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Knowledge is Power: 5 Key Truths about UPS Systems

Whether you’re considering upgrading your uninterruptible power system (UPS), investigating service options for an existing unit, or simply seeking to bolster your overall power protection proficiency, one thing is certain: knowledge is power. With that in mind, we’ve compiled five important details to add to your power system repertoire:

1. All UPS are not created equal. It is important to recognize that the three primary UPS topologies — standby, line-interactive and online —provide significant differences in performance and varying degrees of protection. A standby system, also referred to as an off-line or passive UPS, delivers the most basic level of security, making it best suited for less critical applications. While the low-cost units supply battery backup during a power outage, they do not buffer equipment against many common damaging power anomalies.

A line-interactive UPS system is designed to shield connected devices from five of the nine most common power problems, including under- and over- voltage conditions. Typically used to safeguard enterprise network and IT applications, a line-interactive UPS provides more protection than standby models, with better power conditioning and regulation that helps prolong battery life.

Finally, the online or double-conversion topology delivers continuous protection against all nine common power problems, supplying consistent power quality regardless of incoming instabilities. Online UPSs are the optimal 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.

2. A UPS won’t necessarily include power conditioning. While either device can offer various forms of power filtering, the primary distinction between the two is that a UPS system has a battery, while a power conditioner does not. In addition to providing battery backup, some UPSs also combine power filtering into a single unit; however, the UPS must be either line-interactive or online topology and include true sine wave output. However, if your UPS doesn’t incorporate the necessary level of power conditioning, it is possible to add a separate power conditioner to the unit.

3. No matter how well you care for your UPS, certain components will eventually fail. While some UPS systems may last 15 or more years, there are several principal components that are subject to failure far earlier; most notably, the batteries, fans and capacitors. The majority of UPS batteries have an expected lifespan of three to five years under ambient conditions, but can fail much faster in environments that exceed a temperature of 77°F, or where recurrent power problems cause them to cycle frequently. Fans have a typical lifespan of six to seven years, and most capacitors will last seven to 10 years before needing to be replaced. To avoid unexpected downtime or damage to critical equipment, make sure you understand the lifecycle and maintenance requirements of these key UPS components.

4. Regular preventive maintenance is essential. Routine preventive maintenance has been shown to be one of the most successful and cost-effective ways to ensure the longevity — and reliability — of your UPS system. This proactive maintenance approach monitors ongoing UPS health through regular checkups, helping to ensure that the system will continue to operate at peak performance. In addition to batteries, capacitors and fans, a UPS’s semi-conductors, wiring, resistors and breakers all require regular attention in order to achieve optimal performance and efficiency. Without scheduled preventive maintenance, there is no way to mitigate the possibility of part and component failures, leaving equipment vulnerable to downtime and premature failure.

5. Maximizing UPS efficiency can lower your energy costs. Did you know that even small boosts to UPS efficiency can result in thousands of dollars in savings? That’s because high-efficiency UPS models achieve more real power while lowering power and cooling requirements— an especially important factor considering utility costs are long-term, ongoing expenses. While actual savings depend on utility rates, the size of the UPS system and the load supported, increasing efficiency by as little as 1 percent can translate to tens of thousands of dollars in annual savings. And the Department of Energy estimates that a 15,000-square-foot data center operating at 100W/square foot would pocket $90,000 per year just by increasing the efficiency of its UPS from 90 to 95 percent.

While these key factors are intended to bolster your overall UPS system knowledge, we at Unified Power also understand that UPSs can be complex devices. If you have any questions or need help determining the optimal solution or service plan for your environment, we’re here to help. Please give us a call us today!

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 UPSs 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.

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.

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 UPSs 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 UPSs 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 UPSs is that they do not buffer equipment against other power anomalies, and they must resort to batteries frequently, which can reduce battery runtime and service life.

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 undervoltage and overvoltage circumstances without using the batteries. These systems provide more protection than standby UPSs, 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 UPSs 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.

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 (UPSs) are in fact complex devices that perform multiple functions — not the least of which is ensuring clean power and continuous uptime 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:

  1.  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 runtime 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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 with, 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.

Education, UPS

The 7 Most Common Causes of UPS Failure

When it comes to malfunctions in uninterruptible power systems (UPSs), 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.

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.

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