By Aaron Oddy sales engineer CENTIEL UK Ltd

Great interior design is all about form and function. Practical UPS and comms room design has some similarities. However, we need to be able to work in the space rather than live in it!

The ideal design scenario would be the perfect sized room to house your UPS, batteries, switchgear, and any associated equipment. It would have ease of access for future maintenance, the optimum temperature, humidity and airflow. This would result in the best UPS configuration from the outset and therefore, reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO). However, this is not always the reality of the situation. Often, we are presented with requests to provide options for pre-existing rooms with environments that are not ideally suited for the application. This is where a clever approach to room layout is required.

Projects with limited space present challenges, such as reducing the overall footprint of the equipment, ensuring that components can be accessed safely for maintenance and the need for careful positioning of air-conditioning units for example. On the other hand, projects with ample space have different considerations. The focus is less on saving space and more about efficiency, cost savings and cooling requirements.

One key consideration is that a UPS and the associated switchgear gives off heat. The good news is that running a UPS up to 40 degrees C will not create any issues. However, VRLA batteries providing the essential back-up power to the UPS, need to be kept at 20-22 degrees C to maximize a normal 10-year design life. An industry standard estimates that for every 10 degrees above 20 degrees C the operating life of a VRLA battery is halved. With VRLA batteries making up a significant proportion of the UPS’ investment, being clever with details such as space and layout design can maximize battery life, saving on the need to make early replacements.

Another challenge is keeping control of running costs, deploying air conditioning for a large comms room, over say ten years, can be expensive. The bigger the space, the more difficult it can be to cool. One simple solution for improving layout design of a comms room is to separate the batteries from the UPS and associated switchgear by dividing the room with an internal wall. This means only the area housing the batteries needs environmental consideration, as removing all other heat sources (UPS) from the room means that the batteries are now sitting in an ambient room temperature, which on average is between 20-22 degrees C. This could even remove the need for air conditioning altogether, resulting in huge cost savings.

Some joined-up thinking when it comes to layout design and configuration can significantly reduce the cooling requirements and operational costs. By keeping batteries at their optimum temperature design life is prolonged and so costs for replacement batteries and the associated labour are minimized too.

To achieve the optimum UPS configuration discussions between the main contractor, AC installer and UPS manufacturer need to start early in the project. We normally conduct an onsite survey with all parties to assess the relative challenges and opportunities in line with the consultant’s specifications. This information is collated to work out the best configuration, taking into consideration: maximum design life of components; the space available; optimum temperatures; cable runs and containment for AC and DC cabling. We then provide our recommended solution to the client or end user. Once agreed, installation can take place.

Something as simple as creating the appropriate environment for your UPS system with a smarter configuration can result in savings. This approach and attention to detail ensures our clients can expect the maximum availability from their UPS to protect their critical load, while minimizing TCO at the same time. Operational expenditure is reduced and the need to replace equipment such as batteries before the manufacturer’s recommended lifetime is also minimized.

At CENTIEL our team are experts with many years of experience, trusted to advise organizations world-wide about the most appropriate UPS solutions and configurations to protect facilities. Our technical sales engineers are always happy to advise clients on the finer design details to develop a layout which will work best for them. We work closely with clients, consultants and contractors to ensure UPS systems are all configured optimally and as a result, the critical load remains protected at all times.

Originally featured in Electrical Engineering Magazine November 2020.

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