Can a high-end UPS survive really bad electrical problems?

Discussion in 'Computers' started by Mike Schmitz, Mar 14, 2004.

  1. Mike Schmitz

    Mike Schmitz Stunt Coordinator

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    My computer kept crashing. After replacing the motherboard, it crashed again. Someone told me that if there's a really bad electrical problem, bad electricity can shoot right through a cheap Uninterupted Power Supply. They told me I should get an electrical tester from Home Depot.

    The test tool is from "Commercial Electric" and cost about $8. It has three lights, one red and two yellow. When I plug it into any outlet in the basement, only the middle yellow light comes on, which means "Open Ground." When I plug it in anywhere else in the house, the two yellow lights come on, which means everything's fine.

    When I push the reset button on the tester upstairs, nothing happens. Both yellow lights stay on. But when I push it in the basement outlets, the red light also comes on, which indicates a "Hot/Neutral reverse." When I let go of the reset button, the red light goes off, and only the yellow middle light is on.

    So I have either an open ground or a hot/neutral reverse in the basement circuit. I probably need to get an electrician out to the house, but I'm not sure how much the repairs will cost. The previous owner from 20 years ago or so seems to have (1) done some wiring work on his own and (2) was aparently an idiot.

    While I'm saving up enough money to get the repairs done, my computer is gathering dust. I don't want to move the computer hutch back upstairs, and I'm not sure I could reassemble it if I took it apart. Also, I'm pretty set on keeping the PC in the basement, since there's Comcast cables down there, and I eventually want a cable modem.

    So, finally, here's my question: Will a very high end UPS protect my computer from bad electricity? Or should I not risk my computer crashing again? (I managed to repair it myself, this time)
     
  2. Glenn Overholt

    Glenn Overholt Producer

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    It is really easy to fix the outlet. Just flip the circuit breaker off, take the outlet apart and swap the two wires. Leave the green wire (ground) alone.

    The cheap UPS's have a breaker in them that will 'fail' after one good outage. The strip will keep on working, with no sign at all that you aren't protected against anything anymore.

    So yes, a UPS is a good idea. If you don't mind crashing whenever there is a blackout then you won't need one with a back up battery, which will be less expensive.

    Glenn
     
  3. Kelvin Tucker

    Kelvin Tucker Stunt Coordinator

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    Yes, even a cheapo UPS will give you some level of protection with the builtin circuitry. Worst case (which I've had) and it will keep beeping errors at you, as it trys to tell you that you wiring is screwed up. But, it will prevent most damage to your PC.

    Given your earlier comments, I would suggest that you not[​IMG] do the wire swap. It is not dangerous but the way your tests come out, who knows what else is (or is not) in there. Do yourself a favor and get the electrician out, and count on a couple hundred $$$
     
  4. Erik.Ha

    Erik.Ha Supporting Actor

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    Bite the bullet and call an electrician... If the cost has you worried, type the words "faulty wiring fire" into google and see if what comes up doesn't cause you more concern...

    Given conclusions #1 and #2 in your post, it isn't worth dicking around with...
     
  5. Mike Schmitz

    Mike Schmitz Stunt Coordinator

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    Glenn: a breaker failure is probably what happened.

    Kelven: no way I'm doing any work myself. I'm a butterfingers, and I'm also allergic to dying. Only a couple of hundred? Heh. I'm so pessimistic I was thinking more in the $1,000-$2,000 range.

    Erik: I' already worried about a fire, even without the horror stories. Then again, I'm pretty sure we've had the same problem for 20+ years, and so far, no fire.

    Oh BTW, the UPC I have is a few years old. It's an APC Back-UPS ES 500. It's supposed to last for 10 minutes after blackout. And it's beeped at me a few times, which should have clued me in. :b
     
  6. Tony Loewen

    Tony Loewen Stunt Coordinator

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    Mike, how goes the battle?

    I am an electrician. If you want to find out for sure what is going on with your outlet, you should get yourself a cheap voltmeter, one with a needle that moves across a guage is fine. On the outlet, there will be two slots and the round one at the bottom. The round one is the ground. The shorter of the two slots *should* be the hot (120 volts) and the longer one of the two slots should be neutral, which is essentially the same as ground. Set the voltmeter to AC voltage scale that goes up to at least 200 volts, take the voltmeter leads, the wires that you hook up to the circuit, stick one into the bottom round hole (ground) and the other in the short slot. The meter should read 120 volts. If you keep the one lead in the ground and move the other to the longer slot, you should read 0 volts. Then stick a lead in each slot, and you should get 120 volts. Anything around 120 is fine, below 112 or above 128 will start to cause problems.

    From what you describe, the previous homeowner was a DIY'er who didn't know what he was doing and hooked up the power wires backwards and the ground didn't get hooked up at all. I will expect that you should see about 60 volts on each slot to the ground hole, indicating an ungrounded circuit, which is not what electronics like. You would have to make sure the ground is hooked up on the outlet you are at, and also at the other end of that wire, wherever the guy decided to splice in. If this sounds to conplicated or dangerous, don't do it, hire a professional.

    Hope this helps,
    TOny
     
  7. Mike Schmitz

    Mike Schmitz Stunt Coordinator

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    Tony,
    Sorry it took so long to get back to you. :b I didn't have the computer at home plugged in, and I kept forgetting to check my e-mail when i was at Gamescape.

    I had someone from Candlelight Electric come out to the house. The electrician they sent us plugged in his own test tool and said that the wiring was fine. Both yellow lights were on, the second one was a little weak was all.

    I bought a new UPS, hoping that it would prevent this from happening again. I got the APC Back-UPS ES 725. It was the only APC model I could see that provided coax ports. I've got the data port for the UPS hooked up to the computer this time, so if something odd happens, I should get a report generated. That's assuming that the problem was electrical to begin with, and not something wrong with the computer.

    The UPS has a little red light that's on. It indicates a wiring fault. The old UPS also hand the same light on. I forgot to tell this to the electrician. D'oh!

    Oh, and I broke down and ordered a cable modem from Comcast. My computer seems to be able to last from between 2 weeks to a month before crapping out on me. Hopefully I'll get some use out of the modem before it flames out on me again. Then again, I hope I never have another problem with this computer again! [​IMG]

    If the hard drive becomes unusable again, I'll have to assume it's the computer and take it back to the shop. [​IMG]
     

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