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DC Power

The Main Components of a DC Power System

While the majority of power infrastructure operates on AC (alternating current) power, certain applications and industries are better suited for DC (direct current), especially those that require either a long duration discharge or low amperage output over an extended period of time. This is due to the fact that with DC power, the current consistently flows in one direction. Conversely, with AC power, the electric current periodically reverses direction. DC power is widely used in applications such as telecom, automotive, aircraft and other low-voltage, low-current applications.

In a DC power system, the uninterruptible power system (UPS) takes in primary power — usually utility AC — and outputs DC voltage while providing backup power from the integrated batteries in the event of an extended power outage. Although DC units may vary depending on the type of application they are designed for, most systems consist of five main components:  

1. Rectifier / Charger — An electrical device that converts alternating current, the rectifier has two main purposes. Its primary job is to provide DC power to the supported loads, with a secondary role of charging and maintaining the batteries to ensure the system will perform in the event of a power failure. When selecting a rectifier, consider whether the system that is being backed up requires redundancy, efficiency and/or scalability.

2. Controller – The brains of a DC power system, the controller provides logic to the system, commanding the various components and providing insight into the UPS’s status and functionality. Some DC systems may have a separate controller. To ensure compatibility, the controller must be able to communicate with the network; for instance, tie into a building automation system or connect via SNMP or another communication protocol.

3. Batteries — Depending on the application, a DC system may use VRLA, lithium-ion, NICAD or wet cell batteries, with almost all batteries running in a series due to the amount of power needed. Selecting a battery type will depend on a number of factors, including whether a long duration discharge is needed, the environment of the facility (such as high heat or humidity), life cycle cost and any footprint limitations at the site.

4. Distribution system — Many DC applications have specific requirements around distribution, with one of the most common considerations being future load requirements. The distribution is usually integrated into the rectifier enclosure, but it can also be external.

5. Enclosure — There are a variety of enclosure designs available for DC systems, including rack-mount and shelf-mount. In some installations, batteries are included within the enclosure, while other times they are deployed in a separate rack.

When choosing the optimal DC power system for your environment, it is important to take into account all of these considerations. Since DC UPSs can differ depending on the application they are intended for, it is critical to understand the critical system components to ensure your backup solution will perform as expected.

Education, UPS

Five Critical Steps To UPS Deployment

Deploying an uninterruptible power system (UPS) is an increasingly important decision for today’s organizations, regardless of the size or sector. Relied upon to provide continuous, clean power to a connected load — as well as battery backup in the event of a power outage —UPSs are imperative to achieving uptime and business continuity. As a result, it’s important to put some thought before procuring a new solution. Because UPSs are specialized systems that must be seamlessly integrated with other equipment, it’s best to detail a thorough plan upfront. This will help facilitate a smooth deployment from start to finish, ultimately optimizing the lifespan of your unit.

Here are five factors to take into account:

1. Select the right partner. First and foremost, it is important to work with a true UPS expert who can help guide you through the entire decision-making process. Make sure the company has a solid reputation and specializes in UPS and power-related equipment.

2. Conduct a site survey. Prior to choosing a UPS, it is wise to complete a site survey. Doing so ensures that all power requirements have been taken into account prior to installation, as well as other considerations such as room layout, available space, temperature and humidity control. Once the assessment is complete, you will be better prepared to select the optimal UPS — as well as any supplemental equipment such as PDUs or surge suppressors — to meet your unique needs and environment.

Need help deciding on a UPS? Get a free site assessment!

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3. Determine the ideal UPS for your environment. UPSs come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, and there are numerous questions to ask when selecting the best model for your organization. For instance, how critical are the loads being protected? What is your desired runtime? How reliable is the incoming utility power? Do you expect significant load growth in the coming years? And perhaps most important, what would the effects be if your company were to endure unexpected downtime?

For some installations, a single UPS may provide sufficient protection, while other applications require redundancy. Scalable, modular systems can benefit organizations that anticipate future growth in load demand. Many times, a certified pre-owned UPS will provide lower total cost of ownership (TCO) than a brand new unit. A qualified partner can be especially valuable to assist you in determining precisely what you need in a power protection solution.

4. Install the system. Once the UPS model has been selected, subsequent project management and commissioning are key to a successful installation. Confirm with your partner the timeline for delivery, any risks associated with the project, and if a planned power outage is required during installation.  

5. Sign up for service. While most UPSs feature a standard factory warranty, the majority of policies don’t include routine preventive maintenance (PM). However, because regular checkups have been proven to be one of the most effective ways to avert UPS failure, a service plan is a crucial step to protecting your investment. Make sure you engage with a service provider that provides highly skilled technicians, prompt emergency response service, and a well-stocked warehouse to ensure quick access to replacement parts.

Installing a UPS solution goes a long way toward safeguarding your organization against potentially devastating downtime, equipment damage and data loss. To avoid snags along the way, make sure you form a solid game plan before you deploy a new solution.

Still have questions? Get a response immediately.

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How Long Will A UPS Last?

When Aristotle articulated that, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” he obviously wasn’t referring to uninterruptible power systems (UPSs) — but he could have been. The famous quote, which suggests that individual parts connected together to form one entity are more valuable than if the parts remained separate, can certainly be applied to backup power solutions. Yet ironically, when trying to determine the lifespan of a UPS, it is those individual parts that must be closely considered.

Just how long will the average UPS operate and when are you at risk for failure? It’s a common question whose answer depends on a number of different variables, including the batteries, fans and capacitors. While some UPS systems can last 15 or more years before needing to be replaced, these primary components are subject to failure far earlier. To avoid downtime or damage to critical equipment, make sure you understand the lifecycle and maintenance requirements of a UPS’s key components. A little knowledge of your UPS’s primary parts will go a long way toward extending its lifespan.

1. Batteries — The heart of any UPS system, batteries are electrochemical energy storage devices that convert chemical energy into the electrical energy UPSs use to operate. Because the chemicals deplete over time, even UPS batteries that are well cared for will still need to be replaced. Most batteries have an expected lifespan of three to five years under ambient conditions. However, they can fail much faster in environments such as those that exceed an ambient temperature of 77°F, or where recurrent power problems cause batteries to cycle frequently. Battery life can also be significantly reduced if an organization doesn’t engage in regular service and maintenance. To learn more about the factors that influence UPS battery life, please check out our earlier blog on this topic.

Need help deciding on a UPS? Get a free site assessment!

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2. Fans —One of the few UPS components that is mechanical in nature, a fan will wear out over time and eventually need to be replaced, usually between seven and ten years . Like other components, a UPS fan’s lifespan can vary on factors that include temperature, humidity, particulates, clogged air filters and how much rated power capacity the UPS is operating under. Avoid fan failures with proactive replacements.

3. Capacitors —Responsible for smoothing and filtering voltage fluctuations, capacitors typically need to be replaced every seven to 10 years. However, under unfavorable circumstances, they may operate for a much shorter time. Don’t wait until your UPS capacitors reach the end of their rated service life to start preparing for their replacement. Instead, request replacement quotes when they approach seven years old to ensure you are prepared, and take the time to read service reports closely. If there are any impending signs of failure, take steps to replace the capacitors immediately. For more information on capacitors, please refer to our previous blog on this component.

While the sum of a UPS’s parts represents the key to its successful operation, it is the individual parts that will determine how long the unit will last. Understanding the life cycle of key components will help you better assess the longevity of your UPS. Sometimes other factors will influence the best time to upgrade your unit. In our next blog, we will explore several considerations when replacing your UPS solution.

Still have questions? Get a response immediately.

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Capacitors, UPS

UPS Capacitor Replacement: When, Why, How? (Video)

While much attention has been given to the importance of regularly replacing uninterruptible power system (UPS) batteries, there is also a lesser-known, often-overlooked component that cannot be ignored: the capacitors. After batteries, capacitors rank among the most common UPS elements susceptible to failure. Proactive attention to these components can extend the life of the UPS system and optimize the protection of your critical equipment.

Unified Power is the largest independent provider of mission critical power services in the United States. From battery preventive maintenance to battery capacity testing, UPS preventive maintenance and more, we can service any of your needs. Have a specific question about your specific power needs? Learn about all the power protection services we offer.

Education, UPS

Which UPS Topology is optimal for your environment?

The central design of an uninterruptible power system (UPS) is categorized as its topology. Of the three primary UPS technologies available today — standby, line-interactive and online — each offers different performance characteristics and varying degrees of protection.

It’s important to recognize that not all UPS’s are not created equal.

Determining the best topology for your facility depends on a number of factors, including the level of reliability and availability required, as well as the type of equipment being protected and the overall application/environment.

Various UPS topologies are appropriate for different uses, but no single UPS type is ideal for all applications. Consider the following:

Standby — Also referred to as an off-line or passive system, standby topology provides the most basic type of UPS protection. Safeguarding connected equipment against three of the nine most common power problem — power failures, sags and surges — the standby UPS allows equipment to run off of utility power until it detects a problem.

At that point, the UPS switches to the battery. Standby UPS’s are best suited for less critical applications such as office environments, provided that the power supply is not subject to frequent disruptions.

While an attractive alternative from a cost perspective, the downside to standby UPS’s is that they do not buffer equipment against other power anomalies, and they must resort to batteries frequently, which can reduce battery run time and service life.

Need help deciding on a UPS? Get a free site assessment!

Click above to get started or call 240.772.1710 for instant help.

Line-interactive — A UPS with line-interactive topology is designed to shield connected devices from power failures, sags and surges like a standby model does, but it also provides protection against under- and over- voltage conditions.

Typically used to safeguard enterprise network and IT applications, the line-interactive UPS is controlled by a microprocessor that monitors the quality of incoming power and reacts to fluctuations. One of the biggest advantages of the line-interactive topology is that it compensates for under voltage and over voltage circumstances without using the batteries.

These systems provide more protection than standby UPS’s, with better power conditioning and regulation that helps prolong battery life. Battery usage is lower than a standby UPS, but still higher than an online model.

Online — An online or double-conversion UPS is designed to deliver continuous protection against all nine of the most common power problems.

Supplying a consistent power quality regardless of any incoming instabilities, the output voltage of an online UPS is entirely regenerated by a sequence of AC to DC conversion, followed by DC to AC conversion in order to create power supply without any electrical interference.

During erratic power or fleeting disturbances when AC input power falls outside of preset tolerances for line-interactive mode, the online UPS switches to online double-conversion mode, completely isolating equipment from incoming power.

If power is lost altogether, or the input power exceeds the tolerances of the rectifier, the UPS will rely on the battery to keep loads operating, then convert back to high-efficiency mode when it is safe.

Online UPS’s are the best choice for critical applications or those involving highly sensitive equipment, such as data centers, communications hubs and other mission-critical installations where continuous, clean power is a business-critical requirement.

While all three UPS topologies outlined above meet the input voltage requirements for IT equipment, there are significant differences in both performance and demands on the battery.

If you need assistance determining the optimal topology for your environment, Unified Power can help you to properly identify and compare systems.

Still have questions? Get a response immediately.

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