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Critical Power Blog

Batteries, UPS

One is the Loneliest (and Most Dangerous) Number: Why You Need Multiple Battery Strings in Your UPS

When it comes to UPS batteries, there are two rudimentary — and yet somewhat contrasting — truths.

First, batteries are the heart of any UPS system. And second, they can be inherently unreliable.

Because of that, it is recommended that you deploy multiple strings of batteries to ensure your UPS performs as expected during a power outage.

Studies have shown that battery failure is one of the leading cause of load loss.

Likewise, it has been well documented that equipping a UPS with multiple battery strings in a parallel configuration can dramatically reduce that risk.

In recent years, there have been improvements in battery technology that have reduced the threat of unexpected failure, including advanced charging techniques, software management, and firmware upgrades that add intelligence.

Yet none of these capabilities can completely eliminate the risk of battery failure.

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One of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to prevent the loss of a critical load during a power outage is to equip your UPS with at least two battery strings.

A string of UPS batteries is often compared to a string of holiday lights; if one fails, the entire chain goes dead.

Although one faulty UPS battery doesn’t necessitate having to replace the entire string, determining which battery has failed can be challenging.

Even more, it is crucial to test the cell level health of the entire string in order to identify if other units have been damaged by strain from the faulty battery.

The most effective plan of attack is to spot-replace bad batteries that are less than two years old and swap out the entire string between the fourth and fifth year.

Continuous battery monitoring, coupled with scheduled maintenance, is the only way to identify bad batteries early enough to complete a spot replacement.

To reduce the risk of unexpected load loss from a failing UPS battery, it is wise to invest in a UPS that offers the option of multiple battery strings.

By tying together battery strings in a parallel configuration, it eliminates a single point of failure in the UPS.

For example, consider a UPS system that has 20 batteries connected in a series. If a problem occurs in any of those batteries, the entire string will likely fail, taking the UPS — and your critical load — down with it.

Yet by adding another 20 batteries in a parallel configuration, if either string fails, the UPS has the capacity to continue operating for a limited time on the other string until either a backup generator comes online or the connected load is safely shut down.

Although the upfront investment in additional battery strings will run more than a single string, consider the alternative: for Fortune 1000 companies, the average total cost of unplanned application downtime per year is $1.25 billion to $2.5 billion; the average hourly cost of an infrastructure failure rings in at $100,000 per hour; and the average cost of a critical application failure per hour is $500,000 to $1 million.

Indeed, the dollar amount required to bolster availability through the purchase of additional UPS batteries is dramatically less than the price tag associated with potential downtime, which can include equipment damage, loss of application services, data loss, damage to reputation and loss of productivity, among other costly consequences.

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Education, UPS

Knowledge is Power: The Importance of Understanding The Main Components of Your UPS

Although at times ignorantly relegated as merely a “battery in a box,” uninterruptible power systems (UPS’s) are in fact complex devices that perform multiple functions — not the least of which is ensuring clean power and continuous up time to sensitive electronic equipment.

Yet without proper maintenance, UPSs are subject to failure, since critical components will wear out from normal use.

Engaging in regular service performed by trained and experienced personnel can greatly minimize the risk of failure, as can another simple act:  bolstering your own power system knowledge.

In fact, understanding how the key elements of your UPS work will enable you to more easily identify — and avoid — potential problems. Here, we examine four primary components:

Battery — As the heart of any UPS system, batteries are tasked with supporting the connected load during a utility power failure.

Although it is the most critical component in UPS reliability, the battery is often ignored as a maintenance-free product that doesn’t require much attention or inspection — a mistake that can prove costly and potentially devastating.

Every battery system contains at least one string, and depending on the UPS configuration, multiple strings may be added to increase run time and/or redundancy.

Yet because the strings are connected in a series, if a single battery goes bad, it can cause the entire string to fail. Studies show that up to 20 percent of UPS failures can be attributed to bad batteries, which further underscores the need for regular inspection and maintenance regardless of their age.

A valve regulated lead acid (VRLA) UPS battery typically has a life expectancy of four to six years, although individual quality and charging technology can impact the projected lifespan.

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Rectifier — A UPS rectifier performs two very important roles: charging the batteries and converting incoming utility power from AC to DC.

Depending on the UPS manufacturer, the batteries may be trickle charged, which keeps them maintained at the proper float voltage but can subject them to electrode corrosion and electrolyte dry-out.

Other manufacturers utilize a more sophisticated method that prevents unnecessary charging, thus significantly slowly wear-out.

Inverter — The inverter within a UPS accepts the DC from the DC buss, which is supplied by the rectifier and the battery.

During a power outage, the rectifier will no longer provide current to the D/C buss, leaving the battery to support the load.

But if power is not restored before the batteries wear out, the system runs the risk of dropping the load unless an external power source such as a generator kicks in.

Static bypass — A UPS’s internal static bypass circuit provides an important line of defense in the event of a UPS failure.

This component automatically closes the circuit and allows the incoming power to divert around the rectifier, batteries and inverter.

Although the power supply is not conditioned, the static bypass lets critical systems continue functioning even if the UPS’s internal components fail.

Now that you’re familiar with the primary components of your UPS, you are in a position to make more educated decisions to keep your system optimally performing.

To begin, we recommend scheduling at least two preventative maintenance (PM) visits per year.

These service calls, which include a comprehensive range of inspections, are designed to ensure the ongoing health of the critical components outlined in this blog.

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3 Reasons to Consider a Standalone UPS

In the first two blogs in this series, we investigated the driving forces behind the appeal of modular power protection systems, including high availability, ability to scale, efficiency, simplified maintenance, smaller footprint and a green energy solution.

Now we will consider the reasons an organization might instead choose a standalone model of an uninterruptible power system (UPS).

Cost. When it comes to initial purchase price, modular UPS systems tend to be significantly more expensive than standalone units, primarily due to the need to buy the cabinet that will house the modules.

Although available in different sizes, the smallest cabinet usually accommodates either four or eight units, which will allow for future expansion (and one of the primary advantages of modular solutions).

Because of this, it is important to consider both the short- and long-term requirements of your business when right-sizing an initial UPS solution.

While the ‘pay as you grow’ approach can be extremely advantageous, it assumes that your load is going to increase; otherwise the initial outlay of a modular system would be prohibitive.

Resilience. Robustness of a modular system can become a factor when users mistake modularity for a parallel system.

Although a modular UPS solution allows for redundancy, it requires that spare modules be available in the cabinet in order to deliver the benefit.

Furthermore, the overall system should be carefully monitored at all times to ensure that changes in load do not consume capacity that was originally allocated to backup modules.

In the event that all modules are used, redundancy for the system will be lost.

Potential For Single Point of Failure. Elaborating on the issue of resiliency, it stands to reason that when multiple individual components comprise a modular system, this in turn creates multiple opportunities for a single point of failure.

Likewise, one issue in the cabinet has the potential to cause a collapse of the entire system.

While the advantages of a parallel modular UPS system clearly outweigh the disadvantages, in mission-critical applications, it is always wise to deploy an N+1 or N+ 2 approach with modules (though this does result in additional costs).

Clearly, there is a lot to consider when deploying a UPS solution.

In our fourth and final blog in this series, we will offer some tips to help you determine the optimal power protection system for your particular environment.

Interested in finding a UPS solution?
Unified Power is proud to offer the most popular and trusted brands of uninterruptible power supplies in the power industry. 

Still have questions? Get a response immediately.

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


3 Benefits of Modular UPS Systems

Because of the extensive range of technologies and topologies available in modern uninterruptible power systems (UPS’s), selecting the optimal solution to fit your business needs might seem like a daunting task.

But it doesn’t have to be. We’re going to break down the pros and cons of two prevalent UPS options: modular and standalone models.

Modular UPS’s represent an ever-growing and popular option across a wide range of market segments.

With separate components that work together as a whole system, the UPS is comprised of a combination of power and/or battery modules housed within the same cabinet.

As the fastest growing segment of the three-phase market, modular UPS sales are expected to reach $2.5 billion by 2020.

The appeal of modular power protection systems is driven by a range of benefits, including high availability, ability to scale, lower cost of ownership, ease of deployment, and reduced maintenance costs.

In this four-part blog series, we will examine the overall advantages of modular UPS’s; the reasons an organization might instead consider a standalone UPS model; and the key questions to ask when determining the best possible solution for your particular environment.

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

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

Let’s start by assessing three of the main benefits to deploying a modular UPS solution:

High availability. When a group of modules works together as a complete system, it reduces the possibility of a single point of failure, which in turn minimizes costly downtime.

Relying on this approach also enables organizations to achieve an unmatched level of redundancy, as all critical components are duplicated and distributed between modules.

In addition, the ability to easily and quickly replace a faulty module significantly reduces mean time to repair (MTTR) and mean time between failure (MTBF), further enhancing up-time and availability.

2. Seamless Ability to Scale. Because modular UPS’s offer the flexibility to expand with changing load requirements, organizations can essentially future-proof their power protection investment.

Rather than being forced to install a much larger UPS that can eventually be “grown into,” or continually having to upgrade to a new UPS as critical loads expand, users gain a “pay-as-you-go” approach from modular solutions.

The ability to easily scale the UPS as needed — by simply adding additional power or battery modules —eliminates the need for hefty upfront capital costs, not to mention wasted electricity from an under-utilized, over-sized UPS.

Bolstered efficiency. A UPS system operates at its highest efficiency when the load is at or near the maximum rated capacity.

So a lightly loaded system — such as a UPS with more capacity than is immediately required — will be far less efficient than a unit properly sized to meet the load.

Because a modular solution offers ability to scale and the option of increasing capacity or run-time on the fly, organizations can operate their UPS solution in a much more efficient manner.

In our next blog in this series, we will examine some additional key attributes to modular UPS solutions, including how they simplify and reduce maintenance requirements and costs, offer a smaller footprint, and contribute to a clean, green environment.

Interested in finding a UPS solution?
Unified Power is proud to offer the most popular and trusted brands of uninterruptible power supplies in the power industry. 

Still have questions? Get a response immediately.

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

Education, UPS

The 7 Most Common Causes of UPS Failure

When it comes to malfunctions in uninterruptible power systems (UPS’s), there is unfortunately no shortage of potential mishaps.

In fact, UPS system failure ranks as the No. 1 cause of unplanned data center outages, according to a 2016 report from the Ponemon Institute.

Even more disheartening, the same study estimates the average price tag of a data center outage to be a whopping $740,357.

But don’t despair —significantly reducing the risk of a UPS failure is surprisingly simple.

By engaging in regularly scheduled preventive maintenance (PM), you can dramatically lessen the likelihood of a load loss while also extending a UPS’s overall lifespan.

Research has shown that the mean time between failures (MTBF) is more than 20 times better for UPS’s that receive preventive maintenance twice a year over those that do not.

Prevention pays off, affording the opportunity to detect and repair potential problems before they become significant and costly.

Whether you are operating aging infrastructure or looking to optimize the lifespan of a newer equipment, consider some of the most common UPS components that are susceptible to failure:

1. Batteries – As the heart of any UPS system, batteries require regular checkups to ensure they remain fit to safeguard critical systems.

Regardless of their age, batteries should be inspected semi-annually as part of a PM visit that includes testing for impedance or conductance, as well as assesses performance and evaluates any potential weaknesses.

2. Capacitors – A fairly simple device that stores and releases electrical energy, capacitors range in size and type, and generally need to be replaced every 5 to 7 years.

A typical UPS contains a dozen or more capacitors, which are responsible for smoothing out and filtering voltage fluctuations.

However, because capacitors degrade over time, annual inspection helps to optimize their operation and extend their lifespan.

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

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3. Fans – Some UPS fans may perform well for 10 years of continuous use, while others could run for just a short time before locking up or failing.

Electrical or mechanical limitations and dried out ball bearings are common issues that can result in fan failures and subsequent UPS overheating.

4. Filters – UPS’s are also prone to overheating (and shutting down) when dust or other coatings block air filters.

Because replacing filters is an inexpensive component of an effective UPS maintenance plan, they should be inspected on a monthly basis and changed as needed.

5. Connections – An annual PM visit gives a trained service technician the opportunity to inspect the UPS and battery cabinets for loose internal connections, which can result from machinery situated close to the unit or from building vibrations.

6. Power supplies – Even redundant power supplies can be impacted by input voltage surges, which can lead to stress and overheating. Yet regular inspection can identify potential issues before they cause downtime.

7. Contactors – Also susceptible to dust, UPS contactors should be inspected and cleaned regularly.

While it’s clear that UPS components are prone to failure for a variety of reasons, investing in preventive maintenance with a professional and skilled service provider will appreciably reduce your risk of downtime — and potential disaster.

At Unified Power, we are committed to delivering exceptional, timely maintenance performed by highly trained industry professionals.

Still have questions? Get a response immediately.

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

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