Using a car battery with an APC UPS

Discussion in 'Power Supplies' started by Red Squirrel, Nov 20, 2009.

  1. k-fox

    k-fox Junior Member

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    Hey folks. I recently wired my SmartUPS 1400 to two Optima Yellow Tops.
    [​IMG]

    (Not shown is the 60A fuse between them for great justice)

    Unfortunately, despite three run-time calibrations and the three (yes three) actual power outages today alone, the UPS still believes that at full capacity there are only four minutes of runtime. These batteries are brand new, shrink wrapped, off the shelf. The proprietor of the ricing store where I bought them told me someone from Optima comes and replaces the ones sitting on the shelf with fully charged batteries every three months.

    According to apctest from the apcupsd package when the UPS is running on the batteries the voltage drops from 28.01 to just over 25 very quickly, as does the battery level percentage. Sure enough, after four minutes I'm looking at one blinking light on the front panel gauge - but 20 minutes later the thing is still running about a 20% load.

    Here's some sample output of apctest while the batteries "recover" from the last outage:
    Code:
    Batt level percent: 060.0
    Batt voltage: 28.01
    UPS Load: 035.8
    Line freq: 60.00
    Runtime left: 0002
    
    The odd thing is the battery voltage is 28.01 when the capacity is at 100%

    It's also 28.01 when the capacity is at 40% - on the way up. At 40% on the way down it's closer to 25.

    Is it possible my UPS has gone screwy? One of my colleagues has modded half a dozen UPSes like this and I did a fair share of googling before attempting it myself - this seems to be a straightforward plug-and-play operation for everyone else.

    I'm trying to avoid running out and buying a stand-alone car battery charger and load tester. If anyone has any insight as to what these symptoms could be indicating I'd really appreciate it.

    Thanks!
     
  2. NeoPTLD

    NeoPTLD Platinum Member

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    Observe the minimum battery voltage at the circuit board side as it switches onto battery. How many volts per pack does this come to? APC UPS monitors battery internal resistance through observing dips (dv/dt)

    Also, the load vs run time is not a proportional relationship. Even if you set the unit's calibration parameters to brand new batteries, it would use the assumed battery characteristics to estimate run time.
    Internal parameters are used to best guess the battery's rate of discharge vs capacity and this is not something you can alter on an APC firmware.

    So, if runtime at 50% is 30min, at 100%, it will be something like 5min.

    You can try changing the current transformer or shunt to a different ratio, so that unit thinks actual load is less than the real load, but that could have adverse consequences too.
     
    #52 NeoPTLD, Dec 5, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2012
  3. philipma1957

    philipma1957 Golden Member

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    try two wires for each connection. your wires look like 12 or 10 gauge. 2 at each connection will help lower resistance.


    I had a tripplite with 4 golf cart batts wired to 48 volts.

    when i went to 8 batts I had to increase gauge from 2 to 0 to get proper

    charge
     
  4. ianj1

    ianj1 Junior Member

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    I run an APC1000 XL - an extended runtime unit that is designed for a longer active operational cycle - both in charging batteries and running the inverter.

    Running in Europe (Finland) at 230v, 50Hz

    It has no internal battery - just Anderson connectors on the back

    I run 4 regular 12v, 95 Ah car batteries in 2 strings of 2 (24v) and power a single PC and 5-6 monitors (yes i did say 5-6) , network switch, CFL desk light, etc. Normal operation loads the UPS to about 50%, but on power saving the monitors shut down and the setup drops to about 25% UPS load (I have to leave the PC on as its acting as a server and must be up all the time)

    We have regular brown outs locally - some nights in the year its like Christmas tree lights flashing, but we do lose it for 3-5 hours several times a year. The batteries are only 6 months old, purchased new as a set together - and on my last discharge test i got bored waiting for them to discharge after about 8-10 hours, i stopped before the charge level dropped low enough to threaten the battery condition. The down side is the time taken to recharge the batteries - 15 hours+ at last check

    I also have a generator (we lost power for 5 days last Christmas) and just acquiring a hefty 24v truck battery charger to boost the battery pack up (disconnected of course) to 70-80% in 5 or 6 hours instead of 14+ so we don't need to run the generator all day if/when it happens again. In that case we would ensure we had real good ventilation.

    We had to disable the alerts with PowerChute as the alarm still fire off non stop after about 10 minutes even though the UPS itself still registers 95%+ charge left

    Not given any problems yet - works like a charm

    Just a last note - when watching battery voltages they were dropping fairly linearly and there was reasonable correlation between indicated charge level remaining from the UPS on PowerChute and my guesstimate based on measured power consumption during the test. The voltages dropped maybe 2-3v (from 27.9v at main power, fully charged) immediately on initial load - then didn't budge for a few hours and dropped steadily after that. I pulled the test at something near 20% remaining capacity
     
    #54 ianj1, Dec 10, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2012
  5. ianj1

    ianj1 Junior Member

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    As a quick experiment i just did a quick discharge/recharge test
    I pulled the main power at 20:32 until 21:10 - about 40 minutes
    The UPS fans kicked in and dropped the UPS temp by 12+ degrees immediately and stayed on until the battery was recharged which took about 60-70 mins to reach initial voltage, after which the charging current clearly tailed off over a short period

    Ambient temp was 20-25 C (its -5c outside - i opened the window for a while and the cold flooded in and dropped to the floor where the UPS was - hence some of the temp variation) Once charged the UPS cooling fans switch off and the UPS internals stabilise around 36c

    The power usage drawn from the UPS was was about 350-360w and the power used BY the UPS when recharging was around 550w - so about 190-200w additional when recharging batteries - that tallies with the recharge time noted

    Remember this is 2x2 x 12v, 95Ah regular sealed lead acid car starter batteries so about 190Ah at 24v - or thereabouts

    After 40 mins on UPS powerchute software showed about 90% remaining charge

    Code:
    
    Time		Input   Battery   UPS      UPS
    		Voltage Voltage  Load%   Temp C
    22:50:05	228.8	   27.87	53.0	34.2 
    22:35:05	230.1	   27.87	59.2	27.9
    22:20:05	227.5	   27.87	55.6	22.5 topping off charge
    22:05:05	227.5	   27.47	51.4	27.0
    21:50:05	224.9	   27.06	52.0	26.1
    21:45:13	227.5	   27.06	52.0	25.6
    21:40:13	226.2	   27.06	51.4	25.2
    21:35:13	224.9	   27.06	52.0	24.7
    21:30:13	226.2	   26.93	51.4	24.3
    21:25:13	230.1	   26.93	51.4	22.9
    21:20:13	228.8	   26.93	51.4	21.1
    21:15:13	227.5	   26.66	51.4	19.8
    21:15:00	227.5	   26.66	51.4	19.8
    21:14:00	227.5	   26.66	51.4	19.8
    21:13:00	227.5	   26.52	51.4	20.2
    21:12:00	227.5	   26.39	51.4	20.2
    21:11:00	226.2	   26.12	51.4	20.7
    21:10:00	227.5	   24.90	49.9	20.7 reconnected power
    21:09:00	0.0	   24.90	51.4	20.7
    21:05:35	0.0	   24.90	55.6	21.6
    21:00:35	0.0	   24.90	49.9	22.5
    20:55:35	0.0	   24.90	50.4	23.8
    20:50:35	0.0	   24.90	50.4	25.6
    20:47:43	0.0	   24.90	50.4	27.0
    20:32:43	0.0	   24.77	51.4	36.9 disconnected power
    20:17:43	231.4	   27.87	57.2	37.3
    20:02:43	228.8	   27.87	53.0	37.3
    19:47:43	230.1	   27.87	53.0	37.3
    19:32:43	228.8	   27.87	53.0	36.9
    19:17:43	228.8	   27.87	53.0	36.9
    
     
    #55 ianj1, Dec 10, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2012
  6. Infiltratr

    Infiltratr Junior Member

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    Hi There!!

    This is a fantastic tread!

    I am in the same boat. I have an APC 1500 that is currently running fine on internal batteries, however I want to get much more runtime out of it!

    At the moment, I get about 2 hours runtime out it, which is fine, but I really want to run them on battery for about 6 hours (the longer the better actually).

    What I want is for the UPS to run on mains for 18 hours a day and ups for 6 hours a day, every day. Its not about backup power for me - but giving me time to let the generator cool down every day (my mains is generator powered because of where its located).

    Would the Optima Yellow tops be the ones to use for this???
     
  7. Googer

    Googer Lifer

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    If you have one of their commercial smart UPS, APC makes a battery pack that should plug in to the back of your 1500 and each pack can be daisy chained.

    Cable for the pack. Pack URL will be posted when I know the model of your UPS.
    http://www.apc.com/products/resource/include/techspec_index.cfm?base_sku=SMX039-2

    Possiblity one:
    http://www.apc.com/resource/include/techspec_index.cfm?base_sku=br24bp

    Possiblity two:
    http://www.apc.com/resource/include/techspec_index.cfm?base_sku=SU48R3XLBP

    Possiblity three:
    http://www.officedepot.com/a/produc...echnology+Batteries_Power_Protection-_-162530
     
    #57 Googer, Jan 10, 2013
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2013
  8. Googer

    Googer Lifer

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    You can get a newer unit with the same v/a capacity, but a newer low end unit will out put square wave AC vs the Smart UPS line is a true Sine Wave unit. The smart line is also much more robustly made than typical home units.The difference can really affect certain types of electronics.
     
  9. ianj1

    ianj1 Junior Member

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    Be careful about using the regular APC 1500 - The XL version has uprated components to the charger AND inverter, allowing it to run long duty cycles - i don't think a regular APC 1500 would last for long on long cycles - also watch out for the noise - when the UPS is on the cooling fans kick in - you will need to move it out of earshot. Last think is to make sure you disable the low battery alarm - or you will go insane after 15 mins - i made up a special cable and used powerchute to disable the alarm permanantly
     
  10. Googer

    Googer Lifer

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    If it's one of those cheap back-ups models, the internal compoents are very low grade compared to the basic units of the Smart-ups line.
     
  11. Red Squirrel

    Red Squirrel Lifer

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    My current setup still working nicely, though I've only been through one large power outage since (about 5 hours), I even have it setup so I can monitor the battery voltages so I can shut down stuff.

    [​IMG]

    Thats done with arduino, and a monitoring program I've been working on. I found all the existing solutions either too complicated to setup, or lacking of features.

    Once I build a proper battery shelf I want to also buy my own cable crimper and raw cable/ends to make my own cables so I can space the batteries the way I want. Right now I'm restricted by the short cables so I can't build a shelf with say, 4 batteries on top of 4 more as the cables are too short to space the batteries that way. My goal is to have about 12 hour reserve. Gives me enough time to figure out an alternate power solution (such as generator) if shit hits the fan. I can't afford to let my main server go down as it's very old hardware and every single time I've shut it down I ended up having to replace parts to get it back up.


    Eventually I want to get a 48vdc setup with more capacity so I can put my office workstation on it as well as my entertainment system. If power goes out and I'm in the middle of watching a movie or something, no problem.
     
  12. smico

    smico Junior Member

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    Hi everybody.

    I found this forum yesterday, and I was very impressed with knowledge of the group. You guys are working on the project that I have planned to do for some time...

    I bought APC SmartUPS 1500 with dead battery, and 6 AGM 96Ah batteries that I will get tomorrow.

    Sorry if I post already referenced links, but there are many excellent videos on the subject on youtube from user knurlgnar24 www.youtube.com/user/knurlgnar24

    Also user Tesla500 has some very good videos on subject how to simply improve the APC UPS: www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJj3H00idh0

    If you find videos useful, please subscribe to the users. I think that they get paid by number of subscribers, and this is well deserved.


    Red Squirrel,

    Is that Open Source project with Arduino, or you are doing it for yourself?
    Do you measure temperature of the batteries?

    Thanks
    smico
     
  13. Joehacker

    Joehacker Junior Member

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    Have picked up a Powerware 9170 system but battery are shot and was wondering if I could use car batteries or deep cycle ones it the cabinet? The batteries were hooked up 2 strings of 5 batteries each wire to produce 120 volts. The battery were Sealed, maintenance-free, valve-regulated, lead-acid at 12 volts each.
     
    #63 Joehacker, Dec 2, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2014
  14. MongGrel

    MongGrel Lifer

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    I've one of those old APC Back-UPS 1500 digital I should look into getting a new battery for.

    Have too delve into that one.
     
  15. Gillbot

    Gillbot Lifer

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    Wow necro thread.

    Yes, you can use them but as you read above, it isn't advised. Just read through here, search on Google and decide for yourself if the risk is worth it.
     
  16. adam6979

    adam6979 Junior Member

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    Just wanted to finally post pics and add my two cents. I saw this 2 years ago and ordered the Rack Mounted Smart UPS 1400. I have it hooked up to 2 car batteries and it works flawlessly. I have it back up two pellet stoves long enough to allow me to either shut down the stoves (warmer weather) or hookup the generator (cold weather). I have been very happy with this. Since I am in the used car part business I have a regular supply of good 12V batteries. In 2 years I have had to change 1 battery. I get about 2 hours out of the two batteries.


    This forum wont let me add a pic but here is a link to my setup... hope it helps.

    http://postimg.org/image/5n7gbwqqz/
    [​IMG]
     
    #66 adam6979, Dec 17, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2014
  17. Red Squirrel

    Red Squirrel Lifer

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    My setup is still going strong, I have 4 batteries now and they are setup better than my original pics.

    My cable management is kinda meh though, but that telcoflex is tough to work with, it's very stiff and in a telco application is not being bended to such short distances.

    [​IMG]
    Power Distribution

    [​IMG]
    Power Distribution

    [​IMG]
    Safety switches and power meter (amp function does not work, I still need to fix that)

    [​IMG]
    Battery enclosure

    [​IMG]
    Inverter charger (works same as a UPS)

    [​IMG]
    Batteries

    In the future I want to upgrade this to a -48v telco style dual conversion system though. Also need to find a better containment system for the batteries, probably something custom fit for those shelves, that way I could put 4 batteries per shelf.

    A few tips for anyone who does want to go big with something like this:

    - Remember, batteries produce hydrogen when they charge, if it's open air like my system you're more than likely fine but DO have a hydrogen detector around. Some kind of HRV system is not a bad idea. When I enclose my server room I will be building one. I already have an intake and exhaust vent going outside.

    - You need to check water level once in a while. Add a bit of distilled water to each cell. I check mine maybe once every 1-2 years. Depends how often they're cycled.

    - Avoid sources of sparks near batteries, that includes any fuses. Fuses should be far enough from the batteries but close enough that there is nothing that can cause a dead short before the fuses.

    The 3 above tips don't apply if you use gel/sealed cells but I think the point of doing this is to save money, if you are buying 100AH gel cells you can probably afford a 25kw standby generator. :p

    - Use deep cycle batteries and not actual car batteries. Though, car batteries will work if you can source them out really cheap, but I would not let the voltage drop too much. Maybe 11.5v? And not more than that. With the deep cycles I try not to let it go below 11. When voltage is hovering around 11 and 11.1 I start to consider shutting stuff down. Usually I'll shut everything down but the file server and see if the voltage holds at 11.1 for longer. When it stays at 11 or even starts to go towards 10.9 range you want to shut everything down. My inverter-charger actually shuts off on it's own around that time with no warning, so it's usually cutting it close if I still have any equipment running. Usually play it by ear like if it's a scheduled power outage and it's suppose to be back in 5 minutes I might wait it out and see if power comes back. It's a game of roulette though, had a server drop hard because of that once.
     
    #67 Red Squirrel, Dec 21, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2014
  18. master_shake_

    master_shake_ Diamond Member

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    I hate you red squirrel....

    You have one of the coolest setups ever.
     
  19. Red Squirrel

    Red Squirrel Lifer

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    Hehe thanks. Perks of being single and owning a house. :biggrin:
     
  20. Gillbot

    Gillbot Lifer

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    I gave up on mine and just ordered the appropriate sized sealed cells. The car batteries worked perfectly but it was a pain to move everything around when I redid my server setup.

    I dismantled my server and went to an itx system with a nas to reduce power demand. The power draw on the new setup is so low compared to the old setup that a switch to appropriate sized cells made more sense thus allowing me to compact everything into a much smaller footprint. I should get new pics but I'm lazy.
     
  21. phasseshifter

    phasseshifter Senior member

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    a auto car battery is not for ups use..it has a fast discharge and fast recharge cycle ..a deep cycle battery is what is required .. if you can adapt one for your unit..i see the heavy terminals at the rear you may have to take the cover of it and modify it to take a different capacity battery.. as a second hand battery of the deep cycle type is just that second hand..they are generally sealed type and once used that it is that ... they have limited amount of recharge cycles...
     
  22. Red Squirrel

    Red Squirrel Lifer

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    Yeah when I originally posted "car battery" was more a generic term for a big ass lead acid 12v battery. Definitely want to use deep cycle and not an actual starting battery.

    Car batteries would work but probably not last very long in terms of actual charge and in terms of life. I'd only use them if you can get them really cheap or free. Ex: if you work at a garage and can practically just pickup slightly used ones for free (with permission!) then go nuts.

    The ones I'm using are RV/marine batteries. Not exactly the best but half decent. They're kind of a hybrid between a starting battery and deep cycle battery. Canadian Tire had like 20+ to choose from and I just picked that one somewhat randomly while ensuring it said deep cycle. Now I only buy that particular model to keep them all the same.
     
  23. phasseshifter

    phasseshifter Senior member

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    yeah i sort of realised that the post heading was a bit wrong in what your post is about from your pics it does look great and home brew is always never the tidyest..it just evolves from your mind as its built as u go along..i run a solar system with 280A/H at 24 volt it is normal to see the voltage at 28 or a bit higher under charge...i have 8 70 a/h batterys with a wind generator regulator that i modifed by removing the bridge diode packs ...so it was handy i found that..i use a 1kw pure sine wave constant inverter to run my machine and screen and other stuff....
     
  24. Gillbot

    Gillbot Lifer

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    This isn't directed at anyone in particular, but more of a generic reply. I believe I covered this in one of my replies above, and if not, o-well.

    They work ok, they are not ideal and their life may be reduced, however, they will be fine. On the old setup I had, i took the battery out of my daily driver and paired it with another used battery I had sitting in my garage. They ended up lasting several years on ups duty, then went right back into cars when they needed in a pinch. They continued on starting those cars for several more years with no apparent issues.

    I always recommend sealed deep cycle cells, but as stated, if you have access to really cheap ones, go for it.
     
  25. Ramses

    Ramses Platinum Member

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    This brings back memories. Years ago I had one of those big old school steel case APC boxes and ran a pair of sealed gel cell car battery sized units on it that were actual UPS batteries that were pulled from above the water line of a flooded data center UPS setup.
    That thing ran forever on batteries, it was such a cool cheap hack. If I had the room and space and need I'd totally go that way again.