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Power Conditioners in Action

Mar 29, 2013 11:37 AM, By Patrick Barron

A look at two IP-addressable options.


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There are many different types of surge protectors, power conditioners, and power sequencers on the market today. Power conditioners are like insurance; no one appreciates them until there is some kind of emergency. When lightning strikes, electrical surges occur, or when being used in a harsh electrical environment with a large amount of noise, the value becomes readily apparent. There is an emerging product category of power units that can be controlled and monitored over the network using IP communications. I was able to obtain two of these IP controllable power units to evaluate and pass my observations and findings along to help you understand how adding IP into this type of product can help you manage your systems more efficiently.

Figure 1: The main status screen in SnapAV’s WattBox firmware shows the power state of eight outlets, the input voltage, the current draw of all outlets combined, the power in watts of all outlets, plus the ping status of up to five URLs to show current network status.

SNAPAV WATTBOX

One product I was able to evaluate is the SnapAV WattBox WB-600-IPVCE-12, which has an optional display faceplate: WB-600-FP. The LED display shows information such as voltage and current. These two parts together are sold as the KIT-WB-600-IPVCE-12. I was able to set up the two parts easily and connected the front panel with the supplied display link cable. The power conditioner had 12 outlets, eight of which were switchable and controllable and four that were always on. There were diagnostic lights showing Internet connection, system status, auto reboot, safe voltage, protected, and grounded status. Included were jacks for cable and phone that provided advanced filtration. The instructions provided were easy to understand and they directed me to install the WattBox Utility software provided on a disc. When this software launched, it immediately found the power conditioner.

The next step was to update the firmware, which was simple to accomplish by downloading the firmware from the SnapAV website and following the instructions in the utility. The manufacturer recommended using a static IP address. This is not required, but having a fixed IP address makes accessing the website easier since the IP address will not change based on the DHCP server assignment.

Figure 2: The names of each outlet are configurable to show what devices are connected in the firmware.

After the power conditioner was set up properly I used the software to launch the web browser interface. This could also be done by typing the IP address directly into a web browser. The web interface showed a great deal of valuable information about the current status of the unit. The main status screen (Figure 1) shows the power state of eight outlets, the input voltage, the current draw of all outlets combined, the power in watts of all outlets, plus the ping status of up to five URLs to show current network status. The names of each outlet are configurable to show what devices are connected (Figure 2). Sequencing and different delays can be set for each outlet, and they are able to have individual configurations to be part of the master power group or to remain independent of the master power switch. This configuration screen also is where various websites or IP addresses are entered for monitoring ping status to each address. Automatic reboots of particular outlets can be enabled based on a non-responsive ping from various combinations of addresses. There is a complex scheduling interface used to power on or off individual outlets. This schedule is able to operate the same every day, and it is adjustable to have a different schedule for each day of the week.

Figure 3: The firmware provides the ability to send various emails based on a list of system conditions.

An additional feature of having an IP interface is the ability to send various emails based on a list of system conditions (Figure 3). When one of these conditions becomes true, an automated email can be sent to an email address that has been entered into the system. While this is a very useful feature, it does have a few drawbacks that might make it cumbersome to use. What happens when the technician or support manager changes for a company and the email address entered is no longer valid? The answer to this question will be discussed later in this article. Along with the ability to send emails there is an internal logging feature that will show every event that happened. The events logged include when individual outlets were turned on or off, and when someone logged into the power conditioner, when the IP connection was lost and the IP addresses did not respond to a ping. Multiple users can be configured to log into the system with different rights to control, view, or change system parameters.



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