As the heart of any uninterruptible power system (UPS), batteries require proper maintenance and testing in order to avert unexpected downtime and costly repairs. It’s well documented that the battery is not only the most vulnerable part of a UPS system, but also the leading cause of load loss. In fact, up to 65% of UPS failures are battery-related. Yet despite their susceptibility, UPS batteries don’t have to compromise your business continuity or uptime. Organizations that partner with a service provider to proactively perform UPS battery health checks can be confident that their system will perform as expected when they need it most.
Why Is UPS Battery Testing and Monitoring Important?
UPS backup battery testing provides invaluable insight into the health of your critical power systems, and all batteries require regular testing in order to maximize their lifespan. Testing UPS battery backups is also paramount to safeguarding your facility from the inconvenience and expense of an unplanned power outage. Although improvements in battery technology ── such as advanced charging techniques, software management and firmware upgrades that add intelligence ── have reduced the threat of unexpected failure, none of these capabilities can completely eliminate the risk.
While most UPSs include built-in functionality that automatically tests batteries and will send an alarm if a fault is detected ── and more sophisticated UPS backup systems may feature some level of remote monitoring that will alert a technician to issues ── these measures only provide a general indication of the overall battery set. The best way to evaluate the health of a battery set is through external testing that assesses individual cell level. This type of UPS battery checkup procedure is generally included as part of a preventive UPS maintenance plan, although it can also be provided as a standalone service.
Benefits of UPS Battery Testing
The significant advantages of UPS battery testing are numerous and well-documented. The procedure helps organizations to:
- Maximize uptime and business continuity ── Ensuring ongoing, uninterrupted business operations is among the most critical tasks of UPS batteries. Testing, monitoring and analysis are necessary to verify that batteries will perform as needed if there is a power interruption ── helping to avoid lost revenue, expensive delays, significant equipment repairs or replacements, data loss and decreased productivity.
- Keep a constant pulse on battery health ── Regular testing of UPS batteries yields valuable data that can be used to anticipate the need for corrective action. A routine, physical inspection by an experienced service professional can generate much more information than what is monitored by system sensors ── and also ensure that sensors are performing correctly.
- Avoid costly battery replacements ── Proactive battery testing by a service professional helps to ensure ongoing UPS battery health. Consistent testing is the optimal way to identify problems such as overheating, which can result in premature battery failure. The potential price tag of equipment damage resulting from an unplanned battery failure far exceeds the cost of regular UPS battery testing.
- Circumvent equipment failures ── Regular UPS battery testing also helps confirm consistent, balanced voltage to the connected load. Not only can voltage imbalances cause major damage to UPS systems, but even slightly incorrect calibrations or equipment deterioration can also result in inconsistent power or overloaded systems.
- Maintain warranty requirements ── While defects or waning performance of a UPS battery is typically covered under manufacturer warranty, uncovering these issues requires regular testing. To fulfill a warranty claim, the UPS manufacturer will require the submission of maintenance and UPS battery test reports on a variety of metrics, such as voltage testing, temperatures and other readings.
- Meet regulatory compliance requirements ── Many industries are under highly scrutinized regulatory compliance mandates, and the risk of falling out of compliance can be lessened with UPS backup battery testing. Regular UPS battery test reports offer a track record of UPS health that can be supplied to regulatory agencies.
Types of UPS Battery Testing
There are a variety of UPS battery testing methods that rely on different types of UPS battery testing equipment to ascertain health and functionality. The most common include:
UPS battery impedance testing is a non-intrusive test used to compile and track the performance history of each battery cell. Typically completed annually, the test makes it easier to identify signs of deterioration or cells with high internal impedance that might require replacing. The UPS battery impedance tester involves applying an AC current to each battery via probes attached to block terminals. With the impedance measured and recorded in milliohms, the test provides a general indication of health without placing batteries under too much stress or requiring them to be taken offline.
This UPS battery testing procedure compares the batteries to common algorithms conditions, such as electrolyte dry-out and sulphation. Service professionals conduct the test using portable hand-held units with probes that measure the frequency response to voltage and current signals passed into the battery. The results are then cross-referenced for comparison to performance data for healthy batteries. Because electro-chemical testing measures sulphation and electrolyte dry-out rather than just impedance, it offers a more detailed summary of battery condition. In the event of a UPS battery test failure, the failing blocks can either be replaced or recharged at a higher rate to reduce sulphation.
Load Bank Testing
UPS battery load testing, also referred to as discharge testing, is the most comprehensive type of battery assessment and the only true method capable of determining the actual capacity of the battery string. Reviewing the batteries under both normal and peak load conditions, the approach identifies which cells hold a charge and which might be approaching the end of service life. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) recommends performing a UPS battery load test at the time of installation, then repeating the procedure annually. The main drawback of the UPS battery load test procedure is that the batteries must be taken out of service during the test, which generally takes 24 hours. However, the process can occasionally last for several days.
Partial Discharge Testing
A partial UPS battery discharge test involves discharging the batteries to a maximum of 80%. If an outage or other fault condition were to occur during the UPS battery discharge test procedure, the UPS could still use its 20% available capacity to operate. With this method of UPS battery testing, full capacity is usually restored within 8 hours, a much shorter timespan than with load bank testing.
UPS Battery Monitoring
In addition to battery testing, there are specialized monitoring systems that measure UPS battery performance. It is recommended that these systems incorporate the parameters identified by IEEE UPS battery testing standards, which include string and cell float voltage; string and cell change and discharge voltage; AC ripple voltage; AC ripple current; string charge current; string discharge current; ambient and cell temperature; cell internal resistance; and cycles.
Unified Power’s UPS Battery Testing and Monitoring Services
Unified Power offers an extensive range of battery testing and monitoring services that cover all UPS models. Our trained technicians perform capacity tests in accordance with IEEE UPS battery testing standards, with results reviewed in the field by Unified Power’s technical support team. A detailed follow-up UPS battery test report is provided to the customer, which outlines performance results and, if applicable, includes recommendations for repairs or replacements.
Unified Power also offers battery monitoring systems that include daily reports of your battery plant’s life and notification if a battery failure is detected. Our battery monitoring equipment monitors cell voltages, internal resistance, and temperature; provides an immediate warning of a specific failing battery; records up to 120 days of battery history to allow for trending analysis; offers remote monitoring capabilities, and helps you budget for a battery replacement before it becomes an emergency situation.
Contact Unified Power for UPS Battery Testing and Monitoring
When it comes to maintaining the optimal operation of your UPS, make sure you trust Unified Power’s team of expert UPS battery testers. We follow a thorough UPS battery inspection checklist to ensure that your critical power equipment will perform as expected when you need it most. Contact us today to find out how we can help you preserve the ongoing health of your UPS batteries!