harnessing the power of photography for good

Tech Tuesday 04/27/10: No Power, No Digital Photos

We depend so much on the power we take for granted.  It is when it is unavailable or causes us problems that we really start to think about how complex and involved our grid really is to deliver.  Have you ever been involved in a rolling blackout?  Or maybe there is a blackout in your area and you want to know when power will be restored?  I work in the telecommunications world as my primary job and it is a part of what I do to stay informed on the health of multiple networks .  Here are a couple links to start off this article that you might find interesting and always make a good bookmark.

The first is a frequently updated outage page produced by SDG&E .

The second is for when power demands are greater than supply.  This link is updated live by the California ISO.  Great to monitor during the summer when A/C demand goes up and we run the risk of rolling blackouts.

My tech tip for this week is how are you prepared for the inevitable loss of electricity?   Do you know what to do with all of that expensive photo equipment that is hooked up to the grid?  Yea you know the processing tools like your computer, printers, and battery chargers!

Well the least expensive thing you can do is to get a surge suppressor.  Don’t get a cheap one at Wally World or Everything Under A Buck store.  You have probably spent hundreds if not thousands of dollars in gear don’t cheap out on the protection.   A good surge suppressor should be UL listed and have ratings on them to indicate their level of protection.  Here is what to look for:

Joule Rating = At least 1000 joules.

Response Time – Less than 1 nanosecond

Learn more about ratings through Wikipedia.

A surge suppressor is a must for not just your computer equipment but also your TV, stereo, and any other expensive electronics you have at home or work.  Protect them or else you may lose them to a sudden surge on the line.  Even if they are off they are still susceptible to line issues.

Unfortunately they will not protect you against brownouts (low voltage) or other line problems.  For more serious protection get a UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply).  These cost a little more but offer so much more protection.  They usually include very good surge suppressors but also contain a backup battery.  Be aware though because all UPS devices are not made the same and price is not always an indicator.   I won’t get too technical but there are different electrical waveforms and some devices do better on one type than another.  There are several good manufacturers out there but I prefer APC over all others for price and reliability.  No I don’t get any kickbacks from them although if anyone from APC is reading this please send your donations to Miles Ahead in support of our mission trips.

What to look for depends on your budget and needs.  The more equipment you have hooked up to a UPS or the longer you want to keep them running when the power goes out will increase the price.  Many come with software that will automatically shutdown your equipment gracefully before the battery dies.  The good news is you can usually find one for most home use for anywhere from $40-100.

Here is what I am running now on my computer:  APC 450 ES

Well I hope that helps you out being that the summer season for rolling blackouts is coming.  Luckily I live on a portion of the grid that is attached to a hospital so I shouldn’t be a part of a rolling blackout but I am still prepared  just in case.  I would rather sacrifice $50 in protection gear instead of $1000s in equipment.  Remember the worst part may not be losing the data you were working on but the spike that comes when the power comes back on after an outage.

(Disclaimer:  The above recommendations are made in good faith and don’t cover acts of our Almighty God or by the challenges that we may face while doing His work!  Your experience may vary based on preparedness and other conditions in which prayer is undoubtedly best suited to help you cope with issues.)


Jim Wanglund

Rock Photographer

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