By Louis McGarry, Sales and Marketing Director, CENTIEL UK
“The expected never happens; it is the unexpected always.” John Maynard Keynes, British economist.
How many times have you purchased something then later, it’s not turned out quite like you’d hoped or anticipated? We are often called in to see organisations in this situation where a UPS has been installed by others and it’s not delivering on its promises. However, for many years we have been on a mission to change this around.
The fact is that you can’t fully understand and complete a successful UPS installation from behind a desk. There are many variables relating to the power infrastructure including space, other equipment, environment, and timescales. As manufacturers and suppliers, it is our responsibility to deliver clean, continuous power with the most available systems and at the same time, ensure all the other elements which can impact successful UPS installations are also considered and resolved. It is often these factors which can end up compromising the original system design and if suppliers are not careful, the system provided may not meet the intended performance requirements.
Keeping on top of budgets is key to every project. However, cutting corners isn’t the answer as this will impact the overall system performance. Being too lean when designing a battery bank is a scenario we often see, the reduction in lead reduces costs but this results in under-sizing the system’s autonomy. Also, the use of inferior battery blocks to reduce costs is not an uncommon practice.
In addition, the installation surrounding the batteries can also be seen as an area for cost cutting. However, this is not the case and should be aligned with the rest of the installation as this can compromise the overall quality of the building infrastructure. All these actions result in reducing reliability and availability. Remember your UPS is only as good as its battery. In other words, if corners are cut with the batteries the UPS may not perform as required when needed and the end user may not end up with what they thought they were buying.
We know from our own experience that there will be changes during projects but this doesn’t mean that the client has to compromise their critical power and availability. Working with our team of experienced engineers who understand how to design and implement flexible UPS systems, can offer short-term and long-term savings without lowering the performance criteria. It’s not just big changes that can make a difference, it can be the simple things such as the correct labelling of DC cables or supplying proper containment or completely re-imagining the room layout. For us it’s about working with whatever the situation requires to ensure our UPS always does what it says on the tin.
Making Sure The Equipment Fits
Here’s where a 2D plan can fall down. It’s easy to design how a UPS will fit into a room on a blank piece of paper. Onsite it can be a different story and a visit is always needed to measure up and verify where the incoming supply cables are, where the outgoing distribution is and the location of all other services.
Some of the installation for the other elements of the room may have already gone ahead, perhaps items such as the containment and switch gear are not where they were expected to be? There are always differences between what’s on paper and real-life.
The map is often not the territory, and it is normal for things to change as a project evolves. Walls have been known to be moved, containment or ducting appears where it wasn’t supposed to be and suddenly the space allocated for the UPS has shrunk! As a result, we may need to ‘re-claim’ the space for the UPS and agree this with the client and confirm with further drawings. To ensure the installation is as smooth as possible on-site visits and ongoing communication with clients and Consultants is critical.
Getting the Installation Right
The installation can be impacted by other trades ‘working on top of each other’. Timing is the all-important element here. Over the course of a project, timelines will inevitably shift, and they are always on the tight side! Therefore, keeping in constant communication with others involved in the project can help. Failure to do so, can potentially double the time it takes to deliver and commission equipment and generally there is a cost implication to this.
Protection Of Equipment
Once the UPS has been installed it is important it stays safe while the rest of the build is completed. We have discovered that battery racks have been used as ladders, heard of people standing on top of 600v of batteries and even seen dents appear on the top of a UPS. Damage to delicate equipment in this way could jeopardise the optimal working of the system. We try and mitigate the risk by protecting the UPS and the batteries, putting up barriers and if possible and making the room secure.
Commissioning And Testing
The commissioning and testing aspect of a UPS build is extremely important as this is where the parameters of the UPS are set, and the system needs to demonstrate it can perform in line with the customer’s requirements. Generally, the process of commissioning a UPS should be straight forward when conducted by a manufacturer trained engineer, and once other elements of the build have been completed. However, challenges can occur when the site is not ready, for example, power may not be available or other works may have been delayed.
There are various levels of testing available to prove the performance of a UPS system, which can vary dependant on the client and the site. This can range from a load bank test, to prove the battery autonomy to an onsite integrated systems test necessary to demonstrate that the UPS operates correctly within the infrastructure before the system is handed over.
Once handed over, our priority is to ensure the reliability and availability of the UPS for our clients. As manufacturers we have a duty of care and our relationship with the UPS doesn’t end once commissioning is complete. It is essential that trained engineers undertake regular maintenance visits to ensure component health is monitored and corrective actions are taken to prevent potential failures.
The information gained during these visits offers a comprehensive overview of a system’s health. Understanding when remedial actions may be required will allow for budget discussions and planning to take place.
Again, we are focused on expecting the unexpected, always aiming to remove risk and maximise overall system availability as far as possible.
There is always a temptation for buyers to purchase another UPS like the one they’ve used before. However, technology has moved on. The most modern UPS are more available, reliable, flexible, and efficient and can dramatically reduce the total cost of ownership compared with legacy technology, which is usually huge, hard to access, maintain and cable in.
A UPS is a valuable asset and can become a costly one if you get it wrong. As I have described, there is far more to ensuring the UPS you are purchasing is able to perform as expected and the equipment will continue to remain reliable for the future.
Selecting the most optimum solution means working in close partnership with manufacturers, contractors and consultants to meet the requirements for critical power protection and to help overcome the inevitable challenges experienced on any project. At CENTIEL we are trusted to deliver to expectation every time and to support our clients and their equipment now and in the future.
Article featured in FMUK Magazine August 2021