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Common Power Problems  & Power Protection Solutions

Common Power Problems & Power Protection Solutions

Executive Summary 

All systems, from home theaters and office desktops to enterprise 
IT equipment in data centers, are prone to downtime, damage and 
data loss, especially when left exposed without a proper power 
protection scheme in place. Equipment faces potential danger on 
a daily basis, whether from severe weather, poor voltage quality, or 
any number of factors that can cause slow equipment degradation 
or instantaneous loss of power and data. The importance of clean, 
reliable and continuous power is paramount for the technology 
we depend on in our everyday lives. This white paper describes 
the most common power problems and their causes, how they 
affect applications, and the range of power protection solutions to 
safeguard users’ equipment. 
 
Costly Power Problems 

When severe weather, heavy loads, increased power draw, background 
noise, or interference compromise power quality, power problems 
occur. The effects of poor power quality impact every system of every 
size, and will cause equipment downtime, damage and/or data loss 
unless protected. 

Blackouts and brownouts can knock computers off-line, causing 
business and productivity downtime, which costs time and money when 
mission-critical equipment does not receive proper power. The Electric 
Power Research Institute (EPRI) estimates that power outages and other 
power problems cost the U.S. economy up to $188 billion per year, an
 
 
unnecessary expense for users who can take proactive steps to protect their equipment.
Power surges and voltage fluctuations degrade performance and 
can damage or even destroy sensitive electronics, without users even knowing the cause. On average, one surge per day of 100-1,000 volts occurs in every electrical environment,1 causing degradation over time. Slow degradation can be just as detrimental as instantaneous damage, as it causes equipment to become less and less reliable and eventually fail completely, with little or no warning.
Blackouts and voltage fluctuations can cause instantaneous data loss and system crashes with no opportunity to save important files, meaning valuable information can be lost in the blink of an eye. Power failures and surges account for over 45% of computer data loss,2 which can be greatly reduced with the proper power protection solution. 

The Five Main Power Problems 
Something as simple as a power surge may not seem detrimental—in 
fact it may go unnoticed until equipment fails. At the other end of the 
spectrum, blackouts can cause entire systems to immediately go dark. 
While power anomalies are inevitable, their effects should not affect 
your systems, if the proper steps are taken to protect them. 

1 Surge/Spike
Surges and spikes are short-term voltage increases. They are 
typically caused by lightning strikes, power outages, short circuits 
or malfunctions caused by power utility companies. They cause data 
corruption, catastrophic and costly equipment damage and incremental 
damage that degrades equipment performance and shortens its useful 
lifespan. 

Common causes of surges/spikes: 
• Utility company load shifting 
• Miswired electrical systems 
• Lightning strikes 

Problems caused by surges/spikes: 

Line Noise
Line noise refers to distortion on AC, telephone/DSL, network or 
coaxial lines caused by Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) and Radio 
Frequency Interference (RFI). Line noise is unavoidable and will appear 
on every signal at some point, though it is not always detrimental, or 
even noticeable. It causes incremental electronic circuit damage, data 
corruption, audio/video quality problems and confusion between system 
components. Line noise generated by electronic devices varies greatly 
and can be produced by energy disturbances from a variety of sources, 
both natural and man-made. 

Common causes of line noise: 
• Radio transmissions 
• High voltage power lines
• Severe weather
• Fluorescent lights

Problems caused by line noise:
• System lockups
• Audio static
• Video “snow”
• Slow electronic degradation

3 Brownout/Undervoltage/Sag
A brownout is a voltage deficiency that occurs when the need for 
power exceeds power availability. Brownouts typically last for a few 
minutes, but can last up to several hours, as opposed to short-term
fluctuations like surges or spikes. They are caused by the disruption of an electrical grid and may be imposed by utility companies when there is an overwhelming demand for power. Brownouts, more common than blackouts, cause equipment failures, incremental damage, decreased equipment stability and data loss.

Common causes of brownouts/undervoltages/sags:
• Inadequate utility service
• Heavy power draw in area/facility
• Poor electrical circuit design

Problems caused by brownouts/undervoltages/sags:
• Active data loss
• System lockups
• Lost productivity
• Slow electronic degradation 
 
Swell/Overvoltage
Swells are basically the opposite of a brownout: instead of a voltage 
deficiency, or sag, a swell is a voltage increase for a long duration 
(seconds to a minute), as opposed to a brief increase, like a surge/spike. A swell is caused when the power being provided outweighs the power accepted by connected equipment, resulting in an increase in voltage. Much like sags, deterioration may not be apparent until it’s too late, resulting in lost data and damaged equipment. 

Common causes of swells/overvoltages: 
• Sudden/large load reductions 
• Oversupply of power from utility source 
• Fault on a 3-phase system 

Problems caused by swells/overvoltages:
• Slow electronic degradation
• Flickering lights
• Overheating and stress on equipment


5 Blackout/Power Outage
A blackout, or power outage, is a complete loss of utility power, 
whether short- or long-term. Blackouts cause reduced productivity, lost 
revenue, system crashes and data loss. Unplanned outages may occur 
as aging electrical grids and building circuits are overwhelmed by high 
demand. Blackouts are particularly dangerous at sites where safety or 
life support rely on power, such as hospitals, treatment centers and 
power plants.

Common causes of blackouts/power outages:
• Utility company failure
• Accidental AC line disconnection
• Tripped circuit breakers
• Severe weather

Problems caused by blackouts/power outages:
• Data loss
• System downtime
• Lost productivity
• Lost revenue 

The Solution 
Affordable solutions protect equipment, data and productivity against 
the hazards of power problems. Solutions are available for any size 
application, from home to enterprise business, and offer varying levels 
of protection, ranging from protection against common hazards like 
surges and line noise, to the most complete protection available 
against all hazards. 

The chart below illustrates which solutions fit certain needs: 
Surge/Spike Line Noise Brownout Swell Blackout
Surge Protector Good Good
Standby UPS Good Good Good Good Good
Line-Interactive UPS Good Good Better Better Good
On-Line UPS Best Best Best Best Best



Surge Protectors 
Protect all computers and electronics 
Surge protectors provide heavy-duty surge/spike protection and 
line noise filtration. Premium surge protectors incorporate more and substantially stronger protective components, as well as isolated filter banks that eliminate interference between devices plugged into the same surge protector. Select models include data line protection 
(telephone/DSL, coaxial and/or Ethernet). 




Standby UPS Systems 
Protect PCs and workstations 
Standby UPS systems provide surge/spike/line noise protection like 
surge protectors, and they add battery backup to keep connected 
equipment operating without interruption during blackouts. They also 
provide limited brownout protection by switching to battery power to 
correct undervoltages. Select models include data line protection and 
communication ports that enable automatic shutdown of connected 
computers during extended blackouts. 

Line-Interactive UPS Systems 
Protect workstations, servers, data centers and network equipment 
In addition to the protection features offered by standby UPS systems, line-interactive UPS systems add automatic voltage regulation (AVR). AVR allows the UPS system to adjust voltage to safe levels during 
brownouts without switching to battery power, reducing battery wear and preserving charge levels for blackout protection. 





On-Line UPS Systems 
Protect servers, VoIP systems and other mission-critical equipment 
On-Line UPS systems offer the best protection available against all 
power problems. True on-line operation with continuous AC-to-DC-
to-AC double conversion completely isolates electronics from power 
problems. Precision-regulated output power with pure sine waveform 
guarantees maximum stability for connected equipment. 


Conclusion 
Power protection is a concern for every application, and the risks aren’t going to go away. Protect computers, servers and mission-critical 
equipment from potentially irreversible damage with an optimized 
power protection solution. 
Tripp Lite manufactures a wide range of products designed to safeguard 
equipment against downtime, damage and data loss caused by power 
problems. With a trusted, worldwide reputation for award-winning 
quality, superior reliability and incomparable customer service, Tripp Lite 
has the complete solution to keep equipment powered and protected 
at all times. With Product Finders for everything from UPS systems and 
surge protectors, to cables, racks and PDUs, it’s easy to find what you 
need, plus, free technical support means you’ll have the confidence to 
purchase and deploy the best solution for your application 


About DIGISOFT Bangladesh 
Customers in the IT, telecom, industrial, commercial, 
corporate, healthcare, government and education 
sectors choose DIGISOFT for complete solutions to 
power, protect, connect and manage servers, network 
hardware and other equipment in data centers and 
related facilities. DIGISOFT makes more than 2,500 
products, including UPS systems, battery packs, PDUs, 
rack enclosures, cooling solutions, surge protectors, KVM switches, 
cables, power strips and inverters. For more information about 
DIGISOFT’s full line of data center solutions, visit www.digisoft.asia 

 

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