The Night Our House Almost Burned Down
Computer Backup Power May Set Your House on Fire China Syndrome?
June 12, 2012
Friday night Stan and I experienced what could have been a tragedy. Let this serve as a heads up to all using a UPS unit - Uninterrupted Power Supply box. If you're unfamiliar with this term, this appliance gives you automatic battery backup power if electricity goes off. When power is squashed, a UPS box transfers to backup power without even a blink. The only way you even know you're on reserve power is a quick beep signalling the unit is operational. It lets you keep all of your computer work without crashes and lost data nightmares. For example, if you're in the middle of writing email, detailing corporate work, copying material, working up a sales presentation, downloading books, streaming movies, or just doing normal computer stuff, it gives the user another 30 minutes of uninterrupted user time (depending on how many in your family are hooked to the system) so no data or work is lost. It has saved our behinds on numerous occasions.
Around 8 p.m., I walked by the door to our home office and smelled something "off". Couldn't put my finger on it but... Ugh! What is that smell? The odor was like something burning, but not. Stan thought it smelled like burned hair.
Since I hadn't used a flatiron, hot rollers or caught my hair on fire recently (that's another story), we were stumped. Going into the office, the stench got stronger and was immediately traced to our UPS unit. It was so hot, you literally couldn't touch it. It was fiery hot! Stan called it a 57 pound hot potato!
Our UPS isn't overly burdened with too many plug-ins for its capacity: a couple of Macs, 4 screens, 2 TVs, fax, printer, modem, and wireless. Not only that, but in the 2 1/2 years we've had this UPS, it's only been called to perform twice. The stench obviously wasn't burned hair. It was sulfuric acid leaking from the advertised supposedly sealed battery.
Now maybe it's a testament to crummier Chinese manufacturing, but our first UPS unit lasted 9 years. That battery died; it didn't become a fire threat like this one.
One Potato, Two Potato, It's a Hot Potato!
Using insulated heat resistant BBQ gloves, Stan carried it outside and set it on the driveway so the house wouldn't catch fire. It was that hot! If we had been gone for the day, let alone on vacation, the results would have been tragic. This is brought home more clearly by fellow Coloradans and our New Mexico neighbors to the south who have lost everything in these monster fires. There's no way one could begin to list everything that would need replacing. Needless to say, it's best not to experience this type disaster in the first place.
The next morning he took the UPS apart and found the battery to be a unit about 6" x 6". By now, the battery was cool, but the fire hazard was obvious. All sides of the heavy-duty plastic housing had heat-warped and the front panel showed bubbling yellow evidence of leaked sulfuric acid.
What to do...
On APC's site, they charge $180 for the replacement battery only. On Amazon it's $76. That should tell you something about the company's ethics.
Lost in Translation
When Stan called APC yesterday (Monday), he got some Indian "customer service" person. Typically, it was someone he could barely understand who claimed his name was "David". Right.
APC stands for American Power Conversion. Another U.S. company that's traded its soul to outsourcing.
Ours is not the only problem with APC.
The manager of Berkey Water is a personal friend, as is the owner. When Stan spoke with Adam this morning, amazingly he had experienced a similar problem. He now uses another UPS company, Tripp Lite, for which the same amount of backup power costs half as much as APC. With that in mind, Stan was unable to find any, ANY, UPS equipment not made in Chinaland.
China is killing our quality control with inferior steel, substandard cement, poisoned food, hazardous baby products, lead-laden toys and shafting America all the way to the bank. They have bought our roads, land in Michigan, Idaho and Ohio; our car companies, banks and Treasuries, multi-million-dollar mansions and hotels, oil and gas fields and mines, our farmland (they've already bought farmland in Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela and other S. American countries), and draining our grain stockpiles while purchasing almost everything else they can get their paws on and then degrading them with inferior quality on originally superior American-made goods. I'm not bitter, just thoroughly dismayed and saddened and sickened.
Yet our politicians continue to sell us out to these Asians. It is not the people, it is the government another cog in the wheel of the New World Order. Instead of America excelling, we are dragged down into the stench of inferiority. Yet many companies, people whom we personally know, sell out to the cheaper cost of Asian crap. There's no nice way to put it. You get what you pay for and if you're willing to sell our souls for the sake of profit, business owners and these companies will have to answer for it either here or hereafter.
I have spent considerable time in China, Japan and Taiwan. The people are wonderful, honest, gracious. It is their government that is at fault, as is ours, not the people.
Back to the UPS Box
Let this be a warning to all. If you expect to be away from your computer for even a day, unplug your UPS box. If you're not using it, backup power is unnecessary anyway. Play it safe.
Imagine if you were on vacation for 2 weeks and came home to your house burned to the ground. What a horrific and avoidable tragedy! It's like when you go away, always shut off the water line to your washing machine. No one needs a preventable flood.
Simple, easy measures circumvent a lot of heartache and with China's red paws on everything, it's even more important. Look at their track record stated above. They are like IRS, they aren't your friendly Uncle. They are the grim reaper waiting for you to die and get out of the way.