Mar 11, 2022

How to get the best from your UPS

Your UPS is designed to provide protection and an emergency power source for your critical load. It is as important as the equipment it protects.

The Environment - Your UPS system's surroundings is of paramount importance with it ideally being installed in a well-ventilated, air-cooled environment. Excess heat and poor ventilation causes premature degradation to the batteries and capacitors and relies upon increased performance from the cooling fans. A properly ventilated, air cooled environment helps reduce dust build up and will go a long way in ensuring the longevity of your UPS system in addition to minimising its TCO (total cost of ownership) by mitigating battery, capacitor and fan replacements and other costs associated with a poorly performing system.

The Batteries - Batteries are commonly the most expensive consumable item in your UPS system and unfortunately, the most likely to fail. UPS batteries are stored energy and only have a limited design life. Many variables contribute towards their actual lifespan - if they fail, it can cause downtime and potentially, loss of revenue.

So why do batteries fail? The primary factors for battery failure is heat and age. They perform best at temperatures of between 20-23 degrees Celsius (68-73 degrees Fahrenheit). The life of the battery will be greatly reduced in areas of excessive heat so it is of paramount importance that your UPS is kept in a well ventilated, temperature controlled environment as mentioned above. An automated battery check can be set to run once a month to ensure the batteries are healthy and that they deliver the required autonomy (runtime) when called upon. Should there be a fault with a single cell, (battery), or string, (multiple batteries), your UPS will alert you to this and corrective measures (possibly replacement) can then be taken. An inspection of the batteries should be undertaken annually to ensure there are no apparent bulges or leaks.

The Capacitors - The capacitors in your UPS system are components that adjust fluctuations in electrical voltage. Smaller capacitors smooth out the power supplied to the UPS processor, while larger ones regulate the power flow to your critical load (protected equipment). Much like batteries, capacitors are a consumable item that require replacing over time and are subject to the same environmental conditions.

Capacitors may also bulge or corrode towards the end of their life cycle and whilst this is easy to identify, not all failed capacitors exhibit this visual identifier. Should a capacitor fail, the other capacitors are forced to then take up the workload which in turn shortens their expected design life. As with batteries, capacitors should also be checked during an annual preventative maintenance service.

A pro-active replacement service for both batteries and capacitors should be considered towards the end of their expected design life as best practice, waiting until these vital consumables fail can cause severe disruption and commercial detriment to the UPS equipment and ultimately, the UPS may fail the very equipment it is designed to protect. A comprehensive maintenance contract will identify necessary actions such as these before they become a potential issue.

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