Static concerns and UPS power protection for an enthusiast PC

My case is too large for my desk, so it went on the floor. A carpeted floor, that is, which means that my arm hairs are perpetually on edge as my arms rest on my desk (actually, a plastic table, which makes it worse. I’ll replace that soon with a proper metal and wood desk from upstairs). My initial assumption was that since the case is metal (steel), and the power supply has a grounding plug, that the PC was basically immune to static discharges. However, reflecting on this a bit more, I realized that if I build up a charge in myself (say, by walking across carpet, in winter, while the heater is on, thus in a very dry air environment, especially so in our basement), and i were to accidentally discharge by touching the PC, then that charge has to travel through the PC to get to ground. Granted, the current might well pass solely through the case, and I assume that the motherboard is at a higher potential. I don’t really know what to do about this, or whether it’s a serious concern.

I have put the PC on a piece of corkboard rather than directly on carpet, but that’s more to prevent carpet from impeding airflow entering via the bottom fan below the CPU. This does isolate the PC a bit more from static, though that would actually be a bad thing because if the PC were truly isolated then it could conceivably build up a charge itself (though, I still assume that the PSU connection to ground will dissipate this). I’m not connecting the PC to any stereo equipment, so there’s no issues with ground loops, at least. If anyone has any advice or can assuage my concerns about static further, I’d be grateful.

Next, I realized that I am running a lot of wattage to very sensitive electrical equipment. DUH! But in the past I;ve just used simple surge suppression strips and not worried much about it. Given the investment in hardware, and my intention to make this PC my main data storage home, I’m going to have to consider some sort of power protection beyond surges. To that end I found an absolutely stellar reference by ExtremeTech on Uninterruptible Power Supplies (or Systems) from which I took home the following points:

– the VA rating on my computer hardware is probably very close to the actual wattage, since my PSU (like most nowaddays) is a Power Factor Correction (PFC) type. Hence I just need to make sure that the VA rating is well above my watts rating – in this case, I have a 650W PSU, so I’d need a VA of at least 700. Caveat: most UPS systems quote a higher watts rating than the VA, so actually I probably should get at least a 700 W UPS, not just 700 VA. That will give me overhead, future growth, etc.

– I need a PFC-compatible, line-interactive UPS. It needs USB interactivity/compatibility with Windows 7 to permit graceful system shutdown in event of power loss (just like notebooks – a good UPS basically gives desktops the same capabilities for power management, which are built into the OS by default).

Never plug a laser printer into a UPS.

CyberPower PFC UPS
1350 VA, 810W PFC UPS from CyberPower
Tom’s has already done a review of various UPS systems, taking into account the fact that enthusiast-level systems (and above) have more stringent protection needs than a typical office desktop, particularly in terms of drawing higher loads. As I noted in my epic hardware post earlier, I’m not running SLI or doing major overclocking, but even so my 650W PSU is pretty hefty compared to what you’ll find in an office cubicle Dell. My system is on par with the enthusiast build at Tom’s (minus SLI, but plus an i5 quad core), or the Editor’s Choice build at TechReport (minus SSDs/RAID). The bottom line is that they found Cyberpower’s “green” series to be the best value, quiet, and amazingly efficient. The prices for these are better at Amazon than at NewEgg – I’m just unsure whether I should buy the 810W version or the 900W version.

The bad news of course is that this is another $200 to bear. Can I get away with just a surge strip after all? Any thoughts on the matter would be most appreciated 🙂