UPS vs Generator

How the Rising Fuel Price Can Impact Whether You Get a UPS or a Generator

The rising fuel price is forcing companies to look at various cost-saving options, one of which is backup power solutions. We take a look at a UPS vs generator and which is more cost-effective.  Often for large critical installations that require long backup times, there would be a combination of both UPS and generator installed.

What is a UPS?

If you need to protect your electrical equipment and ensure data is saved during a power outage, then an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) is a good investment. Consisting of a battery and inverter, the UPS senses a power loss and the battery supplies power, thereby allowing data to be saved before shutting down. This process is a No-Break solution.

What is a generator?

This is a standalone machine that provides electricity, allowing for the continuous use of electric devices when the power from the local grid isn’t available. This is done by converting mechanical energy into electrical energy. Generator electrical power is switched by means of manual or automated change-over switches.

Elements that factor into the cost of UPS vs generator

1. Battery vs fuel costs

A generator understandably becomes more expensive to run as the fuel price increases. A standard 5 000-watt generator will consume about 66 litres of Fuel in 24 hours. At the current fuel price, that works out to over R1 000 a day. Larger generators can consume up to 50 litres an hour resulting in increased costs. Realistically, however, a generator shouldn’t run for more than 8 hours at a time, so the amount should be lower, particularly when load shedding isn’t being implemented. You can also invest in more energy-efficient models for lower fuel consumption. The generator solution is best suited for long-duration backup times.

The UPS backup power solution relies on batteries and, while these aren’t necessarily inexpensive, they do last for years. The modern lithium batteries can last up to 15 years before needing replacement and are also an incredibly energy-efficient option. If your battery malfunctions for any reason and needs replacement, then you are possibly looking at a high replacement cost, hence the UPS solution is best suited for shorter run times to minimise the battery capacity required.

2. Physical space and installation

Your particular backup power needs will determine the size of the UPS or generator device that you need. A UPS device with a large battery bank will need a dedicated room with air conditioning to ensure the device remains at the correct temperature. This means you will need to factor in the cost of space, cooling plus maintenance when considering a UPS. However, a generator solution, which will also require substantial space, ventilation and maintenance will not necessarily need such specialised conditions for storage. 

3. Initial cost and maintenance costs 

When comparing prices, a generator is generally more expensive upfront and also involves more ongoing maintenance costs than a UPS device. There are obviously a wide range of both UPS and generator solutions, with varying capabilities and related costs as well. 

Both generator and UPS devices provide backup power supply which protect electronic devices from damage and saves valuable data. Where the UPS delivers instant backup power supply, it doesn’t last as long as a generator, so it really does depend on your particular backup power requirements. Consult with reputable suppliers about the various applications of UPS vs generators as well as the costs involved before deciding on a backup power solution. 

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