As a service and maintenance engineer for leading uninterruptable power supply (UPS) manufacturer CENTIEL, life is never dull! I work with datacentres and organisations with UPS installations all over the UK. This requires liaising with facilities management teams on a daily basis for maintenance visits, site surveys, installations and emergency callouts.

On a typical day, I will normally have a maintenance call in the diary at some point. This can be for what we call a ‘minor’ maintenance visit or a ‘major’ maintenance visit. A minor maintenance is a visual six-monthly check over of the UPS equipment to make sure it’s all working correctly.  I will also inspect the batteries which provide the back-up power to the UPS unit for signs of wear and tear and do a short battery test on-site.

For a major maintenance visit, I would complete a full inspection of the kit, including lifting the covers, checking the fans, capacitors, batteries, etc. If all is well, I would complete a switching test or a ‘mains discharge test’. This means I literally turn the power off to mimic a power outage to ensure the UPS switches over to battery power. I monitor the batteries during the discharge and re-charge to ensure they are performing optimally.

While the UPS is switched off, the site load is supported by the raw mains supply.  Any mains interruptions while the UPS is on bypass, will directly affect the site load. Due to this, some customers prefer their ‘major’ maintenance visit to take place outside of normal working hours.

However, if their UPS system is set up in an N+1 configuration this redundancy means it is possible to switch the mains power off and remain protected allowing tests to be completed safely.

These tests allow me to make any necessary recommendations for any replacement parts or batteries. It’s really important to replace batteries before their end of life.   We say ‘it’s better to replace one year early than a day too late’ as one faulty battery will bring down the whole string, which could cause power protection issues and end up being far more costly for the client.

Next, I’m out on the road again, often supporting our project management team, checking a new site ahead of an installation. Clients and facilities management teams can give us much of the information we need over the phone, but it is important to check access in person too. This is because we are often installing many tonnes of battery equipment and the UPS itself can weigh around half a tonne, so any access issues need to be addressed in advance.

For a recent pre-installation visit, I discovered a step into the comms room which had not been highlighted. This may seem like a small detail, however, knowing this ahead of the installation allowed me to build a ramp to ensure equipment could be delivered and therefore, avoiding delays during the install.  A different pre-installation visit recently revealed a broken goods lift which was needed to move 16 tonnes of batteries between floors. Identifying this issue ahead of the installation allowed us to work with the client to provide an alternative solution.

Emergency call outs are the other part of my day.  Such calls can happen at any time and often outside normal working hours! Although we manufacture and maintain CENTIEL’s UPS solutions which are renowned for their industry leading levels availability (9.99999999%) with just milliseconds downtime per year, we also look after third party manufacturers’ UPS systems on maintenance and service contracts too.

I was recently called to a major financial institution that had experienced a power outage which took out half the building for half a day. Power protection was supplied by a third-party manufacturer’s UPS which had failed due to a downstream power spike taking out some of the components. I needed to create a temporary power feed to get the system up and running again and the order replacement parts for a permanent fix.

I have to ‘plug’ CENTEIL’s CumulusPower UPS here, which is a ‘truly’ modular system, meaning if one component fails the other modules take over the load so there is no single point of failure and the power remains protected at all times.

Replacement of the modules takes just a matter of minutes. If a correctly configured CumulusPower had been installed at this particular financial institution, there would have been no downtime or disruption at all. Educating clients about the advantages upgrading to a more reliable and available UPS system which also results in a lower total cost of ownership is just part and parcel of the job!

Article By Sid Miah, Senior Engineer, CENTIEL UK, originally featured in Qube Magazine November 2019

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