Historically, when it came to uninterruptible power system (UPS) batteries, there was a single tried-and-true industry standard: valve-regulated lead acid (VRLA) batteries. While the well-established veteran continues to dominate the market, over the past decade a new player has been steadily gaining momentum. Representing a major progression in UPS battery technology, lithium-ion (Li-ion) provides a wealth of desirable benefits, including doubled service life over an equivalent lead-acid battery, smaller footprint and the ability to recharge to 100% capacity in less than two hours.
What Are Lithium-ion Powered UPSs?
Both lithium-ion and lead-acid UPS systems offer advantages and disadvantages. Choosing between these UPS types depends on a variety of factors, including your application requirements, budget, available space and desired lifespan. While lead-acid battery UPSs have traditionally been more affordable than li-ion systems, the cost difference has narrowed with advancements in lithium-ion technology and more widespread deployment.
The difference between the two types of UPS batteries begins with their chemistry. Lithium-ion batteries have a higher energy density than lead-acid, which enables them to provide the same amount of power in a smaller and lighter form factor. Their chemistry also affords a longer life cycle, which is the number of charge and discharge cycles a battery can experience before its capacity begins to degrade significantly. In addition, lithium-ion UPSs usually yield higher efficiency than units with lead-acid batteries, resulting in less energy waste. Another difference in the two technologies is that li-ion UPS batteries have a lower self-discharge rate, which enables them to retain their charge for a longer period when not in use, thus reducing the need for frequent recharging.
7 Benefits of Lithium-ion UPSs
Lithium-ion battery solutions offer distinct advantages over traditional lead-acid UPSs. Among the most noteworthy are:
- Higher energy density. UPSs with lithium-ion batteries are able to store more energy in a smaller physical footprint. This allows for more compact and lightweight UPS systems, which can be beneficial in environments where space is limited
- Longer lifespan. Lithium-ion UPSs can endure a higher number of charge-discharge cycles before experiencing significant capacity degradation, resulting in reduced maintenance requirements and replacement costs over time.
- Faster charging. With a faster charging capability compared to lead-acid batteries, lithium-ion is advantageous in situations where rapid backup power restoration is important.
- Higher efficiency. Because lithium-ion UPSs generally have higher charging and discharging efficiencies, less energy is wasted during the conversion process. This helps to reduce costs and facilitate a smaller environmental footprint.
- Smaller footprint. Due to their higher energy density, lithium-ion batteries require less physical space than lead-acid, which is particularly valuable in environments where space is limited or when compact UPS solutions are desired.
- Enhanced reliability. UPSs with lithium-ion batteries offer a more reliable power source due to their stable voltage output throughout the discharge cycle.
- Improved safety features. UPS systems with lithium-ion batteries often incorporate advanced safety features such as thermal monitoring, voltage and current controls, and built-in protection against overcharging and short circuits. These safety mechanisms help mitigate the risk of fire or damage caused by battery malfunctions.
Although it is clear that lithium-ion UPSs offer numerous advantages, they often demand a higher upfront cost than lead-acid UPSs. However, considering their longer lifespan and superior performance, they may offer a lower total cost of ownership.
When Are Lithium-ion Powered UPSs the Best Choice?
UPSs with lithium-ion batteries are well-suited for a wide range of applications and critical facilities where reliable backup power is crucial. An ideal backup solution for IT infrastructure ― including servers, network equipment and data storage systems ― lithium-ion UPSs protect sites against data loss, prevent downtime and ensure the availability of critical IT services. Common applications include:
Lithium-ion UPSs provide compact and efficient backup power solutions for data centers, ensuring minimal downtime and safeguarding valuable data.
Telecommunication networks rely on li-ion UPSs to maintain connectivity and prevent service disruptions in infrastructure such as base stations, switching centers and network hubs, especially in outlaying sites that may be difficult to access.
Lithium-ion UPSs provide efficient power backup in hospitals, clinics and other medical facilities to support patient care, maintain critical equipment operation and ensure uninterrupted power to life-saving devices.
Industrial facilities such as manufacturing and chemical plants benefit from lithium-ion UPSs to protect sensitive equipment, prevent production downtime and ensure safe shutdown procedures during power outages.
Banks, stock exchanges and other financial institutions rely on lithium-ion UPSs to prevent data loss, ensure transactional continuity and maintain secure operations.
Retail and E-commerce
Lithium-ion UPSs are a great backup solution for retail stores, shopping malls and e-commerce warehouses, helping businesses to avoid revenue loss, maintain point-of-sale systems and keep online operations running during power disruptions.
Which UPS battery technology is right for you ― 10 Questions to Ask
In order to make an informed decision about whether a UPS with lithium-ion batteries or traditional lead-acid UPS would be best for your particular application, there are a number of considerations. Comparing the key aspects will enable you to make an informed decision based on your specific needs, budget and preferences. Start by asking the following questions:
- What are the differences in energy density? This will help determine the size, weight, and space requirements of the UPS.
- How do the lifespan and cycle life compare? These factors will impact the long-term maintenance and replacement costs.
- What is the difference in charging time? Faster charging times are beneficial if you need backup power to be restored quickly.
- How do efficiency levels compare? UPS systems with higher efficiencies waste less energy during the conversion process, resulting in lower operating costs.
- What are the differences in physical size and weight? Understand the dimensions and weight of each UPS system to ensure it can be accommodated in your available space. Consider if you need a compact and lightweight solution or if you have ample room for a larger unit.
- What are the safety considerations? Inquire about the safety mechanisms and protections incorporated into each UPS system to prevent issues such as overcharging, short circuits and thermal events. This is crucial for the reliable and secure operation of the UPS.
- How does each UPS rate for total cost of ownership? Assess the overall cost-effectiveness of each UPS ― including the upfront price tag, ongoing operational costs and maintenance requirements.
- What are the differences in environmental considerations? Inquire about any special environmental requirements or considerations for each battery type, such as temperature limits, ventilation requirements and disposal/recycling procedures.
- What type of support is needed for each battery technology? Understand the level of technical support and maintenance services offered for each battery type and ensure that you can obtain reliable support throughout the lifespan of the UPS.
- How do your equipment requirements align with each UPS? Ensure that the UPS type is compatible with the power requirements, voltage compatibility, and interfaces of your existing equipment.
Protect Your UPS system with Unified Power
As a premier national service provider for critical power systems, Unified Power can help ensure the ongoing optimal performance of your UPS systems, regardless of their battery type. We offer a broad range of preventive maintenance and repair services for UPSs and generators, as well as emergency service, turnkey electrical solutions, DC plant services, battery replacement and more. Contact us today to find out more about how we can help you maintain continuous uptime and high availability for your business.