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Irregular voltage damaging computer? Line conditioner vs UPS?

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November 29, 2009 10:51:57 PM


I just moved into a house two weeks ago. It has electrical issues: when an appliance starts up, light bulbs dim. My CRT monitor twitches, especially bad when an appliance starts up and then settles down to a merely headache-inducing flicker as long as the appliance is operating.
My Mac G4 tower started having trouble right when I moved in. It wouldn't start up. Pushing the PMU Reset button worked two weeks ago, but now nothing seems to get it going, including a new PRAM battery. A telephone service tech told me it may need a new PSU or logic board.
1. Is it likely that voltage fluctuations are the cause of my computer's damage?
2. Assuming that it will be a long time before the landlord fixes the house's wiring, what can I do to protect my computer? I'm not particularly worried about lightning strikes or blackouts, I just want to make sure that doing laundry is not going to fry my tower. Would a line conditioner or a line-interactive UPS be more appropriate here?
Thanks for your input!
Cully
a b ) Power supply
November 29, 2009 11:06:36 PM

You need a good UPS. It will take over whenever the line voltage drops below a preset threshold.
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November 29, 2009 11:36:31 PM

In my circumstances, what qualifies as a good UPS? In the cheaper models, battery time is short, twenty minutes or less. Is battery life much longer if it's compensating for a minor shortage of volts (due to clothes dryer running in the basement) vs a blackout?

Money is tight, so it makes a big difference whether I spend $100, $200, or $500. Any recommendations on models?

Thank You!
Cully
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a b ) Power supply
November 30, 2009 2:05:34 AM

I like APC and I usually buy used Smart-UPS for a fraction of the original cost. In case of a blackout, the PSU has to allow enough time to cleanly shutdown the system. In your case, you also want to be able to use the system while power is below the minimum threshold. Unlike what happens during a power outage, the batteries are still being charged; therefore you don't need to worry that much about how long the UPS can run on batteries. However you buy a unit that will allow the system to run on batteries for at least 10-15 minutes (30 minutes or more for a server is preferred). It also has to be powerful enough to support the whole system (PC and monitor). Never connect a laser printer to it.

Since I have no clue what hardware you have, I suggest UPS units that can handle decent systems. All units have AVR which is important to you.

APC Smart-UPS SUA1500
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Much more expensive, but better.

APC BR1200
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Should be a good choice for you.

I can't suggest cheap PSUs because I don't trust them and I'm not familiar with PSU from other companies.

Your best option would be a used, but recent Smart-UPS. Back in June I bought a one year old Smart-UPS 1500 for $160 that still is under warranty.
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November 30, 2009 2:13:28 AM

Many thanks GhislainG. I'll look into the models you recommended.
Cully
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a c 271 ) Power supply
November 30, 2009 2:17:27 AM

Make sure that there is no little red switch on the back of your mac, if there is you are going to want to see about a PSU upgrade to one with APFC as it will accept variable input voltages and will have a much greater tolerance to line noise and fluctuations than a passive PFC design would.
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