The AV550SC backup power block from Tripp Lite, Chicago, fits in the bottom left corner of a structured wiring enclosure without the need for mounting screws or brackets.

As audio/video components and control systems become increasingly more computerized and digital, the importance of uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs) is growing. Sales of them are up and proving a triple win for dealers, manufacturers and customers.

The biggest benefit of any UPS, points out Dean Lopes, owner of The Audio/Visual Guy Inc., Port Saint Lucie, Fla., is equipment longevity. Living in what he terms “the lightning capital of the world,” Lopes’ sales are picking up as customers recognize the need for UPSs more readily.

“We have a lot of lightning storms in Florida,” he declares. “Power flicks off and on during the strikes, and people want to protect themselves. UPS is easy to sell because they see the problem.”

Even north in Pompton Plains, N.J., Ralph Scrofani, president of Home Systems, agrees. “Many areas we work in have frequent power outages,” he explains. He has been installing UPSs for about five years, but in the last two, his company has been using them more frequently.

“They’re becoming a staple for me within the last year,” Scrofani notes. “We now have a policy that if it has a processor, we’re putting a UPS on it.”

Equipment with processors he mentions include cable boxes, satellite receivers with DVRs built in and all types of servers for media, DVDs and music.

Even customers with their own power generators should be eyeing UPS, Scrofani advises. “If the power goes out and the generator goes on, there’s an inrush of current,” he points out.

“You really don’t want to have that situation where a component with a processor in it is denied power and then is rushed with power, because it leads to lock-ups,” Scrofani recommends. “We combine a UPS with surge protection equipment to ensure devices are supplied with clean, constant power.”

Lopes points out that equipment likes a steady flow of electricity, and that digital light projection (DLP) televisions are especially sensitive.

“When the power goes off, the light bulb doesn’t like to be cooked again,” Lopes asserts. “UPS really helps these TVs, all TVs really, because flickering and power surges just are not good. The backups are great for that.”

UPS also is great for increasing revenue. “Every little bit helps,” Scrofani notes. “You don’t make money on plasmas, but you can make money on the accessories. UPS is an effective and necessary add-on for some customers and also increases profits.”

Adds Lopes, “It’s another little piece that really helps the customer’s equipment, and it’s an extra little piece of the pie in your pocket, too.”

Although many integrators are reaping the revenues UPSs can deliver, some still just are flirting with them. Dennis Sage of Dennis Sage Home Entertainment, Phoenix, sells only about a dozen or so UPSs annually. “Most of them land in our custom projects,” he reports.

“We just don’t sell many products that have a need for UPS,” he maintains. “Most products that have volatile memories and are best served by UPSs like computers, phones, servers and media centers are not our core products, but we feel that this will change soon.

“The ones we have sold are typically for our phone systems,” he notes. “We do feel as our industry evolves with products like the media centers, we will sell more of them.”

An issue Sage cites is the expense. Some customers are hesitating when the cost versus benefit is weighed. But obviously, the more expensive the equipment, the more likely customers will be to reach into their pockets to protect it.

A fairly broad price range of UPSs is available that afford many choices for customers and a lot of added revenue potential for dealers.

Mark Pavlovich (left) and Lee Bajrami (right) of Home Systems, Pompton Plains, N.J., work on rack assembly/programming in the production room for a system that uses an uninterruptible power supply (UPS).

Surge of Popularity

Manufacturers are getting charged up about the increasing sales of their UPS product lines. Furman Sound LLC, Petaluma, Calif., reports its UPS sales are practically doubling annually due to increased demand.

In the last five years, American Power Conversion (APC), West Kingston, R.I., has seen UPS sales surge from 1.3 billion to more than 2 billion. Tripp Lite, Chicago, also has realized tremendous growth in this category.

Many of the typical price ranges for UPSs vary with the length of backup time, the amount of power they provide and their feature set. Tripp Lite’s product line can provide the installer with solutions for any size of job ranging from less than $100 to the thousands.

The cost of Tripp Lite’s products is dependent on backup time and feature set, as is Furman’s, whose suggested price range for its UPS products is $699 to $999.

APC’s prices range from $39-$99 for the Back-UPS ES line and $89-$249 for the Back-UPS RS line. The prices vary by the power and run-time they provide, as well as the data line protection, automatic voltage regulation and the number of outlets and liquid crystal displays (LCDs).

Scrofani concedes that customers occasionally question the cost of UPSs, but most have experienced lockups before and can be sold easily.

“We mention we have these UPSs, which they may already have on their computers, and make the analogy that the equipment they’re getting also have processors,” Scrofani explains. “It’s a logical segue — they understand the need to protect them.”

Lopes adds, “I’ll recommend UPSs, and people are hip to the fact that their computers need them and savvy enough to know they should add them to other equipment.”

A key component in choosing which UPS to go with is determining the amount of backup time the customer needs or wants.

“We use them, for instance, to keep a phone system operational during a power outage,” Scrofani adds. “But if they don’t have a generator, how long will the phone system work without power? There’s limited time to UPS. It’s not necessary to have a home theater going in a power outage, but the phone system is critical. Some UPSs offer as little as 15 minutes up to about an hour.”

To decide which brands to use, Lopes recommends getting hands-on with the products and specifications. “I try them in my own shop, test and compare them to see which one works better for a given application,” Lopes asserts. “It’s also important to talk to the reps.”

UPSs bring reliable power to the people. Training salespeople and technicians on the best way to explain their necessity to customers can add profits to dealers’ pockets.