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Right-Sizing your UPS

Introduction

This information is courtesy of APC and helps explain the differences between Watts and VA and explains how the terms are correctly and incorrectly used in specifying power protection equipment. Many people are confused about the distinction between the Watt and Volt-Amp (V-A) measures for UPS load sizing.  

Background

The power drawn by computing equipment is expressed in Watts or Volt-Amps (VA). The power in Watts is the real power drawn by the equipment. Volt-Amps is called the "apparent power" and is the product of the voltage applied to the equipment times the current drawn by the equipment.  

The difference between Watts and Volt-Amps

Both Watt and VA ratings have a use and purpose. The Watt rating determines the actual power purchased from the utility company and the heat loading generated by the equipment. The VA rating is used for sizing wiring and circuit breakers.

The VA and Watt ratings for some types of electrical loads, like incandescent light bulbs, are identical. However, for computer equipment the Watt and VA ratings can differ significantly, with the VA rating always being equal to or larger than the Watt rating. The ratio of the Watt to VA rating is called the "Power Factor" and is expressed either as a number (i.e. 0.7) or a percentage (i.e. 70%). 

The power rating of the UPS

UPS have both Watt ratings and VA ratings. Neither the Watt nor the VA rating of a UPS may be exceeded. In most cases, UPS manufacturers only publish the VA rating of the UPS. However, it is a standard in the industry that the Watt rating is approximately 60% of the VA rating, this being the typical power factor of common loads. Therefore, it is safe to assume that the Watt rating of the UPS is 60% of the published VA rating.  

How to avoid sizing errors

Equipment nameplate ratings are often in VA, which makes it difficult to know the Watt ratings. If using equipment nameplate ratings for sizing, a user might configure a system which appears to be correctly sized based on VA ratings but actually exceeds the UPS Watt rating.

By sizing the VA rating of a load to be no greater than 60% of the VA rating of the UPS, it is impossible to exceed the Watt rating of the UPS. Therefore, unless you have high certainty of the Watt ratings of the loads, the safest approach is to keep the sum of the load nameplate ratings below 60% of the UPS VA rating.

Note: This is a conservative sizing approach and will typically give rise to a more generous runtime than may be required. For the best results, contact the Powerfirm team on 1300 369 694 for advice on the right UPS for your needs.