Louis McGarry, sales and marketing director at Centiel UK compares monolithic UPS with more modern-day modular technology and highlights how mono has moved on.

We regularly talk about the evolution and benefits of modular UPS. Modular is the thoroughbred of UPS solutions. As best of breed, modular has been designed to reduce energy through higher efficiency while at the same time increasing availability and resilience by removing single points of failure.

The premium level of availability achieved is an absolute priority for critical loads supporting medical facilities, the banking and finance world and data centres.

However, although modular remains the hot favourite for these types of institutions, monolithic or ‘stand-alone’ UPS solutions still have an important place within the industry. Many will be pleased to discover that the design and quality of monolithic UPS have improved significantly in recent times.

It’s that phrase ‘horses for courses’, which really means it comes down to making intelligent choices from the range of topologies available.  

Certainly, the need to employ a cost-effective solution always comes into play and this is where monolithic UPS can offer a point of difference.

Modular is cost effective at N+1 in a single footprint. However, when there is a need to increase the resilience level to an N+N configuration of the same size, monolithic blocks can become the front runner.

Take an example of a tier three UPS arrangement, where the design load is 200kW, located in a small plant room where the client needs to work within tight budget restraints.

The implementation of a 2N (N+N) can be achieved easily with 2 x 200kW monolithic blocks, simplifying the installation and making it the most cost-effective option, not only for the UPS system but for the entire infrastructure.

There are other situations which also point towards the use of monolithic UPS. These can include client preference, the need for a more traditional approach or, that a particular type of UPS has been specified. It’s our role as industry experts to work closely with the contractors and consultants to recommend the best solution to meet the needs of a particular project.

Just as modular has evolved in recent years, from an installation and design point of view much consideration has gone into how monolithic blocks are now designed and manufactured.

The fact is that mono’s moved on. They are much smaller, front access serviceable and now include some of the key features of modular, including a triple-mode communication bus designed to remove single points of failure in a parallel configuration.

The overall quality of the build of monolithic UPS has improved too. At Centiel we have used the lessons learned developing the highest standard modular technology and worked on implementing this into our monolithic range where possible.

Efficiency has improved. For example: the most modern monolithic systems have efficiency levels of 96.6% in true online double conversion, as well as enhanced overload and fault clearing capability, which helps when designing and implementing these systems into electrical infrastructures.

In addition, considerable effort has been made to reduce the overall system footprint of monolithic UPS, while maintaining a high-power density in footprints such as 0.24m square meters per 100kW.

In the past, it was usually necessary to remove side and back panels to access components for maintenance and repair or provide suitable rear clearance for airflow.

The introduction of front access design and the change of location for extractor fans means that UPS equipment can now be positioned with zero clearance requirements to the side and rear. The latest technology also allows major components to be isolated for repair or replacement, which dramatically reduces downtime.

There are many installations where monolithic blocs are the most appropriate choice for the facility. The important point for a customer is to work closely with experienced manufacturers and designers who can overcome any hurdles by evaluating the benefits of the topologies available and advise on the most cost-effective configuration which will provide sufficient support for the load required.

It’s not a one-horse race, so the good news is that quality components and improved design means that monolithic UPS remain a good choice for a cost-effective and practical power protection solution.

Originally featured by DCR Magazine October 2020

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