My homelab PDU suddenly died! It’s dead, D-E-D, dead! There are few things worse than a server rack suddenly going completely silent…

The PDU has had an error since the power outage last summer β€” F11 means Power fail on auxiliary 1. Which is an odd error for a PDU with only one input. And; it wasn’t possible to clear or reset it it πŸ˜•

Table of contents

PDU error

After a lot of back and forth with PowerWalker support, I got the impression that this wasn’t normal.

PowerWalker: Does the PDU still have output. Can it work directly with mains without the ATS in between? Can please explain a bit more actually what happened and how this error appeared?

Me: Yes, the PDU operates normally. All outputs have power. During a power outage the PDU lost power, and have been showing the F11 error since. Not sure what more there is to explain. Seems to me that either; there is a way to clear the error, or there is something wrong with the PDU.

PowerWalker: Please provide us the Serial number of PDU RC 16A. There is a white sticker on the PDU’s body. Please take a picture of it and send it to us to check the warranty procedure.

The PDU needed to be removed to get to the sticker, so I never got that far before it died. I bought it back in 2017, so I’m not sure there is any warranty left. But it’s worth a shot.

Update: I got a full refund from the local supplier πŸ˜ƒ
ATS and PDU β€” PDU with F11 error
ATS and PDU β€” PDU with F11 error

Power plans

I have to admit; this incident has left me feeling a but weary about the quality of PowerWalker products. I have several:

  • BlueWalker PW ATS
  • BlueWalker PW PDU RC-16A (now dead)
  • BlueWalker PW MBS Rack
  • PowerWalker VI 1500 RT HID

Also β€” I don’t understand the BlueWalker/PowerWalker branding, but I digress.

I’ll be making some changes to the power management of the rack:

  • I’m keeping the ATS and UPS, as they have been good, and are fairly expensive
  • The PowerWalker MBS (maintenance bypass switch), will be replaced by a EATON HotSwap MBP
  • I’m getting a simple “dumb” PDU to replace the one that died, more precisely; the APC AP9568

I was able to get both the EATON HotSwap MBP and APC AP9568 second hand, so it didn’t break the bank. I’m hoping to replace the parts later this week πŸ™‚

PDUs

The PowerWalker PDU is both monitored and switched, meaning that each of its eight outputs report power usage and state, and can be remote controlled. I integrated the power monitoring into Home Assistant, and it provided a nice overview of server power usage.

One reason why I initially wanted a switched PDU β€” was the ability to remotely force restart a locked server. But I have to admit; since 2017 I’ve only used this once…

Since the PDU is located after the UPS, it’s a single point of failure, and pretty critical. Any disruptions will cut power to everything, no clean shutdowns πŸ˜•

Pros and cons of a monitored and switched PDU:

Pros πŸ‘Œ

  • See power usage for individual outputs
  • Force reboot a locked server
  • Delayed start up of the outputs, everything doesn’t come at once (this I am going to miss)

Cons πŸ‘Ž

  • Price
  • More complex single point of failure (a “dumb” PDU are less likely to break)

Maybe I’ll invest in a monitored and switched PDU in the future, but for now β€” my conclusion is that the pros doesn’t justify the cost.

Homelab rack looking sad, with dead PDU
Homelab rack looking sad, with dead PDU