UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) vs. Portable Power Station
It’s no secret that a reliable and uninterrupted power supply is crucial for any business or any person in this day and age where smartphones and digital work rule all. In the event of a power outage, an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) will protect your valuable IT equipment by providing backup electricity until the restoration of on-grid power — or at least allow you to perform a proper shutdown of your systems.
But what if you don’t have the budget for a UPS? Or what if you need to take your business on the road and work remotely? In that case, you’ll need a portable power station that you can manually plug in when the mains goes out, or you need a reliable energy source.
UPS and Portable Power Stations (PPS) can serve the same function of charging and running equipment, but the way they both work and their capabilities are significantly different. Read on to learn more about these two items and the defining differences of each.
What is a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply)?
An uninterruptible power supply, or UPS, is a backup electrical source. It’s a gadget that feeds electricity into a load during a power outage.
In contrast to an emergency generator, which uses fuel to generate electricity, a UPS already has the energy needed stored. It will provide near-instantaneous power by drawing on batteries, supercapacitors, or flywheels.
UPSs typically have short on-battery runtimes, but it’s enough to start a standby source or perform a proper shutdown. This feature is generally only used in emergencies to avoid complete loss of electricity, even if it’s only for a limited time.
The exact amount of energy that a UPS can store varies. A single computer requires less energy than an entire data center or structure. The bigger the electricity demand, the larger the UPS.
What Is a Portable Power Station?
A portable power station (PPS), also known as a backup supply source, is a device that stores energy in batteries. It can keep this electricity in reserve until needed.
A PPS generally includes one or more AC outlets and may include USB ports and DC outputs. Think of it as a mini version of a UPS you can take wherever you go. However, a PPS won’t automatically kick on in a power outage. You’ll have to manually hook them up to whatever devices you want to charge.
PPS units are perfect for road trips, camping, or anytime you need to recharge your devices away from home. They’re also great for emergencies where the electricity is out, and you need to keep your lights and appliances running.
A PPS can also be helpful in specific work situations, such as for portable power tools used for construction work at sites where electricity hasn’t been installed yet.
Like a UPS, the amount of energy a PPS can store varies. The size and weight of the unit will increase as the storage capacity increases. When choosing a PPS, you’ll want to consider how much capacity you need, how often you’ll need to use it, and what degree of portability you require.
What Are the Main Differences Between a UPS and a Portable Power Station?
Now that we’ve gone over the basics of each type of device, let’s dive into the main differences between UPS and PPS.
The most significant difference is that a UPS is designed to provide instantaneous backup energy in an unexpected outage. A portable power station functions as a mobile energy source.
A UPS will automatically turn on and provide electricity to connected devices when the primary power source fails. A PPS, on the other hand, must be manually turned on and have appliances plugged into it when needed.
A UPS will always be a backup energy source, but depending on the situation, a PPS can be a backup power source or the primary electricity source.
Another critical difference is portability. As the name suggests, you can easily transport a PPS from one location to another. UPS are much larger and not meant for moving around. They’re typically stationary devices permanently installed in a home or office.
This difference is essential to consider because it will affect where you can use each device. A UPS will make more sense if you need an instantaneous backup energy source for sensitive equipment in your home or office. But a portable power station is the way to go if you need a mobile electricity source that you can take with you on the go.
The runtime of each device also differs. A UPS is designed to provide electricity for a short time — a 350-VA unit should give you enough energy for nearly two hours. You can use this until the electricity comes back on or safely shut down your devices.
On the other hand, a portable power station can provide power for several hours or days. Its runtime on a single charge depends on the unit’s size, the devices you’re charging, and how much energy you’re consuming.
A UPS should be sufficient if you only need backup power for a short period in the event of an emergency loss. A PPS will be a better option if you need electricity for an extended time or off-grid applications.
UPS vs. Portable Power Station: Which One Should You Get?
Now that we’ve gone over the main differences between UPS and PPS, you might be wondering which one is right for you. The answer depends on your needs.
A UPS is the way to go if you’re looking for a device to provide backup electricity for sensitive equipment — like computers — in an outage. But if you need a mobile power source that can be taken with you and used anywhere — camping, at a construction site, for outdoor cooking, in an RV — a portable power station is the better option.
A UPS is generally better for stationary devices that need uninterrupted power in the event of an unexpected outage. A PPS is better for mobile devices that need to be powered or charged away from home.
Both an Uninterruptible Power Supply and a Portable Power Station can provide power in case of an emergency. UPS units are better for stationary devices that need uninterrupted supply, like CPAP machines, oxygen tanks, or computers. A portable power station is better for mobile devices that need charging away from home. A PPS is also much better suited than UPS as a home backup solution.
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