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Why Ongoing Maintenance of Your UPS Unit Is Critical

Published by Jason Koffler on 27 September 2019

In most cases, you would use a UPS system to keep servers, computers, and other systems running to prevent an instant power loss event and the crashing of your critical systems. They also have a number of protective aspects, including under voltage and over voltage. When used in tandem with an additional surge protection device they form a key part of a comprehensive critical power plan.

As with any critical device, regular maintenance should remain a priority.

What a UPS Unit Does

UPS units serve as a sentinel for your systems that need constant power. First, they can take over for the main power supply in case of a power outage. During short term outages, they can run systems on a battery. If, however, the outage lasts longer than the battery life, the UPS can automatically perform a shutdown that will not damage the systems.

Adding more batteries can increase the effective life of the UPS during an outage.

Many of these units also protect the systems. Surges, spikes, and brownouts all occur when the grid has power fluctuations. These can cause system damage or even breakdown if systems do not enjoy defence against them. The consequences of sudden power loss include potential damage to hardware and inability to use key systems until they get repaired.

Critical Power Supplies - UPS and Battery racks room.

Maintenance Starts With Proper Installation

Installation requires preparation and planning to ensure that it works to its full potential.

Getting the most out of your UPS starts with making sure that you have the right fit system for your needs. Take into account your budget, the scope of your system’s needs, and the reliability of the local grid or other power supply. Some UPS systems deal with large capacity and/or harsh environments.

For example where direct on line motors are used, a UPS must have 10 times the nominal load, creating a significant oversizing but there is no way of getting around the 3:1 crest factor of a UPS.

UPS systems in some cases may have too much capacity for the cost for many organisations that have a better energy environment.

  • Make sure that you conduct an extensive site survey to determine the best spot to place the unit.
  • Record your loads by name and where they are fed from, including the nominal and maximum wattages.
  • Prior to installation, the proper personnel needs training on how to use and care for the unit day to day. It is an industry best practice that people on site know how to operate the critical power equipment.
  • Since the system carries substantial weight, it may require a ground floor installation or reinforcement of a floor through a plinth or spreader plate.

For the actual installation, in most cases, an organisation will need to call an outside contractor. Experts recommend one who is registered with NICEIC. They will communicate needs, such as a cleared space, constant acceptable humidity and temperature parameters, and other essentials. Make sure to leave room for maintenance work in the sides and front as well as for potential future system expansion.

Recommended Testing Schedule For Your UPS Unit

UPS systems protect your fragile technology, but they themselves need regular attention. Following a recommended maintenance schedule does not only prevent breakdowns that can lead to system damage or lack of power at a critical time. It also ensures that your system runs at peak efficiency to prevent extra power usage.

They also prevent unplanned maintenance call outs which can be costly or put critical infrastructure at risk from raw mains.

What Needs to be Checked Monthly

Once a month, a trained employee should do the following:

Visually inspect the UPS to ensure that it is clean with no encumbering debris. Test the ventilation system to ensure proper function. Make sure that the batteries maintain the right electrolyte level and are free of leaks. Review battery monitoring system. Check the batteries are charged and the event logs are clear. Measure the unit’s ambient temperature Test any generators that the UPS may rely upon.

Quarterly (Every 3 months) Biannually (Every 6 months) Annually (Every year) Biennial (Every two years)
Check for wear and tear issues, such as burned insulation, loose connections, or other potential issues. Measure the voltage of batteries or cells. Use a thermal camera to check the UPS, batteries and associated switchgear. Check at least 10 per cent of battery posts for proper temperature, if not all of them. Inspect battery connections. Loose or damaged connections could lead to reduced efficiency or even present a fire hazard. Check the area HVAC systems to make sure that they maintain the proper temperature. Check for liquid contaminants. Clean and vacuum the area around the UPS Test the overall system function. Turn off the system properly, then perform a comprehensive inspection for heat issues or damage. Test the battery bank to determine capacity. Clear UPS components of all dirt. Test connection torques and tighten if needed. Run a complete operational test. Check expiration dates of components. Replace if needed. Test UPS transfer switches, circuit breakers, and maintenance bypass switches. Checking of your building’s emergency power system if it connects to the UPS.

Regular Maintenance Reduces Risk of Costly Breakdowns

UPS systems contain a number of components and connections that require monitoring and maintenance. The normal running of any equipment, especially a UPS system, will create minor issues that, if left unchecked, can develop into big problems.

For example, connections that slowly loosen over time can be caught by a trained technician and repaired before they threaten system function.

Maintenance Can Help Prolong Battery Life

Regular maintenance can identify functional or environmental problems that can adversely affect battery life. For example, UPS system batteries optimally operate at 20 degrees centigrade. Temperatures that fall too low or too high can sap life and affect performance.

Maintenance contracts can also include fixed costs for key parts which need replacing over a UPS’s life such as capacitors, fans and power quality boards in life with the manufacturers recommendations.

UPS battery life also often falls short of their expected life, depending on their power responsibilities and how often they get pressed into service. Maintenance can ensure that you change your batteries before they quit working.

Other ways that maintenance can help to extend battery life include, but are not limited to:

  • Buy replacement batteries but purchase according to a schedule. Stored and unused batteries can lose service life. New batteries can rest in storage for up to a year, but lose full capacity in as little as 18 months.
  • While once or twice a year recalibration can boost performance, do not recalibrate more than twice per year, as this can adversely affect battery life.
  • If batteries experience full discharge, recharge within 24 hours to prevent damage.
  • Check batteries for normal aging factors, such as corrosion and other factors that could hamper performance.
  • Perform battery impedance tests using load analysis and impedance testers, recording the results.
  • Use proven power saving devices, such as LED lighting, to ensure that the UPS carries the lightest possible load.
  • Make sure that your wiring is of top quality when installed and remains in good condition.

Maintenance Can Identify the Need For Battery Replacement

When UPS batteries require replacement, the system will often alert users. They will usually emit a low battery signal that carries both a flashing light and an alarm.

Sometimes a UPS will show a false low battery alarm. Regular maintenance can keep you apprised of battery levels and give an idea of whether the alarm is legitimate or not. A technician can trigger a UPS self-test to check and see if the batteries actually are low.

Batteries nearing the end of their life can also create seemingly unrelated symptoms in UPS performance.

Always remember, battery maintenance is as essential as keeping your UPS itself in top condition.

A UPS system will not run properly on low batteries, or at all with dead ones. Don’t wait until system failure to check your battery life.

Use Regular Recalibrations to Promote Efficiency

Over the life of a UPS battery, the dwell time calibration will lose accuracy. This will often occur when the system has gone online during multiple outages. The UPS will generally overestimate the dwell time during these events, causing increasingly off calibration.

Sometimes, a bad calibration can hide otherwise detectable symptoms of a battery malfunction.

UPS systems have different ways to recalibrate. Check with a qualified technician to check the calibration and repair any issues.

As a UPS unit ages, it will naturally lose efficiency. Regular maintenance can forestall this dynamic, but not prevent it entirely.

Our Maintenance Monitoring Plans

Critical Power Supplies offers a variety of plans to ensure that you can keep your UPS running at its potential. Regular maintenance adds life to this vital system while reducing the costs of operation.

Some of our clients have technical expertise in house, while others will rely more on qualified and trained assistance. We offer six different plans, each created to serve as well as possible the individual needs of our clients.

These can also include covering the parts which require replacement in a UPS’s life such as capacitors, fans and power quality boards which have recommended manufacturer replacement dates.

Response Only

This service is reactive only, bringing technical expertise to repair issues. It includes

  • 24-hour hotline
  • Emergency response
  • Labour
  • Parts
  • Same day response time

Parts Only

This service includes access to the technical hotline, preventative maintenance, and parts.

Silver Plan

This plan includes everything offered in response only and parts only, plus the following:

  • Optimal remote monitoring 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Upgraded firmware
  • 12 working hour response time
  • Options for a monthly status report and onsite crash kit

Gold Plan

This includes all elements of the silver plan, plus an eight working hour response time

Platinum Plan

This plan offers all of the features of the Gold Plan, but reduces response time to four clock hours.

Diamond Plan

Our Diamond Plan includes every aspect of the Platinum Plan, but also the monthly status report and a guaranteed four hour response and eight hour repair time.

Reach Out Today

Contact us today to learn more about what Critical Power Supplies can do for your organisation’s UPS system. Our trained and professional staff know UPS units inside and out. They can answer any questions you may have or also set up an appointment for installation or to start a maintenance plan designed for your needs.

Trust Critical Power Supplies to keep your fragile computer systems and their components running properly and safely. We value our clients. This means that we strive to exceed expectations while also working to maintain excellent pre and post-installation support.

Let us put over a quarter of a century of expertise and quality service to work for you. Call Critical Power Supplies today.