Power efficiency of a Z68 motherboard system (with ten 3.5" drives), using a CyberPower UPS's LCD Display to measure watts


I recently learned that there may be some special considerations when shopping for a new, efficient, and properly sized power supply/UPS combination.  I don't know for sure, but it didn't really cost me significantly more money, and I now know first-hand that my UPS seems to work fine with my power supply.  In other words, when I unplug the UPS from the wall outlet, I don't hear and buzzing or humming from the power supply, and the UPS itself begins to make the normal slight humming sound.  Here's what I learned.

First, buy the right-sized, modular and efficient power supply:

Oversizing the power supply. Buying oversized can result in power waste, with the UPS operating most efficiently near the middle of it's power rating. I don't wish to waste money on excessive capacity I'll never use, but do want a modular, efficient, reputable brand power supply, with long modular cables with many power drops, to fit my full size case and juice up my hard drives. And I don't plan on this ever being a gaming or overclocking system (Core i7 2600 for VMDirectPath, not 2600K, was chosen). With high utility rates in my area, and 24/7 intended operation of this system these next 3-4 years, these are significant factors. After a lot of googling, I found the only decent supply with a lot of power connectors, the reasonably priced power supply (~$60), the Antec BP550.

Second, buy a compatible UPS:

Only certain UPSs, such as the CyberPower line, are capable of full sine wave output, to be safely used with such "Active Power Factor Correction (PFC)" efficient power supplies. Not sure if it's super important to buy a PFC compatible UPS, but figured I'd rather not worry about it either, and the cost was reasonable. No other UPS vendor's prices came close. I find the "CyberPower CP850PFCLCD UPS 850VA 510W PFC Compatible Pure Sine Wave UPS", to be a good choice for me. It has a useful LCD display that includes a readout of the watts used by my ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 based system called "vZilla," as it's powered up and booting into Windows 7 x64 (for building/testing each components watt burn using before/after tests). I'll also be able to replace the battery when needed, without recycling the whole unit (something I hated doing in the past). Finally, I can mute the alarm, and may it stay muted: essential in a residence with other humans present and fairly frequent power outages. I'm getting roughly 15 minutes of runtime at only 20% load (when CPU is idle), and spent a reasonable $105 dollars on this UPS. The software for monitoring power in Windows (and shutting down gracefully in the event of an outage) seems decent as well. I may even someday try to get the UPS to work natively with ESX/ESXi, see "Installation on VMWare ESX/ESXi 4" on page 10 of the pdf manual here.

Third, try to configure proper shutdown in virtualized environment:

The trick with setting up ESX/ESXi itself for power monitoring is that the guest VMs need to be properly quiesced first. ESXi has additional considerations versus ESX as well. So, I may just wind up using VMDirectPath. Basically, you tell the ESXi host to configure a certain UPS 2.0 pair of ports on the motherboard for passthru, then reboot. Next, you map a critical VM I leave running 24x7 to that USB pair, then install the native software into that VM, which i my case, will be my Home Server VM. Now, when the USB cable is inserted intot he appropriate USB port, that Windows instance will natively see that USB device. I tried this technique recently on another Z68 motherboard and it worked fine, but I haven't tried again with this particular motherboard just yet. If I go the VMDirectPath route, I'll also be able to use a familiar add-in coming soon I hope, called Grid Junction WHS 2011.

I've settled on the ASRock Fatal1ty Z68 Professional Gen3, read all about it here: TinkerTry.com/vzilla I've also noticed that whether I use a watt meter like the Watts-Up or the EM100 (from Smarthome), or the CyberPower UPS to measure watt usage, I get very similar measurements with all 3 devices, in realtime. This video highlights the CyberPower's LCD, and shows "vZilla" powering up and settling into CPU idle use of just 153 watts, not bad at all for such a powerful system (10 3.5" drives, 3 2.5" SSDs, LSI 9260-8i RAID adapter).  If I measure the watt burn at the wall outlet, I believe the UPS itself is using about 8 watts when charging, but I'll need to verify that when I get a chance. I do know some UPS models from years ago that I had tried used quite of extra power just to keep the battery charged and/or running in AVR mode, a non-green behavior that I don't see discussed much.

I performed similar power supply/UPS tests these past few months with MSI, ASUS, and Gigabyte Z68 boards, and all yielded similar results, about 152 to 185 watts at idle, either Windows 7 or ESXi. That was back in May thru June 2011, when I was shopped for a suitable motherboard for my virtualization and backup server requirements, explained here:

Once Windows 7 settles down for a while, I've seen it drop from 153 watts when first booted down to 127 watts at idle on my system (see above photo gallery).  That's the LSI RAID adapter allowing the unused drives to sleep.

I also own the CyberPower CP1350PFCLCD UPS 1350VA / 810W PFC compatible Pure sine wave in a different room, which also has some USB charging ports on the front, handy during power outages:  if you shut down your PCs quickly, you can then charge your cell phone(s), and turn the UPS off when done charging them, keeping some battery power for a day or two later to charge your cell phone again.

To enjoy the 4 minute show, click below!
(you'll see me highlighting a a live demonstration of the power measuring ability of the CyberPower, Kill A Watt-style, and a quick look under the hood of vZilla)