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Battery Checks and Maintenance

Published by Jason Koffler on 08 November 2014

Past studies have shown that battery failure is a common cause of UPS (uninterruptible power supply) breakdown.

If just one battery cell in a whole string is faulty, it could render the entire backup system useless in the event of a mains power failure. And the time to find a faulty cell in a battery string is not when mains power goes off! UPS systems contain many consumable parts. Alongside batteries, these include fans, filters and capacitors. Battery check and maintenance are crucial for the reliability and resilience of standby power systems.

On the plus side, regular and routine maintenance will help greatly increase UPS system reliability and extend its working life. This will, in turn, lower operating costs and total cost of ownership, which can offset maintenance costs over the long-term. Equipment operating in peak condition will do so more efficiently.

How do you make battery checks and maintenance more affordable and cost-effective?

A comprehensive and robust maintenance plan, provided by an industry specialist, is the answer.

Maintenance plans typically cover:

• Remote monitoring
• On-site crash kits
• DC monitoring
• Impedance testing
• Battery replacements
• Load bank testing
• Preventative maintenance visits

Specialist power and energy reseller Critical Power Supplies offers a range of maintenance plans to fit a variety of installation types and budgets. It is paid for in regular monthly instalments, which cover parts, labour and carriage. It also guarantees (depending on the plan) the emergency call out time (in clock-hours 12, 8 and 4). Maintenance plans help with cash-flow and make budgeting easier. Instead of being hit with a large bill following a call-out, the cost is taken care of on a monthly basis and the service is available when needed.

The importance of battery testing

Of all the components in a standby power system, UPS batteries are the least understood. Often, it is assumed that once they’re installed they can be forgotten about and will continue to run for several years.

There are a variety of issues that can affect UPS batteries, the most prevalent of which is temperature. This is certainly true for Sealed Lead Acid batteries, which are the most common type used in UPS systems.

The ambient temperature around UPS batteries should be maintained at 22 degrees Celsius. Anything above or below this will greatly affect how well they perform and how long they will last. Batteries absorb heat when discharging and give off heat when charging at a rate of 0.02 watts/Ah 12V DC, so it’s important to ensure the cooling system around them works correctly.

Each battery block in a rack should have at least a 10mm gap to allow for ventilation. This will help avoid thermal runaway (a condition that can cause battery swelling). Hotspots can occur when an individual battery weakens and begins charging faster than all the rest. Should that cell fail completely, it can cause the rest to overcharge.

Alongside temperature, other issues affecting UPS batteries and how long they will last are frequency and duration of use, plus humidity. Battery manufacturers recommend regular testing to ensure they are functioning correctly. Regular battery testing is part of a standard UPS maintenance health check.

Impedance testing

This is essential because it gives a complete overview of individual battery health not just the status of the string. Impedance testing examines each battery cell and delivers results on their life expectancy and durability. Readings are taken from each terminal in the string and this will identify any faulty cells. This type of testing can be done in isolation from the operational UPS. It is also important to visually inspect each cell for signs of electrolyte leakage and corrosion.

UPS Maintenance Plans

All UPS equipment is provided with a warranty and extended warranties may be available. But the standard manufacturers’ warranty doesn’t offer guaranteed emergency response, nor does it offer a holistic approach, which maintenance plans can. Warranties cover each individual piece of equipment, not the system as a whole. Unless you know exactly where the fault lies, it can be a nightmare managing several different warranty providers and trying to get them to work together to fix it. At best you’ll end up with a load of finger pointing and not much else.

A reseller maintenance plan adopts an overall managerial approach, guarantees an emergency response time (in accordance with the needs of the installation) and offers very ‘specialist’ knowledge of an entire standby power system not just certain aspects of it. They are also manufacturer-independent and can provide preventative as well as reactive (emergency call out) maintenance.

Maintenance plans are by far the best and most cost-effective method of keeping standby power systems in the best condition and ensuring their reliability and resilience.

If you’d like to find out more about our comprehensive and yet cost-effective maintenance plans, get in touch: 0800 978 8988. www.criticalpowersupplies.co.uk