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Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS) are designed to protect critical loads and to mitigate risk to critical infrastructures, including data centres. However, care needs to be taken as risk to the load can be re-introduced through the UPS itself, writes Tim Ng, Sales Engineer at Centiel UK.

The three biggest risks are: purchasing a lesser quality UPS system without realising the implications of doing so, the use of unapproved maintenance procedures and not replacing aging equipment at the appropriate time. As a result, failure can have far reaching consequences for the operation in terms of damaged reputation and lost business due to unexpected downtime.

Replacement Before Failure 

Most (sensible!) people replace their cars before they get to the point where they keep breaking down. It’s the same with a UPS. Inevitably as equipment ages, components become less reliable and available, and the risk of failure is increased. However, we regularly come across UPS systems that have significantly exceeded their recommended design life and should have been replaced years ago. To be blunt, by continuing to run and maintain an aging UPS you are putting your trust in a system with a much higher probability of failure.

Sometimes it’s down to a lack of technical guidance about when to make the decision to replace the UPS, but more often than not, it’s down to securing budget. However, in the event of a major outage and a situation where an ageing UPS fails, a business could lose millions for the sake of a small investment in new equipment. There are also significant gains to be made. For example, modern UPS systems are far more efficient and can slash operational expenditure dramatically.

Picture a data centre with 1MW of critical load supported by a UPS system with an efficiency of 90%. Based on an average unit price of 14p/kWh the running cost of this UPS will be around £135,000 per year. Now picture a new UPS supporting the same load at the same p/kWh but with an efficiency of 97% – the running costs are reduced dramatically to around £38,000 per year. If you consider that the average commercial electricity p/kWh is projected to increase by as much as 40% in 2022, this makes a very strong case to replace ageing inefficient equipment. A new UPS could pay for itself in just a few years.

Quality Counts

When selecting a UPS, it is important to make the right choice. If a quote appears to be too good to be true, maybe it is! Quality equipment and components can cost more but there is a reason for this. Manufacturers invest heavily into research and development to ensure that the components selected for use in their products meet a strict set of performance standards. This means that they can deliver the most robust and reliable systems to their clients. Ultimately, the aim of any quality UPS manufacturer is to produce a system that has the highest availability, with reduced running costs and minimised risk of system downtime.

Maintenance Matters

As with any new car, using an unapproved technician to service your UPS will likely invalidate the warranty. A new UPS should always be maintained by an approved factory trained engineer or manufacturer recommended maintenance technician.

A UPS requires regular preventative maintenance. An essential part of this is for the correct software updates to be deployed, which ensures optimal functionality.

Sometimes unapproved engineers will take on a maintenance contract that they are unable to fully support. As well as invalidating warranties, essential software updates will be missed, which can impact the UPS’s functionality. The consequence of using unapproved engineers can be serious. For example, putting a UPS into bypass for maintenance using an incorrect switching sequence can introduce a fault into the system, causing catastrophic failure.

Correct preventative maintenance will also enable ageing components to be identified and replaced early. Environmental factors, such as temperature and dust, can also invalidate warranties and reduce the life span of the UPS. Trained maintenance engineers will monitor these issues and take corrective action where necessary.

A further benefit of using approved factory trained engineers is that they can become a trusted advisor. At Centiel, the company’s engineers work closely with clients to advise what actions are required, following preventative maintenance to maximise the performance of their systems.

A UPS will protect the critical load to a datacentre for many years. However, to mitigate the risk of the failure of the UPS itself, select a quality solution, ensure it is maintained correctly and replace the equipment before it reaches the end of its design life.

 

Article featured in Electrical Contracting News and Data Centre Network News 2022

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