Electronics by their very name imply that they probably have something to do with electricity. As we load more and more of them into our homes and businesses, we become ever more dependent on an electrical grid that is reliable and has minimal issues. I say minimal, because we know nothing is perfect. Even if your electrical grid is 99.99% perfect, that means it has 0.01% problems, which equates to nearly an hour of outage every year. Thankfully we have uninterruptible power supplies (UPS for short) that were made to fill the gap when problems occur.
UPSes are both a simple and complex device at the same time. On one hand, they are a very large battery with a transformer that allows power to keep following in the event of a brown out or outage. On the other hand, there are a lot of very complex electronics that allow the UPS to sense power problems and intervene quick enough that the equipment plugged into it doesn’t notice the issue. On top of that, many of the UPS devices today offer means to shut down equipment gracefully if the battery in the UPS is starting to run low.
UPS devices are important to most businesses, and as such most companies have at least one. It’s usually plugged in the back of the server room and forgotten about. But these devices need care and maintenance in order to operate safely. Here are a few things you should keep in mind.
- Batteries – This is the heart of what makes the UPS work. The battery in the average UPS is not the same as the battery in your phone or laptop, rather it’s more like the lead-acid battery in your car. Batteries have an expected life span that is normally 3-5 years long under ideal circumstances. Keep in mind, if you have more than average power issues your battery life will likely be much shorter.
- Temperature – Like any other electronic device, UPS devices create heat. Unfortunately, heat is not good for the battery. Schneider Electric recommends keeping the battery of their APC UPS units under 77°F, which means you should maintain the room where the UPS is located at or below 70°F. Studies have shown for every 15°F over the recommended battery temperature, the life span of a battery is cut in half.
- Battery Calibration – Any time you install a new UPS, a new battery into an old UPS, you should run a battery calibration. This basically is a fancy way of saying have the UPS test the battery and re-set it’s expectation of how much power it can expect from that battery. This is something that also should be done at least once a year to make sure your UPS has updated information on the remaining life of the battery.
- Load – You should not ever go over 80% of the load of the UPS. The “sweet spot” where most UPSes are most efficient is right about 40% to 50% load. This is the area I typically aim for with my clients.
- Management – Pay the extra money and get a management card for your UPS. This will report on information about battery health, hardware health, environmental issues, as well as allowing you to shut down systems remotely.
- Lifecycle – Like batteries, the UPS has a shelf life and you should plan on replacing it. While UPS devices might, and I stress the word might, last as long as 15 years, Quality Power Solutions says many UPSes suffer from hardware failure by year 8. This means you should budget and plan to replace your UPS before year 8, or have a qualified electrician do regular hardware maintenance and inspection on your UPS to proactively replace parts that are showing signs of wear.
Just like any other device in your environment, your UPS power supply requires some care and attention. Make sure to give them what they need so you can stay up and running!
Have any questions? Don’t hesitate to contact us at any time!