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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.

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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.

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