How UPS Systems Work
Critical Power Supplies has pleasure in bringing you this guide on how UPS Systems work
An uninterruptible power supply, also uninterruptible power source, UPS or battery/flywheel backup, is an electrical apparatus that provides emergency power to a load when the input power source, typically the utility mains, fails.
A UPS differs from an auxiliary or emergency power system or standby generator in that it will provide instantaneous or near-instantaneous protection from input power interruptions by means of one or more attached batteries and associated electronic circuitry for low power users, and or by means of generators and flywheels for high power users. The on-battery runtime of most uninterruptible power sources is relatively short—5–15 minutes being typical for smaller units—but sufficient to allow time to bring an auxiliary power source online, or to properly shut down the protected equipment.
While not limited to protecting any particular type of equipment, a UPS is typically used to protect computers, data centres, telecommunication equipment or other electrical equipment where an unexpected power disruption could cause injuries, fatalities, serious business disruption and/or data loss. UPS units range in size from units designed to protect a single computer without a video monitor (around 200 VA rating) to large units powering entire data centres (>1MVA), buildings (>300kVA), or manufacturing processes.
Different types of UPS design
There are three general categories of modern UPS systems are on-line, line interactive or standby/offline.
An standby/offline UPS system the load is powered directly by the input power and the backup power circuitry is only invoked when the utility power fails. Most UPS below 1 kVA are of the line-interactive or standby variety which are usually less expensive.
An on-line UPS uses a “double conversion” method of accepting AC input, rectifying to DC for passing through the rechargeable battery (or battery strings), then inverting back to 120V/240V AC for powering the protected equipment.
For large power units, dynamic uninterruptible power supplies are sometimes used. A synchronous motor/alternator is connected on the mains via a choke. Energy is stored in a flywheel. When the mains power fails, an Eddy-current regulation maintains the power on the load. DUPS are sometimes combined or integrated with a diesel-generator[clarification needed], forming a diesel rotary uninterruptible power supply, or DRUPS.
A fuel cell UPS has been developed in recent years using hydrogen and a fuel cell as a power source, potentially providing long run times in a small space.
Standby/Offline UPS design
The Standby/Offline UPS system (SPS) offers only the most basic features, providing surge protection and battery backup. With this type of UPS, a user’s equipment is normally connected directly to incoming utility power with the same voltage transient clamping devices used in a common surge protected plug strip connected across the power line. When the incoming utility voltage falls below a predetermined level the SPS turns on its internal DC-AC inverter circuitry, which is powered from an internal storage battery. The SPS then mechanically switches the connected equipment on to its DC-AC inverter output. The switchover time can be as long as 25 milliseconds depending on the amount of time it takes the Standby UPS to detect the lost utility voltage. Generally speaking, dependent on the size of UPS connected load and the sensitivity of the connected equipment to voltage variation, the UPS will be designed and/or offered (specification wise) to cover certain ranges of equipment, i.e. Personal Computer, without any obvious dip or brownout to that device.
Line-interactive UPS design
This type of UPS is able to tolerate continuous under voltage brownouts and overvoltage surges without consuming the limited reserve battery power. It instead compensates by auto-selecting different power taps on the autotransformer. Changing the autotransformer tap can cause a very brief output power disruption, so the UPS may chirp for a moment, as it briefly switches to the battery before changing the selected power tap.
This has become popular even in the cheapest UPS because it takes advantage of components already included. The main 50/60 Hz transformer used to convert between line voltage and battery voltage needs to provide two slightly different turns ratios: one to convert the battery output voltage (typically a multiple of 12 V) to line voltage, and a second one to convert the line voltage to a slightly higher battery charging voltage (such as a multiple of 14 V). Further, it is easier to do the switching on the line-voltage side of the transformer because of the lower currents on that side.
To gain the buck/boost feature, all that is required is two separate switches so that the AC input can be connected to one of the two primary taps, while the load is connected to the other, thus using the main transformer’s primary windings as an autotransformer. Note that the battery can still be charged while “bucking” an overvoltage, but while “boosting” an under voltage, the transformer output is too low to charge the batteries.
Autotransformers can be engineered to cover a wide range of varying input voltages, but this requires more taps and increases complexity, and expense of the UPS. It is common for the autotransformer to only cover a range from about 90 V to 140 V for 120 V power, and then switch to battery if the voltage goes much higher or lower than that range.
In low-voltage conditions, the UPS will use more current than normal so it may need a higher current circuit than a normal device. For example to power a 1000 watt device at 120 volts, the UPS will draw 8.32 amps. If a brownout occurs and the voltage drops to 100 volts, the UPS will draw 10 amps to compensate. This also works in reverse, so that in an overvoltage condition, the UPS will need fewer amps of current.
On-Line UPS Design
The online UPS is ideal for environments where electrical isolation is necessary or for equipment that is very sensitive to power fluctuations. Although once previously reserved for very large installations of 10 kW or more, advances in technology have permitted it to now be available as a common consumer device, supplying 500 watts or less. The online UPS is generally more expensive but may be necessary when the power environment is “noisy” such as in industrial settings, for larger equipment loads like data centres, or when operation from an extended-run backup generator is necessary.
The basic technology of the online UPS is the same as in a standby or Line-Interactive UPS. However, it typically costs much more, due to it having a much greater current AC-to-DC battery-charger/rectifier, and with the rectifier and inverter designed to run continuously with improved cooling systems. It is called a Double-Conversion UPS due to the rectifier directly driving the inverter, even when powered from normal AC current.
In an online UPS, the batteries are always connected to the inverter, so that no power transfer switches are necessary. When power loss occurs, the rectifier simply drops out of the circuit and the batteries keep the power steady and unchanged. When power is restored, the rectifier resumes carrying most of the load and begins charging the batteries, though the charging current may be limited to prevent the high-power rectifier from overheating the batteries and boiling off the electrolyte.
The main advantage to the on-line UPS is its ability to provide an electrical firewall between the incoming utility power and sensitive electronic equipment. While the standby and Line-Interactive UPS merely filter the input utility power, the Double-Conversion UPS provides a layer of insulation from power quality problems. It allows control of output voltage and frequency regardless of input voltage and frequency.
A second major advantage is the inbuilt bypass circuit in on-line UPS which ensures should any problems occur with the UPS or batteries as long as there is mains power the load will be powered. The bypass is either automatic or a combination of manual and automatic depending on the model/manufacturer.