Protecting the Most Vulnerable Part of Your UPS: The UPS Battery
The battery is the heart of any UPS system. Unfortunately, it’s also the most vulnerable component. That’s why it’s crucial to ensure that along with the other components of your UPS, the battery (or batteries) is properly maintained and monitored on a regular basis.
It is well known that the most common reason for load loss is due to battery failure. Proper battery maintenance can not only greatly reduce the risk of costly downtime, it can also extend the overall service life of your battery.
The Vulnerability of UPS Batteries
A battery is an electro-chemical device that is susceptible to a variety of external factors. Keeping your battery in suboptimal conditions can lead to premature failure, taking down your UPS system with it.
Some of these poor conditions include:
*High Temperatures – The rated capacity of every battery is based on an ambient temperature of 77°F (25°C). Generally, every 15°F above this recommended temperature will reduce the battery’s expected life by 50 percent.
*Poor Ventilation – Batteries must be stored in a clean, well ventilated environment. Dusty, dirty, caustic or otherwise poor conditions can decrease a battery’s lifespan.
*Improper Float Voltages – Undercharging or low voltage can create sulfate crystals on a battery’s plates. Eventually, these crystals will harden and reduce the available capacity of the battery.
Conversely, overcharging with too high a float voltage can cause excessive hydrogen and oxygen gasses, leading to internal dryout and possibly thermal runaway.
*Loose Terminal or Intercell Connections – If your battery’s intercell connections are not firmly in place, its lifespan can be decreased. The only way to detect this is by testing the torque of the battery connections during a maintenance check.
*Damaged Casings – Similar to the intercell connections, damaged casings due to poor storage or other issues can cause premature battery failure.
Several risks – to your facility and personal safety – arise when a battery is not properly tested or proactively replaced. Lack of proper preventative battery maintenance can eventually lead to fires, causing extensive damage to the UPS system as well as to the facility in which it resides.
With so much at stake, the costs associated with lost data or damage to critical equipment can be quite high. That’s why we recommend scheduling a maintenance check on your UPS system twice annually to sustain your battery’s longevity.
What’s Included in a Battery Maintenance Check
The primary objective of battery maintenance is to ensure that the battery system is capable of protecting critical loads when the need arises. Effective maintenance must be regular, comprehensive and consistent. Regular inspections include:
* Visual Inspection – To identify any cracks, leaks or swelling of your battery
* Inspect and Clean Terminal Connections – To ensure connections are strong and re-torque if necessary as well as check for corrosion
* Taking Measurements – Includes measuring voltage, resistance and impedance to identify an internal or hidden issues
* Temperature Checks – To ensure battery is not overheating
* Capacity Testing – to identify any potential performance-related issues
All UPS batteries have a limited service life. In general, the standard lifespan for VRLA batteries is three to five years. However, battery life expectancy can vary greatly due to environmental conditions, number of discharge cycles and maintenance.
It’s important to schedule UPS maintenance for every type of battery. Even though sealed batteries are sometimes referred to as “maintenance-free,” they still require scheduled service (“maintenance-free” refers only to the fact that they do not require replacement fluid).
In addition, routine maintenance allows the user to notice trending patterns in their battery systems and can help to provide a solid guide to understanding when a replacement should take place.
You don’t want to wait for a catastrophic failure to reveal that your battery has died. Regular preventative maintenance inspections can identify potential battery issues ahead of time, helping you avoid system failure and keeping your load in tact.