When we install a new UPS system, we often are asked the question, “How long will my UPS system last?” While this may seem like a simple question, the answer is not always as clear.
A UPS unit is a sensitive piece of technology that contains batteries, capacitors, circuit boards and other components that are sensitive to heat and environmental factors like moisture, dust and debris as well as electrical disruptions and transients. If your UPS unit is your line of defense against load failure and utility outages, it is important to understand when to repair, run UPS maintenance or replace your system. Our advice is to take a few minutes to understand your equipment and budget and plan for the life of your system.
- UPS Pre-purchase Planning – Before you even think about placing an order for a UPS unit, take some time to understand your needs, your facility and environment and talk to an independent UPS consultant. They can help you understand your environment from a critical power perspective and point you to the type of UPS system that would best meet your needs and restrictions. Some items to consider:
- What is my current load profile?
- What is the environment this unit will be installed in?
- Will my current load increase/decrease in the next 5 – 10 years?
- Is energy efficiency important?
- What are my uptime requirements?
- What is the total lifecycle cost of this UPS? – UPS systems can vary greatly in their cost to maintain. Some systems may be inexpensive during the capital purchase, but the proprietary software may lock you into expensive maintenance contracts. Low efficiency may cost thousands in utility cost increases per year to operate and cool the system. Poor battery design could cost you in frequent battery replacement. Taking time to pre-plan can help you understand what the total life cycle cost of your system will be. From our experience, the below timeline is a good representation of the major service milestones of a standard, well maintained UPS system:
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- How critical are my loads? – Most UPS systems are installed to protect a critical load, but fully understanding your cost of downtime can greatly help a facility determine what type of UPS and power configuration is needed to help protect from costly power issues. One often overlooked specification on a UPS system is the average meantime between failure (MTBF). Most reputable UPS manufacturers will publish the reliability of their systems using average number of hours between failure or hours between critical failure (MTBCF). This can help a consumer compare the costs of maintenance and get an idea of the frequency of repair. Reliability can vary dramatically among manufacturers from 100,000 hrs/MTBF to well over 1,000,000 hrs/ MTBF.
- Track your facility and equipment – Most facilities that are part of a growing business will change from time to time. Your critical loads may increase due to expansion and demand or they may decrease due to energy efficiencies or perhaps your business model has changed. Paying attention to your facilities will allow you to quickly realize if your UPS system is too large, or too small. A good UPS service provider should help you understand where your system has been trending in terms of load and maintenance and may offer suggestions to help optimize your system.