Any organisation that invests in an uninterruptible power supply system demands clean, uninterrupted power with 24/7/365 availability for their mission-critical ICT resource. This demand is driven by data centre downtime costs that can easily reach thousands of pounds per minute.
However, while always a threat, downtime needn’t be inevitable. Almost half of the respondents to the Uptime Institute’s 2018 Global Data Center Survey[i] suffered an outage within the past three years. Almost 80% of those said that these incidents, which arose from causes including on-premise power failures, were preventable with UPS service plans.
For uninterruptible power supplies, such prevention comes from investing in an appropriate UPS service plan as carefully as in the product itself. Given this investment, a UPS power system can operate safely and reliably for over 15 years. To understand how UPS maintenance contributes to uninterruptible power supply reliability and availability, we can look at the most common causes of failure, and how professional UPS service plans will address and prevent these.
UPS failure modes
Bad UPS batteries are responsible for typically 20% of UPS failures. Premature failures can be disastrously unexpected if users have been relying on manufacturer estimates of battery life. These are often based on a steady 20°C operating temperature and zero working cycles. However, the real-world operation involves both cycling and running at elevated temperatures. UPS battery life is typically reduced by 50% for every 10°C rise in operating temperature. While the finite battery life is inevitable, the right UPS maintenance procedures can prevent it from causing a failure.
UPS power supplies also contain both electrolytic capacitors and fans, which, like uninterruptible power supply batteries, age unpredictably and eventually fail, depending on their quality and how they are electrically, mechanically and thermally stressed. Problems can be prevented by regular visual inspection during preventive UPS maintenance sessions, and scheduled UPS battery replacement before they can fail.
Other uninterruptible power supply failure reasons include lightning damage, poor environment, incorrect operations and user error.
Firmware upgrades incorporating the latest operational enhancements can help to optimise performance.
Effective UPS service plans
An effective uninterruptible power supply service plan should comprise annual scheduled preventative maintenance (PM) visits for both the UPS power system and its batteries, as well as facilities for emergency call-outs on demand. Trained engineers and technicians should be available 24/7, and based close enough to ensure arrival on site within contractually-agreed response times. These personnel should be backed with immediate access to a comprehensive local spare parts inventory, and more in-depth technical support if required.
UPS battery health must be regularly monitored, both visually and through remote UPS monitoring services like KUP’s PowerNSURE system, which regularly checks each uninterruptible power supply battery’s internal resistance, temperature and voltage, as well as performing voltage equalisation. UPS battery life is extended, performance is optimised, and problems highlighted before they create uninterruptible power supply failures. Uninterruptible power supplies generate regular, graphical-format reports, which can easily be understood by remote recipients. UPS batteries are considered ‘end of life’ when they reach 80% of capacity.
Overall, the UPS power supply service contract should be profiled to each UPS installation’s particular circumstances; the type and size of the load, and how business-critical it is. Is 24/7 coverage needed for 365 days a year? How many preventative maintenance visits a year should be scheduled, and what guaranteed response window, in hours, is required? Also, should parts and labour be included, or treated as chargeable extras? In practice, consumables such as uninterruptible power supplies battery and capacitor parts and labour are typically excluded.
KUP is well-equipped to deliver competitive yet effective UPS service plans backed by 24/7/365 nationwide UK and Ireland coverage, with on-site response times and an extensive nationwide spare parts inventory. All field-based and office support personnel are fully trained and accredited KUP employees. Multi-vendor support is available, and complete project solutions with life-cycle management of the entire UPS power supply infrastructure can be developed.