Upgrading A Cheap LX-2BUPS UPS Board To Fix Fatal Flaws

Cheap uninterruptable power supply (UPS) boards that take Li-ion cells of some description seem to have cropped up everywhere the past years. Finding use in applications such as keeping single-board computers ticking along in the case of a power failure, they would seem to be a panacea. Unfortunately most of these boards come with a series of fatal flaws, such as those that [MisterHW] found in an LX-2BUPS board obtained from AliExpress. Worst of all was the deep discharge of the Li-ion cells to below 2 V, which took some ingenuity and hard work to fix this and other problems.

The patched up XR2981 boost IC with MCP809 reset IC installed. (Credit: [MisterHW])
The patched up XR2981 boost IC with MCP809 reset IC installed. (Credit: [MisterHW])
This particular board is rated for 5V at 3A, featuring the all too common TP4056 as charging IC and the XYSemi XR2981 boost converter. Since there is no off-switch or other protections on the board, the XR2981 will happily keep operating until around 2.6V, at a rather astoundingly high idle power consumption. Because of this the fixes mostly concentrated on optimizing the XR2981, by using better resistor values (R7, R8, R9), as well as adding a 3.15V MCP809 reset IC, to reduce idle power usage of the boost converter and disable it below a safe cell voltage.

The final coup de grâce was the eviction of the red LED (D6) and replacing it with the blue LED from D2, to stop the former from draining the cell as well. With these changes in place, no-load power usage dropped from nearly 900 µA to just over 200 µA, while preventing deep discharge. Although this board now has a second life, it does raise the question of what the point of these cheap UPS boards is if you have to spend money and time on reworking them before they’re somewhat acceptable. What is your go-to solution for these boards?

Open Source DC UPS Keeps The Low-Voltage Gear Going

We all like to keep our network gear running during a power outage — trouble is, your standard consumer-grade uninterruptible power supply (UPS) tends to be overkill for routers and such. Their outlet strips built quickly get crowded with wall-warts, and why bother converting from DC to AC only to convert back again?

This common conundrum is the inspiration for [Walker]’s DC UPS design, which has some interesting features. First off, the design is open source, which of course invites tinkering and repurposing. The UPS is built for a 12 volt supply and load, but that obviously can be changed to suit your needs. The battery bank is a 4S3P design using 18650 cells, and that could be customized as well. There’s an ideal diode controller that prevents DC from back-feeding into the supply when the lights go out, and a really interesting synchronous buck-boost converter in place of the power management chip you’d normally see in a UPS. The converter chip takes a PWM signal from an RP2040; there’s also an ESP32 onboard for web server and UI duties as well as an STM32 to run the BMS. The video below discusses the design and shows a little of the build.

We’ve seen a spate of DC UPS designs lately, some more elaborate than others. This one has quite a few interesting chips that most of us don’t normally deal with, and it’s nice to see how they’re used in a practical design.

Continue reading “Open Source DC UPS Keeps The Low-Voltage Gear Going”

Second Life UPS Mark II: A UPS For Low-Voltage DC Applications

When you have a whole stack of devices and appliances that all have an AC to DC adapter and which you’d like to put on an uninterruptable power supply (UPS), you could do the obvious thing and get an off-the-shelf UPS with myriad AC outputs. In the case of a 19″ rack this means wrangling a power strip or two and any combination of differently sized AC/DC adapters into the rack, with questionable efficiency and waste heat dumped into the rack. This is where a DC-only UPS like [Maciej Grela]’s Second Life UPS Mark II provides an interesting alternative.

At its core it’s a pretty simple concept: A single 400Watt power supply handles the AC/DC conversion from mains to 24 VDC, which feeds the battery charger as well as the outputs. These outputs include 5 VDC, 12 VDC and Vrail, with the latter being either the output from the PSU, or the battery voltage. In case of AC power failure, an LT4416 dual power path controller handles the switch-over from the PSU output to the internal batteries. In the article, [Maciej] covers how the buck modules for the 12 & 5 VDC rails were sized, along with the conversion of an old rack-mounted network switch into a UPS. Continue reading “Second Life UPS Mark II: A UPS For Low-Voltage DC Applications”

Mods Turn Junk UPS Into A Long-Endurance Beast

If you’ve got a so-called uninterruptible power supply (UPS) on your system, you’re probably painfully aware that the “uninterruptible” part has some pretty serious limits. Most consumer units are designed to provide power during a black out only long enough to gracefully shut down your system. But with a few hacks like these, you can stretch that time out and turn it into a long-endurance UPS.

As many good stories do, this one starts in the trash, where [MetaphysicalEngineer] spotted an APC home office-style UPS. It was clearly labeled “broken,” but that just turned out to be a dead battery. While he could have simply replaced it with a 12-volt sealed lead-acid battery, [Meta] knew that his computer setup would quickly deplete the standard battery. A little testing showed him that a car battery would extend the run time significantly, especially if he threw in some extra cooling for the onboard inverter.

His final design uses a marine deep-cycle battery in a plastic battery box with the UPS mounted on top. The vacated battery compartment made a great place to add a cooling fan, along with a clever circuit to turn it on only when the beeper on the UPS sounds, with a bonus volume control for the annoying sound. He also added accessories to the battery box top, including a voltmeter, a USB charger, and a switched 12-volt power outlet. And kudos for the liberal use of fuses in the build; things could get spicy otherwise. The video below shows the entire build along with all the testing. [MetaphysicalEngineer] managed to triple the estimated runtime for the load he’s trying to power, so it seems like a win to us.

If your needs run more toward keeping your networking gear running through a blackout, you might want to check out this inverter-less DC UPS.

Continue reading “Mods Turn Junk UPS Into A Long-Endurance Beast”

Stay Online When The Power Goes Out With This Fiber Modem UPS Hack

It’s desirable to have your Internet connection up at all times, particularly as it can take some time to get back online if you have a power interruption or similar. [Brink] had some issues with the power supply in their apartment, so they set about whipping up a backup power solution to keep their Verizon ONT fiber modem up and running in such events.

The I-211M-L modem is actually equipped to run on backup battery power, but by default, it will only keep phone service online. Data and television services are normally switched off when the mains supply goes out. Thankfully, a minor mod to the unit’s power cable shared by [mousehunt] enables it to keep data services online when running on backup power. Grounding a bunch of pins with a strip of foil is enough to do the job.

From there, it’s a simple matter of hooking up a stout 12 V battery to the modem via its backup power connector. [Brink] specified a nifty 12 V rechargeable lithium ion pack for the job, which is sold as a portable power unit for running LED strips. Some neat cabling to keep the battery charged later, and you’ve got a working UPS setup to keep the comms online.

Combined with a UPS to run the rest of your computers and networking equipment, this is a great solution to stay online during local power outages. We’ve featured some other great UPS hacks over the years, too, like these supercap UPSs for special cases. If you’ve got your own nifty power hacks, don’t hesitate to drop us a line!

Breakers for the system on a DIN rail, with markings like 48V and 24V and 12V and so on on the bottom, and two hefty devices of some kind on the bottom, probably MPTT controllers, with hefty wires running from them.

Low-Voltage DC Network Build Incited By Solar Panels

Nowadays, some people in Europe worry about energy prices climbing, and even if all the related problems disappear overnight, we’ll no doubt be seeing some amounts of price increase. As a hacker, you’re in a good position to evaluate the energy consuming devices at your home, and maybe even do something about them. Well, [Peter] put some solar panels on his roof, but couldn’t quite figure out a decent way to legally tie them into the public grid or at least his flat’s 220V network. Naturally, a good solution was to create an independent low-voltage DC network in parallel and put a bunch of devices on it instead!

He went with 48V, since it’s a voltage that’s high enough to be efficient, easy to get equipment like DC-DCs for, safe when it comes to legal matters concerned, and overall compatible with his solar panel setup. Since then, he’s been putting devices like laptops, chargers and lamps onto the DC rail instead of having them be plugged in, and his home infrastructure, which includes a rack full of Raspberry Pi boards, has been quite content running 24/7 from the 48V rail. There’s a backup PSU from regular AC in case of overcast weather, and in case of grid power failures, two hefty LiFePO4 accumulators will run all the 48V-connected appliances for up to two and a half days.

The setup has produced and consumed 115kWh within the first two months – a hefty contribution to a hacker’s energy independence project, and there’s enough specifics in the blog post for all your inspiration needs. This project is a reminder that low-voltage DC network projects are a decent choice on a local scale – we’ve seen quite viable proof-of-concept projects done at hackercamps, but you can just build a small DC UPS if you’re only looking to dip your feet in. Perhaps, soon we’ll figure out a wall socket for such networks, too.

A small circuit board glowing purple inset with computer code

Power Cycling Museum Computers On The Cheap

Flicking a circuit breaker to power cycle hundreds of desktop computers inside interactive museum exhibits is hardly ideal. Computers tend to get cranky when improperly shutdown, and there’s an non-zero risk of data loss. However, financial concerns ruled out commercial computer management solutions, and manually shutting down each exhibit at the end of the day is not practical. Tasked with finding a solution, [Jeff Glass] mixed off-the-shelf UPS (uninterruptible power supply) hardware, a Featherwing and some Python to give the museum’s computer-run exhibits a fighting chance.

Without drastically changing the one-touch end-of-day procedure, the only way to properly shutdown the hundreds of computers embedded in the museum exhibits involved using several UPS units, keeping the PCs briefly powered on after the mains power was cut. This in itself solves nothing – while the UPS can trigger a safe shutdown via USB, this signal could only be received by a single PC. These are off-the-shelf consumer grade units, and were never intended to safely shut down more than one computer at a time. However, each 300 watt UPS unit is very capable of powering multiple computers, the only limitation is the shutdown signal and the single USB connection.

To get around this, the Windows task scheduling service was setup to be triggered by the UPS shutdown signal, which itself then triggered a custom Python script. This script then relays the shutdown signal from the UPS to every other computer in the museum, before shutting itself down for the evening.

While many computers can be enabled to boot on power loss, the UPS and safe shutdown scripts meant that this wasn’t an option. To get around this, an ESP32 Featherwing and a little bit if CircuitPython code sends out WOL (wake-on-LAN) signals over Ethernet automatically on power up. This unit is powered by a non-UPS backed power outlet, meaning that it only sends the WOL signal in the morning when mains power is restored via the circuit breaker.

There are undoubtedly a variety of alternative solutions that appear ‘better’ on paper, but these may gloss over the potential costs and disruption to a multi-acre museum. Working within the constraints of reality means that the less obvious fix often ends up being the right one. How would you have tackled this problem? Sound off in the comments below. And while you’re here, make sure to check out our coverage of other UPS solutions, like this supercap UPS.