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A UPS is an Uninterruptible Power Supply. It is a device that generally incorporates a battery backup and is connected between the mains power supply and a critical load or device. The UPS monitors the mains supply for fluctuations or disturbances and will seamlessly switch to its battery supply when needed, thus protecting the connected devices.
The purpose of a UPS is to ensure uninterrupted power to critical electrical equipment such as computers, work stations, servers, storage drive, routers and network hubs, thus preventing data loss, downtime or physical damage, in the event of a power fluctuation, brown-out or a black-out.
UPS units are manufactured in a variety of sizes to suit different load requirements. Installation requirements vary depending on the size of the installation. For example, small UPS units designed for individual computers or small consumer electronic devices are usually “Plug and Play” and can be installed by the end user. Medium to large size UPS units will usually require a dedicated power circuit to be installed and therefore require specialist installation and commissioning.
The back-up time available from a UPS is dependant on two main factors.
1. The size of the battery associated to the UPS and 2. The amount of load/ number of devices connected to the UPS.
Small “Plug and Play” UPS units would normally be expected to support a load for a short time e.g. 5 to 10 minutes. This is usually long enough for normal power to return or for the user to save their work prior to safely shutting down their computers or devices. Additional battery boxes are available for most small UPS. These can extend the UPS run time for up to a couple of hours.
Larger UPS installations are designed to provide a custom back-up time depending on the customer’s requirement. In general, most installation tend to be sized to provide between a half an hour to about 2 hours of available battery back-up time. However, it is not uncommon for the larger commercial and industrial customers have specialist rooms built to contain vast quantities of batteries to enable hours or even days of back up in the event of total utility power loss.
Sites requiring longer run times usually combine a UPS with a stand-by generator thereby enabling them to continue almost indefinitely until the return of the utility mains supply.
For smaller installations, the power rating (Watts) of all devices to be supported can be found printed on the device specification labels. Simply add up the power rating of all devices that are to be connected to a UPS and select a UPS unit to suit.
Larger installation generally require a site survey to determine the power usage. The UPS and battery size are then calculated to suit the customer’s requirements.
Many sites have generators installed that automatically start in the event of a power cut. However, power to a critical load will still be lost during the generator startup period. A UPS is usually installed along side a generator to ensure power is continuously maintained to supported equipment.
The amount of space required by a UPS is proportional to the size of UPS required. However, there are many solutions available to fit UPS units into available space. For example, UPS units are available as free standing or rack mount. Rack mount UPS can be fitted into unused spaces within existing server racks.
A UPS continually monitors the mains supply for Voltage surges and sags that could potentially destroy delicate circuits. Such fluctuations are “filtered out” by the UPS resulting is a clean power source for your sensitive electronic equipment. It must be noted however, that although the UPS will provide a degree of surge protection, in order to provide protection from extreme surge scenarios, such as direct lightning strikes, additional specialist surge diversion equipment will be required.
The life expectancy of a UPS is affected by the environment in which it is installed. If the UPS and battery is kept clean, dry and at room temperature, i.e. around 21 degrees C, then you can expect the longest life possible from the unit. With regular maintenance, it is not uncommon for a UPS to still be going strong for more than 10 to 15 years.
UPS batteries however, will need to be replaced at intervals in the UPS life. A standard UPS battery, when kept clean and cool, has a design life of up to 5 years. A long life battery can be expected to provide 7 to 10 years of service. In order to achieve the best life from a battery, they must be kept at around 21 degrees C. Operation in high temperatures, even for a short time will drastically reduce the life expectancy of the battery.
The cost of maintenance will vary depending on the size of UPS and battery. Different maintenance plans are available to suit most budgets.
Consider the consequences of a single power outage during a working day. The cost of lost production time, time spent recovering lost data, and even damage to computer hardware. The savings made when a UPS operates during just one power outage can easily cover the cost of the entire installation and on going maintenance.