Monitoring power via my UPS

I’ve set up a few MRTG config files and some simple shell scripts to graph the available data from my Compaq UPS via Nut. This will give a basic way to monitor the combined power consumption of everything that’s connected to the UPS. Currently this is everything in the rack plus the computer under my desk (and the peripherals on top). If you like graphs, you can see them on this site.

In addition to this method, I also have a plug-in power meter that can be used on individual items. It’s currently plugged into the incoming side of the UPS. For whole house power monitoring, the Wattson looks pretty good, but it’s not exactly cheap.

Fire Protection


For quite a while now I’ve had 2U at the top of the rack consumed by an APW Fire Protection Unit. This clever bit of kit, found by chance on eBay for £15, will extinguish a fire using FM200 gas (with some nitrogen thrown in) when detected by either of it’s two optical smoke detectors.


Until today it hasn’t been plugged in for more than half a second because the alarm appears to be broken inside (or I need to do some sort of configuration which isn’t possible without a manual) and so it was far too noisy to use. The alarm is deafening and certainly does it’s job, but is obviously a little eager to make itself known. Just in case this was an indication that the gas might be released I disconnected the fillament in glass stopper on the end of the canister (later reconnected when I was happy it’s only the alarm that is broken).
To solve the alarm problem I have been forced to snip one of the wires to the sounder so that I can use it. This shouldn’t affect the operation of the unit, though it wont be able to give any audible indication of a fire. There is a visual indicator on the front to back it up. To replace to the audible function I will install a standard household smoke alarm.


I’m just waiting for a backup to complete before I hand over power management to it. In the event of a fire, it will instantly cut power to anything that it feeds, which in this case will be most things that are connected to the UPS. Unfortunately the UPS shutdown functionality isn’t compatible with my UPS since it uses basic status signalling, so if a fire does break out it had best not be in the UPS.

Getting NUT working with a Compaq T2400h


Several months ago I posted some information on the cable to connect a Compaq T2400h to a standard serial port. This weekend I finally got around to trying out the information that I found. I now have the 2.4KVA UPS at the bottom of my rack cabinet talking to my Ubuntu-based fileserver, boron.

The first step was to create the cable. This requires a 9 pin female ‘D’ connector and a matching male connector. For the cable I used an offcut of CAT5, though normally serial cables do not use twisted pair (usually just parallel wires).





The software part is done using NUT, for which there is a package included in the Ubuntu distribution. This software talks to the UPS, monitors it’s status and allows other computers to check the status. The monitoring applications are then responsible for shutting down the computers attached to the UPS should power fail and the battery become critical. So far this is just boron and my Windows machine, aluminium. The latter uses WinNUT to shut down Windows when needed.

There were a few problems getting NUT to work with Ubuntu. First off, the package doesnt put any configuration files in the /etc/nut path, so I had to go hunt for the examples and copy then modify them. The next problem was with permissions for the serial port. For testing purposes I tried running the protocol module as root, but this introduced different permissions problems. The solution was to add the ‘nut’ user to the ‘dialout’ group, which is one group that has access to the serial ports. To my relief this got everything working.

These are the parameters that I can access over the serial connection:

simon@boron:~$ upsc compaq@boron
battery.charge: 97.22
battery.runtime: 1620.000
battery.voltage: 0055.50
battery.voltage.nominal: 0048.00 upscode2
driver.parameter.input_timeout: 5
driver.parameter.manufacturer: Compaq
driver.parameter.port: /dev/ttyS0
driver.parameter.use_pre_lf: yes
driver.version: 2.0.5
driver.version.internal: 0.84
input.voltage: 0244.50
input.voltage.maximum: 0276.00
input.voltage.minimim: 0162.00
input.voltage.nominal: 0230.00
output.current: 0001.95
output.frequency: 0050.00
output.voltage: 0215.10
ups.delay.reboot: 000
ups.delay.shutdown: 000
ups.load: 21.875
ups.mfr: Compaq
ups.model: UPS 2400 VA FW -0023
ups.power.nominal: 2300.000
ups.serial: E########
ups.status: OL TRIM

These are the resources that I used to get the UPS/NUT combo working: