UPS Business

If cloth-banner advertisement were a measure of success, the UPS business in Karachi has seen unprecedented growth during 2006 and continues the pace this year as well. Once considered an expensive accessory exclusive to sensitive computer devices, printers and fax machines, a mutated local incarnation of UPS devices has found new uses – and a huge new customer base.
Building on the fact that cheaper UPS can work as reservoirs of power for the not-so-sensitive appliances such as ceiling fans and tube-lights, the local technicians have flooded the market with UPS that cost around Rs 10,000 and can typically serve a house-hold with 3 fans and 3 tube-lights for 3 hours.

So how does the cost of these ‘desi UPS’ drop down to a level that is well within the reach of the potential customer base and what enables them to work for longer hours on bigger loads?

A high grade UPS, typically recommended for computer and other sensitive equipment, is an impressive array of precision modules – a servo-motor-based input voltage regulator, a micro-controller-based switching and charging control system, a high-quality near-sinusoidal wave-form producing power electronics arrangement that mimics very closely the commercial grade AC power, a user friendly interface and optional data interface that let the UPS send its status to a PC. All this is aided by a collection of small-sized, no-maintenance sealed batteries that are there to supply the stored power for the supposed small intervals of time during which the UPS is required.
In their new desi form, the local UPS are stripped of their costly components. The servo motor of the voltage regulator is gone and replaced with a cheaper transformer, the power electronic arrangements no longer considers a sinusoidal waveform to be a necessity and instead spits out a square-wave output (which the fans and tube-lights don’t seem to mind), no more LCD display, and no more PC interface. Finally, since this animal is not being designed for ‘power interruptions’ but for ‘sustained power outages’, the sleek no-maintenance batteries have been replaced with automobile (read truck) grade, bigger batteries of 145AH or more that require constant topping up of the battery water and spit out fumes in the longer run.

The downside of the UPS thing is that the system is good for outages that happen in-frequently. The box needs to recharge itself before it can serve the promised time and load figures again. A full recharge can take 10 hours to take place. If you experience another outage before the ‘magic box’ is fully charged again, you are in for a real disappointment at the Rs 10,000 you had spent in quest of ‘uninterrupted power’.

I have also heard a few friends chatting away that despite the UPS recharge-time issue, the option is good because it does not carry any fuel cost as is the case with the generators. The recharging process consumes 1 ampere (approx 250W) for a neatly designed UPS but local variations can exceed 2 amperes (approx 500W) in an attempt to minimize the recharge time at the expense of lowered battery life and a higher electricity bill.

Given the nature of power outages in Karachi we saw in the summer of 2006, UPS is good for the entire year – except from March till November – where frequent, sustained outages will render the device useless. A petrol (or LPG or natural gas) generator might be a better choice. More on this in some other blog entry.

7 Comments so far

  1. Kashif (unregistered) on March 26th, 2007 @ 4:00 pm

    I have bought one desi UPS last year (march-april) for 12K (including battery and installation) and it is providing alternate power to 2 lights and 2 fans since. I have tested it up to 10 hours of supply.

  2. Zainub (unregistered) on March 26th, 2007 @ 4:05 pm

    Generators = massive noise pollution. Unless the tech guy can come up with some means to attach a silencer to it, I’ll continue to try and convince my family to invest in a solar panel.

  3. mansoor (unregistered) on March 26th, 2007 @ 6:27 pm

    they are a real godsend in this city. its funny how many ‘additional’ means we have to resort to in order to have one of our rights :D

  4. Adnan Siddiqi (unregistered) on March 26th, 2007 @ 10:47 pm

    There is a good shop just oppostive to Naveed Clinic Saddar. They provide good and reliable UPS.

    @Kashif: I also heard by so many people that desi UPS are much better than the branded UPs though never tried it.

    BTW, in the first pic, is it written “Loadsheding ko Hai Hai[urdu wala] or Loadsheding ko Bye Bye?”

  5. Sufi (unregistered) on March 27th, 2007 @ 2:59 am

    I like generators better. UPS are terrible. You can even run air conditioners on generators. All new homes should install a generator in the house, its a must have for Karachi.

  6. Adnan Siddiqi (unregistered) on March 27th, 2007 @ 10:07 am

    I wonder noone here made any post regarding firing of KESC CEO frank schmidt?

  7. GI Joe (unregistered) on March 28th, 2007 @ 12:43 pm

    I use my desi UPS to power cordless phones, DSL modem, wifi-router, TV, fans / other boring stuff and what not. And I love it :)

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