Tech Troubleshooter Part 2: Power to the People

Despite the dazzling array of mindblowing technical gadgetry out there, the stuff that fuels them – electricity – is surprisingly simple to comprehend. There are essentially only three concepts to get your head around with the first two, volts and amps, multiplying to make up the third, watts.

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Alex Sudheim 24 May 2021 4 min

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In this second instalment of our series of discussions designed to simplify the complexity of technical terminology, we talk taking a step up from the UPS into the realm of generators and inverters.

We continue to look at how the Voys phone system in the cloud can spare you and your business from some of the grief brought on by Eskom’s load shedding or other abrupt unplanned outages such as when you try to fix the toaster with a fork or power up Iron Man with the plug socket in your kitchen.

Watt the Amps?

Despite the dazzling array of mindblowing technical gadgetry out there, the stuff that fuels them – electricity – is surprisingly simple to comprehend. There are essentially only three concepts to get your head around with the first two, volts and amps, multiplying to make up the third, watts. Think of it like a river with the volts as the speed and the amps as the volume. A river moving very quickly but carrying very little water would be like standing beneath a tap turned wide open. No big deal. However a slow river with a massive amount of water could drown you. Slightly bigger deal.

This is the reason you see tasers and stun-guns making sensational claims like ‘1 MILLION VOLTS!!’ Sounds scary enough, but the truth is that without any significant amperage, those volts will simply give you a tremendous tickle. In fact, the most powerful stun gun permitted for official police use puts out a mere 0.36 milliamps (mA) or 0.0036 amps (A). This will most certainly give you something to think about but it’s a mosquito bite compared to getting strapped to the electric chair (5 A) or getting zapped by a bolt of lightning (30 000 A). For the record, anything above 10 mA is dangerous while anything over 100 mA will smoke you like a cigar.

To put that into practical terms, the average fridge runs somewhere between 100 and 250 watts. Given that the current coming out of a South African socket is set at 220 volts of alternating current (AC), your yskas uses between 0.5 A and 1.5 A. So what do rivers, tasers and fridges have to do with keeping you and your business communications up and running when Eskom sheds a load? So you can decide what the ideal type of generator or inverter is best for your purposes, that’s what. A UPS will power a few laptops for a while but what if your appetite for amps is of the larger variety? 

Temporal Inversion

Yes, we stole that from Tenet. But since no-one on Earth, including the filmmakers, has a clue what it means we thought it was fair game. However we do know all about electrical inversion and we’re here to break it down for you in a few simple sentences.

We all know the purpose of a generator is to keep the lights on when Eskom is AWOL or the grid has gone pear-shaped for some other reason. The bigger the generator, the greater the volume of things it can power. Massive petrol-driven generators sure can produce plenty of juice but they’re heavy, expensive, environmentally unfriendly and, most importantly, do not produce a stable current. This poses a significant risk when it comes to running sensitive equipment such as laptops, tablets, cellphones, routers and expensive audio-visual gizmos. For these purposes, an inverter generator (or simply inverter) is the way to go.


A conventional generator will replicate the grid by sending 220 V of AC straight to your home or office whereas an inverter converts a direct current (DC) from a battery to a highly stable AC current. This stability is the crucial element in the equation and what makes inverter generators considered a ‘clean electricity source’. In comparison, a conventional generator’s current is ‘dirty’, or distorted, which won’t bother your deep freezer but can fry your delicate tech in an instant.

The other great advantage that inverter generators have over their more primitive predecessors is that they are lighter, portable and have far less of a thirst for fossil fuel. With one of these bad boys in play, together with the cloud-based Voys Hosted PBX, you and your business can claim immunity the next time an Eskom engineer drops a spanner at Koeberg or a raindrop lands on a piece of coal. As for immunity from Covid, well, that’s a whole other story.

You can find a rather decent range of inverter generators here.

For something from the top shelf, Jackery builds some of the lightest and most portable rechargeable lithium battery generators on the market. Charged via mains or solar power i.e. no petrol needed, these bad boys are, in the words of the Voys CEO, ‘a loadshedding must-have with extra gadget factor.’ Check ‘em out over here. 

Other Recommendations

  • Set failover (cell) phone numbers in your Dial Plan in Freedom. If a VoIP phone is not available, another device will ring. At the very least, set a voicemail message so you can return calls when business is back to normal or make outbound calls with the Voys 4G app.
  • Go renewable. According to energy engineers, solar panels now produce power at around 65c per kWh. Apart from insulating you from the schlep of load shedding, going green makes both environmental and financial sense.

If you’d like to chat about options or need some help in setting up failover to cell phones please get in touch with us on 021 012 5000. We’re only too happy to rescue you from the Dark Ages.

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