There are essentially 3 major types of UPS, standby, line interactive and dual conversion.

The standby UPS (SPS), or offline UPS, offers only the most basic features, providing surge protection and battery backup. The protected equipment is normally connected directly to incoming utility power. When the incoming voltage falls below a predetermined level the SPS turns on its internal DC-AC inverter circuitry, which is powered from an internal storage battery. The SPS then mechanically switches the connected equipment on to its DC-AC inverter output. The switchover time can be as long as 25 milliseconds depending on the amount of time it takes the standby UPS to detect the lost utility voltage.


The line-interactive UPS is similar in operation to a standby UPS, but with the addition of a multi-tap variable-voltage autotransformer This is a special type of transformer that can add or subtract powered coils of wire, thereby increasing or decreasing the magnetic field and the output voltage of the transformer. This is also known as a Buck boost transformer.

This type of UPS is able to tolerate continuous under voltage Brown outs and overvoltage surges without consuming the limited reserve battery power. It instead compensates by automatically selecting different power taps on the autotransformer. Depending on the design, changing the autotransformer tap can cause a very brief output power disruption which may cause UPSs equipped with a power-loss alarm to "chirp" for a moment. This type of UPS will also have a transfer time of between 3 – 10 milli-seconds which may be unsuitable for some equipment.


The dual conversion, which is also known as online and double conversion, is ideal for environments where electrical isolation is necessary or for equipment that is very sensitive to power fluctuations. Although once previously reserved for very large installations of 10 kW or more, advances in technology have now permitted it to be available as a common consumer device, supplying 500 watts or less. The initial cost of the online UPS may be slightly higher, but its total cost of ownership is generally lower due to longer battery life. The online UPS may be necessary when the power environment is "noisy", when utility power sags, outages and other anomalies are frequent, when protection of sensitive IT equipment loads is required, or when operation from an extended-run backup generator is necessary.

The basic technology of the online UPS is the same as in a standby or line-interactive UPS. However it typically costs much more, due to it having a much greater current AC-to-DC battery-charger/rectifier, and with the rectifier and inverter designed to run continuously with improved cooling systems. It is called a double-conversion UPS due to the rectifier directly driving the inverter, even when powered from normal AC current.

In an online UPS, the batteries are always connected to the inverter, so that no power transfer switches are necessary. When power loss occurs, the rectifier simply drops out of the circuit and the batteries keep the power steady and unchanged. When power is restored, the rectifier resumes carrying most of the load and begins charging the batteries, though the charging current may be limited to prevent the high-power rectifier from overheating the batteries and boiling off the electrolyte.

The main advantage to the on-line UPS is its ability to provide an electrical firewall between the incoming utility power and sensitive electronic equipment.