS units work like a glorified extension socket: one plug goes from the UPS to the wall socket, and the UPS unit (in my instance) has four sockets in it, 3 protected and one ‘straight through’. When mains power exists, the unit charges up the internal battery, ready for the day of power failure.

It’s all very simple really. But very critical in the way I work. These consumer units can power anything within reason, so long as you don’t exceed the rated output of the UPS.

So… the five minutes are up, and there’s still no power. I’ve shut down safely and saved my work, but now what?

From experience, the power can be off from anywhere between 1 minute and a day. So, having a small portable backup generator really is essential.

Costing around ¨£100, my generator runs off an unleaded/2-stroke oil mixture, and a single tankful can give about 4 or 5 hours of operation. It’s relatively quiet, comes on castors, and is about the size of two stacked washing up bowls.

Again, the generator is more than adequate for my computer, monitors and backup drive. Plus a table lamp, should the darkness come!

So, you see, there is nothing which should stand in your way when the power goes down. For the cost of a trip to the theatre, you’re covered.

Useful contacts for information and supplies in the Shropshire area are abundant. UPS systems and generators can be found at Staples, DIY stores or even Argos.

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