Many times, when one of my staff members install a new UPS in a facility, a common question asked by clients is, “How long will it last?” – A seemingly simple and innocent question, but not one with a clear-cut answer.
Any UPS system is formed by a combination of components such as capacitors, batteries, fans, circuit boards, transistors and more. All of these are sensitive to several temperature and environmental factors like dust, humidity, heat as well as overloads and types of loads to name a few. So a typical UPS, in essence, is quite a sensitive asset.
No matter what kind of facility you operate, chances are high that a UPS is one of your most important or the only source of defense against utility outages and load failures. So it becomes critical that you have the right information about when it’s best to maintain, repair or replace your UPS system.
Hence, the following pointers will allow you to understand your UPS system and plan for its lifecycle as per your budget.
How critical are your loads?
Most UPS installations are in place to protect a critical load or the critical loads. If you spend some time and effort in establishing the exact cost of a possible downtime, it’ll get easy to determine what type of UPS and power configuration will work best in your facility so you may be fully protected from expensive power problems.
Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF), for instance, is a commonly overlooked number in a UPS system, despite the fact that it’s easily available.
Most big UPS manufacturing companies usually use hours between critical failure, or number of hours between failure (MTBCF) to indicate the reliability to be expected from their UPS models.
This specification can be of great help in order to compare maintenance costs and estimate how frequently repairs may be required. However, the way this number is calculated varies to a great extent from one manufacturer to another, ranging from 100,000 hrs/MTBF to 1,000,000 hrs/MTBF.
Careful planning before purchase
Many clients have been the victims of placing an order for a particular UPS unit without fully understanding the needs of their business. Before buying a UPS, take some time to understand the environment you operate in; even better, speak with an independent and qualified UPS consultant.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- How important energy efficiency is for your facility?
- What are your uptime needs?
- What is your current load profile?
- How is your current load expected to increase or decrease in the next few years?
- What is the installation environment like?
- What is the budget you are prepared to invest in Maintenance after your UPS purchase?
UPS consultants can help a great deal in understanding your facility from an experienced perspective and recommend a UPS likely to meet your criteria and needs in the best manner.
Active monitoring of infrastructure
Change is the only constant in a business, especially one that is growing. And as the business changes, so will your facility.
For example, high demand or expansion may cause your critical loads to increase, while changes in energy efficiency or your business model may cause them to shrink.
Being regularly attentive towards your facility will help you stay up to date on whether your UPS system still fits with your current environment, or has it become too small or large to support the latest needs.
Here again, a good UPS maintenance provider or consultant can help you figure out what’s the current status of your system in terms of load and provide recommendations to optimize it.
Lifecycle cost associated with UPS
UPS products have a lot of unique differences when it comes to the cost required to maintain them. A UPS can seem really cheap during capital purchase, for instance, but the bundled software may get you locked in with costly maintenance plans.
Other than that, thousands may go to waste in utility cost per year to run and cool the UPS system if its energy efficiency is not that great OR the battery design isn’t right whereby you may end up with frequent and costly battery replacements.
This is another reason why planning before purchase is so important. With pre-planning, you can better understand the total lifecycle cost of your UPS system. For a general idea, here is a fair representation of primary service milestones to expect from a typical, well-maintained UPS.
Image Source : TitanPower.com
Finally, I would like to emphasize again that good design and regular maintenance are vital to a healthy facility. Reviewing your critical infrastructure from time to time and collaborating with a reputed UPS service provider can help a lot in keeping your operations intact and stress-free.
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