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Tag Archive for ‘Uninterruptible Power Supply’

Preparing for Power Outages

Michael Steeber, in his recent piece for 9 to 5 Mac, wrote about his experience during a three day power outage:

Going off the grid for a camping trip or hike in the woods can be relaxing. When traveling, airports and hotels are designed to minimize the stress of finding an outlet or a free WiFi connection. But at home, I was totally unprepared. My job relies on a constant connection, so beyond loitering at Starbucks, I learned to take full advantage of the power and data saving features of iOS and macOS to get by. I also discovered a few opportunities for software improvements that would make situations like mine less of a headache.

There’s a lot of good information and tips in this article and if you rely on electricity and internet access like many of us do, it would be wise to give it a read.

At my day job I work from home as a Happiness Engineer for Automattic. A few months ago I made some strides toward preparing for power outages, so I can continue working with minimal disruption. It comes down to two products that I’ve purchased, which I can use to power my most important devices and a bit of software to round it all out.

Ego Nexus Escape: A 150W power inverter that uses the same batteries as our lawn mower and string trimmer (which I highly recommend, by the way). We have a 5Ah and a 2.5Ah battery that can be used to charge my MacBook Air, an iPhone, or just about any other device you can think of.

I haven’t done any testing to know exactly how many charges I can get out of it for my devices, but it helped me through an hour long power outage a few weeks ago. I ran my MacBook off of its internal battery while the Nexus powered my iPhone, which I used for tethering.

CyberPower Uninterruptible Power Supply: We have our Eero base station, modem, and Mac Mini home server run through this. And in the event of a power outage, it gives us about 90–120 minutes to safely shutdown the Mac Mini and run the modem and router off of the UPS’s built-in battery.

It might seem odd to continue using your home internet connection when the power is out. But there are definitely situations when that is possible — depending on what exactly is causing the outage and where the problem is located. We weren’t able to continue using our home WiFi during the most recent outage. But being able to safely shutdown the Mac Mini could help prevent data loss — we have all of our photos, music, and videos saved on the Mac Mini. And although we have backups, in an ideal world we’ll never need to restore from those.

On the software side of things, I’ve installed Turbo Boost Switcher Pro, which I have setup to automatically disable Turbo Boost when my MacBook Air’s battery goes below 20%. And in cases of power outages, I can use the app to toggle Turbo Boost off at will.

Marco Arment wrote about using the app to improve battery life on his MacBook Pro and found that disabling Turbo Boost allowed for about 25% more battery life compared to when it was enabled.

But the real MVP during power outages is Personal Hotspot. Having access to a backup internet connection is so important because I literally can’t work without it. During that hour long power outage I was able to communicate in Slack, work with users over live chat, and perform any other tasks I needed to. The connection itself was about one-third the speed of my home connection, but that didn’t make a difference in practice.

The biggest concern that most would have in regards to Personal Hotspot is data caps, but I’ve been a longtime proponent of unlimited data plans. My wife and I clung to our old school AT&T unlimited plans until they raised the price beyond what we were willing to pay a year or two ago. But at that point we moved to one of their newer unlimited plans. With these plans AT&T reserves the right to slow us down after we go beyond 21GB in a single month, but that’s a heck of a lot of data. Unless there was an extremely long power outage, I don’t think it’s something I’d ever actually hit.

All of this combines to be, what I’d consider, a fairly robust plan for power outages. I don’t have a good handle on exactly how long I’d be able to make it without internet or electricity, but I’d venture to guess I could make it through at least a few days without having a negative impact on my work. Which for me, is the goal I was aiming for.

Putting Your Home Network on an Uninterruptible Power Supply ➝

A great home networking tip from Ben Brooks:

Put your entire network on battery backup. It’s rare that the power goes out these days, but there have been a handful of interruptions to my area of late — lasting about two hours each time. My network, and thus my internet, stays up and online the entire time. Which means I can still work without burning through a data plan.

I love this idea. I have 10GB of tethering data available from AT&T each month now, but I wouldn’t mind having faster speeds during the rare instances when the power’s out.