An uninterruptible power supply or uninterruptible power source (UPS) is an electrical apparatus that provides emergency power to a load when the input power source or mains power fails. A UPS differs from an auxiliary or emergency power system or standby generator in that it will provide near-instantaneous protection from input power interruptions, by supplying energy stored in batteries, super capacitors, or flywheels. The on-battery run-time of most uninterruptible power sources is relatively short (only a few minutes) but sufficient to start a standby power source or properly shut down the protected equipment. It is a type of continual power system.
A UPS is typically used to protect hardware such as computers, data centres, telecommunication equipment or other electrical equipment where an unexpected power disruption could cause injuries, fatalities, serious business disruption or data loss. UPS units range in size from units designed to protect a single computer without a video monitor (around 200 volt-ampere rating) to large units powering entire data centres or buildings.
The primary role of any UPS is to provide short-term power when the input power source fails. However, most UPS units are also capable in varying degrees of correcting common utility power problems:
- Voltage spike or sustained overvoltage
- Momentary or sustained reduction in input voltage
- Noise, defined as a high frequency transient or oscillation, usually injected into the line by nearby equipment
- Instability of the mains frequency
- Harmonic distortion, defined as a departure from the ideal sinusoidal waveform expected on the line.