The importance of a stable uninterrupted power system (UPS) is one that should never be downplayed – even the shortest power outage can result in big trouble for the most established structures. As the industry turns its attention to power outage cases, the need for regular UPS maintenance regimes and apt data centre solutions is being amplified. What this illustrates is that not only can companies not afford to leave their information technology (IT) assets unprotected from power issues, but all corporations – big or small – are equally susceptible to these problems.
As we continue to learn from experience, it is apparent that power sags, surges and outages are not only unavoidable, but also more than capable of damaging valuable IT equipment and bringing productivity to a halt. And while back-ups are a given, it is imperative to have a good understanding of the systems involved, and that a robust power protection solution is planned and deployed.
Which UPS is right for the job?
Think of the UPS as the central component of any well-designed power protection architecture – put simply, a UPS is a device that provides back-up power when utility power fails, long enough for critical equipment to shut down gracefully so that no data is lost, or long enough to keep required loads operational until a generator comes online.
A majority of data centres today are using static UPS systems. Typically, these consist of banks of lead-acid batteries that store energy to provide line conditioning and back-up to network equipment during power disturbances. If the disturbance progresses to an outage, diesel-fuelled power generators are switched on. Static UPS systems provide load isolation and are relatively straightforward to maintain. These can give a range of ride-through times at the loss of utility power with different battery string configuration/sizes.
Another type of UPS is the rotary UPS, which uses a motor/generator to create output. A rotary UPS is capable of providing high fault-clearing capabilities (peak/maximum current to blow a fuse) without going to bypass. This means that the unit is able to provide ‘short circuit current’ to blow a fuse or trip a protection switch downstream instead of protecting itself as a static UPS does. In terms of maintenance, a rotary UPS requires periodic downtime for mechanical maintenance, while a static UPS may not need a periodic downtime if the batteries can be hot-swapped.
With so much to consider, mission-critical facilities must select the most ideal UPS, and also learn to tweak the systems to fit their usage and needs.
Getting a health check
While choosing the right UPS is crucial for any application, a wellness check for the power system is equally vital. A well-managed power system is the foundation of any successful enterprise, delivering reliability, efficiency and safety. But as an organisation grows, demands on the power system increase, necessitating equipment additions or replacements. And with time, the power system evolves into a disparate collection of equipment that does not always deliver the desired results. Eventually, it can become more complicated, inefficient and harder to manage as expectations for performance rise. That is why a holistic and preventative PowerChain approach is essential for the evaluation of the system’s health.
Eaton’s comprehensive PowerChain Management Audit consists of visual inspections, electrical measurements, interviews with on-site personnel, and reviews of utility bills and data. Specifically, it will analyse interruptions, voltage sags, harmonics, surge protection, grounding, energy management and arc flash safety.
Based on a study conducted by the United States’ Electric Power Research Institute, the US economy is currently losing between $133 billion and $210 billion to outages and an additional $19 billion to $30 billion to power quality phenomena. The study stated that nearly 80 percent of power disturbances that interrupt business occur due to problems within the facility itself.
So if you are questioning whether or not to take the next step in your power protection regime, it’s probably high time to do so – before a problem arises.
Teng Seen Khoo is the vice president of sales for Eaton’s electrical business in East Asia.