December 2022

The Importance of a UPS Maintenance Plan

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In our why do you need a UPS blog, Specialist Power sales director Adam Baverstock demonstrated the importance of an Uninterruptible Power Supply to protect your Critical Power infrastructure.

However, even the most reliable of UPS systems and supporting UPS batteries from the trusted manufacturers we work with, can unfortunately develop faults.

We strongly recommend that a service and maintenance plan is put in place to support any UPS investment. This has been proven to reduce the risk of potential downtime due to a faulty UPS that would otherwise go undetected.

In our latest post, our Technical Director, Tony Quince, will explain why an Uninterruptible Power Supply and its supporting batteries need to be checked regularly and why consumable parts or those with a designated working life span must be replaced to guarantee the reliability of any UPS.

Our service and maintenance plans provide you with a schedule of regular checks and tests to prevent potential breakdowns and failures.

Systematic inspection, cleaning, and replacement of aged parts, whilst updating any software/firmware to the latest revisions all help to avert preventable failures, ensuring that your UPS is in good working order throughout the ownership of your investment.

Professional UPS Technical Support On Hand 24/7/365

An Uninterruptible Power Supply is designed to protect the critical electrical infrastructure of your business should the mains power fail. So, when a UPS goes offline, it can no longer protect the systems it is there to support.

Having the correct UPS service and maintenance contract in place, supported by qualified and experienced service engineers is vitally important and provides you with peace of mind that if things should fail then you have professional support on hand 24/7/365.

Our UPS engineers have been called out to seriously damaged UPS systems and batteries due to a lack of ongoing routine servicing. In the most severe cases we have responded to several UPS systems not working, with fire damaged batteries where preventive maintenance visits have not been carried out.

Regular Maintenance Will Maximise The Lifespan of a UPS 

Having a maintenance plan in place will provide you with an annual/biannual preventive maintenance visit and emergency call outs with guaranteed onsite response times. This will ensure the timely replacement of critical ‘End of Life’ components such as batteries, fans, capacitors and air filters.

However, more than simply reducing the risk of your UPS not working when you need it most, it ensures your UPS runs more efficiently and maximises the lifespan of the system. This, in turn, optimises your total cost of ownership (TCO).

Battery Maintenance is Critical to the Reliability of Your UPS

Batteries play a vital role in the operation of any UPS and are the most common cause for a UPS failure.

Whilst lithium-ion technologies have seen a steady growth in the last few years, Valve Regulated Lead Acid (VRLA) batteries are by far the most common battery type used in the installation of a UPS.

Battery testing should be a key part of any regular service visit to detect any potential issues before they become major and costly.

A fantastic white paper written and published by Riello UPS one of the UPS manufacturers we work with explains in detail how ignoring maintenance and service recommendations and letting the battery system fall into a poor condition increases the risk to both the critical load and business continuity.

What We Check During a Battery Maintenance Visit

Preventative maintenance will extend battery life by identifying and eliminating issues before they become a problem. Highlighting issues with battery strings is much better during a routine service then when the batteries are called upon during a power outage.

During a battery maintenance check our UPS battery engineers will carry out the following:

  • Note the battery type, quantity, and age
  • Note the installation type - open rack, cladded rack or cabinet
  • Float voltage checks
  • Discharge current checks
  • Re-charge current checks
  • Check for corrosion on battery terminals
  • Check for correct tightness of the battery terminal connections
  • Check for cracks, swelling and damaged or leaking cells

Much like a battery in a mobile phone, regular discharging increases the life expectancy of the battery and can only be carried out safely under supervised maintenance conditions. This forms a major part of the servicing schedule.

There are several additional services to guarantee any problems are spotted early through load bank testing, battery conductance testing and battery monitoring services.

Carrying out regular load bank testing allows you to safely simulate how your critical power systems will perform in the event of an unplanned mains disturbance or complete power failure.

Battery conductance testing will test each individual battery and determine the internal resistance of each cell. These values are then compared with manufacturer, factory values and high resistance batteries within the string can be identified and replaced long before they become a major risk to the performance of the system.

Battery monitoring provides a continuous real-time assessment of the installed batteries and will give alarm notifications should any of the batteries fall outside of the designated specification parameters.

If you would like to discuss any of the above or would like to know more about how we can make sure your UPS batteries are looked after, then give our UPS experts a call on 01234 861155.

Whilst an important part of any maintenance schedule, UPS batteries are just one of the reasons why service and maintenance cover is so important. An article by the HSE discussed many reasons to support your UPS investment with a maintenance package.

Health and Safety Executive Highlights the Importance of Maintaining a UPS System

A recent bulletin circulated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) that we featured in a recent news article, highlighted the importance of maintaining a UPS system correctly and how some OEM operating instructions are not enough to ensure the safety of a UPS.

As Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety, it helps to prevent work-related death, injury and ill health and recently investigated several dangerous occurrences that resulted from the failure of UPS at major establishments.

Some of these incidents led to localised fires within industrial UPS systems due to failures of either capacitors or batteries with smoke and excessive heat resulting in the failure to provide emergency power.

Another incident due to component failures and outdated software/firmware led to the unplanned shutdown of a chemical processing plant.

It was found that information for maintenance included in the OEM’s operating and maintenance instructions did not provide adequate information to allow the continued safe and reliable operation of the UPS.

In addition, users were not made aware that some components had a much shorter life expectancy than initially predicted which would be identified with regular maintenance. Further, end users are not made aware of any design changes or limitations of use that have a safety implication. For example, firmware upgrades which would be carried out during a maintenance visit might become essential to ensure the continued reliability of the UPS.

As a leading UPS service and maintenance company with over 20 years’ experience of maintaining UPS systems across the UK, we make sure that all engineers are regularly manufacture trained so that all necessary updates, components, and batteries are checked during a scheduled visit.

Necessary Replacement of Critical ‘End of Life’ Components in a UPS

UPS batteries may be the number one contributor to a UPS failure, but there are other critical components with a finite operating life that must not be forgotten and need to be regularly checked during a routine maintenance schedule.

  • AC / DC Capacitors
  • Fans
  • Air Filters

Similar to wear and tear items like brake pads and tyres on a car, an Uninterruptible Power Supply has components that need replacing depending on both manufacturers’ guidelines and environmental conditions. These components play a vital role in the effective operation of a UPS, making sure you get a consistent and reliable source of backup power when called upon.

Here we look at each component and explain why different environmental conditions play a major factor in when replacements are necessary and why maintenance is vitally important to identify this.

AC & DC Capacitor Replacement

A capacitor is an electrical device that stores and releases electrical energy. These devices come in various sizes based on the amount of electrical energy they are required to absorb.

Much like batteries, both AC & DC capacitors have a finite working life, degrade over time, and should be replaced as part of any ongoing preventative maintenance plan.

Typically, capacitors require replacement around every 5 to 7 years, depending on each manufacturers’ recommendations and the environment in which they are being operated in.  

Like most components in a UPS, the shelf life of these devices can be affected by several environmental conditions.

High ambient temperatures, humidity levels and locations that can are exposed directly to the outside, can significantly reduce the projected operating life of these key components.

AC & DC capacitor failures could also have a significant impact on other internal components resulting in a more costly repair. Neglecting to replace these components can result in catastrophic failures which have been known to cause internal UPS fires.

This risk can be avoided with regular service visits where we can identify when replacements are necessary.

Uninterruptible Power Supply Fan Replacement

Cooling fans are another important component within a UPS system that will need periodic replacement. Fans are used to draw the ambient air in through specifically designed grills and channel this airflow to the key areas that are generating heat within the UPS.

Inverter and rectifier IGBT’s generate significant heat output within the UPS and rely on heatsinks to dissipate the heat produced away from the rest of the UPS components.

The internal fans are used to draw the air across the heatsinks and remove the heat from the UPS, usually to the rear or top of the UPS through outlet grills.

Input and output transformers that are fitted within many industrial UPS also create heat output that will need to be cooled via the UPS fans.

As with other components that we have mentioned, the environment into which the UPS is installed can play a major part in the overall performance and life expectancy of the cooling fans operating design life.

High ambient temperatures will obviously have an impact on their ability to cool the UPS but will also have a negative effect on their rotation bearings. Similarly, UPS in dusty or more industrial environments can be affected by a build-up of dust on the fan cooling fins and bearings as well as impacting the inlet and outlet grills.

Typically, fans will need preventative replacement every 5 to 7 years depending on their environment. Regular maintenance can help to prolong the life of the fans by thorough cleaning of the system, but it can also help to identify when early replacement of the fans should be considered to prevent premature failure and unnecessary downtime.

Uninterruptible Power Supply Air Filter Replacement

Over time, dust will naturally build up within your UPS and without regular cleaning this can present a performance risk to your UPS. Excessive build up of dust, combined with the heat produced by the internal components can present a fire hazard.

Some manufacturers install air filters that will reduce the impact of dust within the UPS, especially in more industrial locations. Where installed, these filters will require regular replacement during the life of the UPS to maintain sufficient airflow within the system.

Depending on the environment that the UPS is operating in will largely depend on how often the filters require replacement, although it would normally be good practice to replace the filters at every service visit.

Regular servicing of the UPS will include these replacements as part of the maintenance plan and ensure the operation of the system is not compromised simply due to a clogged up air filter.

Regular Firmware / Software Updates are Important to Keep a UPS Online

As part of any maintenance schedule, we always look to update your UPS with the latest firmware to guarantee the safety and reliability of your UPS device.

Like any software update, it is important that these updates are actioned when released by the manufacturer to fix any issues that may have not been apparent on initial release.

Regular firmware updates are important to ensure the UPS is running on the latest and correct software. Similar to a mobile phone or computer, having the most recent and most up-to-date software will make sure that your UPS is more secure and efficient with less chance of any performance glitches.

Only manufacturer accredited and certified UPS engineers from trusted authorised service partners have access to the latest firmware.

Our manufacturer trained UPS engineers will always check to ensure the correct version is installed during a preventative maintenance visit and run the necessary updates as required.

Make Sure You Use Your UPS Self-Test Features

As part of any service visit, our engineers will perform comprehensive tests and checks on your UPS system to ensure its correct operation.  However, most modern UPS devices will have a self-test function which can be configured to perform simple basic system checks to complement a good maintenance regime.  

This self-test feature will initiate a series of tests and diagnostics automatically on a regular basis which can be programmed to run as often as the user deems necessary. Typically, a weekly test is sufficient and if any of the recorded measurements fall outside of predetermined parameters it will trigger a UPS alarm to alert you to a potential problem.

For example, each self-test will run a short battery discharge and measure the DC voltage at the end of the test. If the batteries fall below a certain pre-set value a ‘battery test fail’ alarm will be generated to warn you of a possible failure.

We have explained the technical reasons why UPS service and maintenance is vitally important to support your UPS system but a major advantage of having the peace of mind of a maintenance plan is to provide you with the technical support and backup that comes with one of our flexible UPS maintenance plans.

24/7/365 Access to Fully Trained UPS Engineers

Uninterruptible Power Supplies and their supporting UPS batteries can and do unfortunately go wrong. However, with the correct maintenance cover in place you have access to our manufacturer trained UPS engineers to call on for help when needed.

All our service contracts provide a 24/7/365 technical support line to put you in direct contact with a trained engineer any time of the day.

If the problem can’t be fixed over the phone, then we have guaranteed engineer response times so that an engineer will be with you on-site within as little as 4 hours* or even quicker if we happen to have an engineer within your area.

Full details of our flexible maintenance contracts can be found on our service and maintenance page or get in touch to find out how we can look after your UPS.

*Onsite response time depends on level of cover (4Hr / 8Hr / Next Business Day options are available)

Always Best to Speak to a UPS Expert

We hope from reading this you will appreciate the importance of making sure you have suitable cover to keep your UPS running at its most efficient and understand that help is at hand if things do go wrong.

For over 20 years we have been delivering UPS service contracts across all the major UPS manufacturers such as Riello UPS, APC by Schneider, Eaton, Socomec, Vertiv plus many more.

We have built a reputation for uncompromising service excellence and trust from our customers with our technical expertise and knowledge of the power protection industry. Contact us today to find out how we can help with your power backup needs.

 

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