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Let The Midnight Special Shine Its Light On Me...
& Richard Perez ©2001 Joe Schwartz & Richard Perez
Which one of these houses is yours? Blackout protection lets you decide when the lights go out.
Rolling blackouts have become a regular occurrence for many
electric utility customers in California. Drought conditions in much of the Pacific Northwest have radically reduced hydroelectric generation utilized up and down the West Coast. As a result, the states of Oregon and Washington face a steadily increasing probability of being dragged into California’s energy debacle. Lack of both transmission and generation capacity in Illinois, Michigan, Delaware, and New York may plague the residents of these states with blackouts in the near future.
An inverter/battery-based uninterruptible power supply (UPS) will provide blackout-proof power to your home. This system will keep your electric appliances up and running during utility blackouts caused by acts of nature such as storms, or by acts of man such as utility
irresponsibility. This article provides all the specifics for a basic UPS system. We call this blackout buster the “Midnight Special.”
The system is both modular and expandable—a larger capacity battery bank or renewable energy inputs can easily be added to the system. The basic Midnight Special costs about US$6,000, and that includes professional installation.
We chose a Trace SW series inverter as the central component of this UPS system. An inverter-based grid backup system uses utility power, when it’s available, to charge a battery bank. When a blackout occurs, selected loads are automatically transferred to the inverter. The inverter’s main job is to take a battery’s linear DC waveform and create a digital representation of an AC sine wave. This is the waveform that your household appliances are designed to run on.
During a power outage, the inverter uses the energy stored in the batteries to power household loads. When the grid comes back online, the loads are automatically transferred back to grid power. Then the inverter’s battery charger goes to work and recharges the batteries, so the system is ready to go when the next blackout rolls around.
34 Home Power #84 • August / September 2001
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