The difference between VA and watts
The engineering answer: To correctly size a UPS, it’s important to understand the relationship between watts and VA. However, we must first have a brief discussion about power terminology. Real power (measured in watts) is the portion of power flow that results in the consumption of energy. The energy consumed is related to the resistance in an electrical circuit. An example of consumed energy is the filament in a light bulb.
Reactive power (measured in VAR or voltamps reactive) is the portion of power flow due to stored energy. Stored energy is related to the presence of inductance and/or capacitance in an electrical circuit. An example of stored energy is a charged flash bulb in a camera.
Apparent power (measured in VA or voltamps) is a mathematical combination of real power and reactive power.
The geometric relationship between apparent power, reactive power and real power is illustrated in the power triangle below:
Mathematically, real power (watts) is related to apparent power (VA) using a numerical ratio referred to as the power factor (PF), which is expressed in decimal format and always carries a value between 0 and 1.0. For many newer types of IT equipment, such as computer servers, the typical PF is 0.9 or greater. For legacy personal computers (PCs), this value can be 0.60 – 0.75.
Using one of the following formulas, a calculation can be made to determine the missing quantity:
Watts = VA * Power Factor or VA = Watts / Power Factor
Since many types of equipment are rated in watts, it’s important to consider the PF when sizing a UPS. If you don't take PF into account, you may under size your UPS. As an example, a piece of equipment that’s rated at 525 watts and has a power factor of 0.7 results in a 750 VA load.
750 VA = 525 Watts / 0.7 PF
Sizing the UPS to operate at 75 percent capacity results in a UPS with a 1000 VA rating (750 VA / 0.75 = 1000 VA).
Converting amps to VA
Single phase: Multiply amps by voltage (120 volts in the U.S.). 10A x 120V = 1200 VA.
Three phase: Amps x volts x 1.732 = VA.
In simple terms, imagine UPS power capacity as the amount of soda in a glass. The top of the glass represents the limit of apparent power the UPS will accept, or the VA. The actual liquid in the glass represents the real power of the UPS, or the Watts. Unless you desire a frothy glass of foam, you’ll want to maximize the actual amount of liquid in the glass. This—the Watts rating—is what you’re actually paying for.
When you’re buying a UPS and sizing your equipment, pay attention to both the VA and Wattage ratings. This ensures you will get the maximum amount of power for your investment.
- PC, Workstation & Home AV UPS
- Eaton 3S (550-700 VA)
- Eaton Ellipse ECO (500-1600VA)
- Eaton 5E (500-2000VA)
- Eaton 5S (550 - 1500VA)
- Network & Server
- Eaton 5P (650-1550 VA)
- Eaton 5130 (1250-3000 VA)
- Eaton 5PX (1500-3000 VA)
- Eaton 9130 (700-6000 VA)
- Eaton 9130 RM (1000-3000 VA)
- Eaton EX (700-3000 VA)
- E Series DX (1-3 kVA)
- Eaton 9SX (5-6 kVA)
- Eaton 9PX (1-3 kVA)
- Eaton 9PX (5-11 kVA)
- Eaton 9E (6-20 kVA)
- Eaton MX (4-20 kVA)
- Eaton 9155 (8-30 KVA)
- Data Center & Facility UPS
- BladeUPS (12-60 kW)
- E Series DX ( 20-40 kVA)
- Eaton 9355 (8-40 kVA)
- Eaton 93E (15-500 kVA)
- Eaton 93PM (30-200 kW)
- Eaton 93PR (25-200 kW)
- Eaton 9390 (40-160 kVA)
- Power Xpert 9395 (225-1100 kVA)
- Marine & Offshore UPS
- Eaton 9130 Marine (1000-3000 VA)
- Eaton 9PX Marine (1500-3000 VA)
- Eaton EX Marine (1500-3000 VA)
- Eaton 9155 Marine (8-30 kVA)
- Eaton 9355 Marine (8-40 kVA)
- Power Xpert 9395 Marine (225-1100 kVA)
- DC Power