With power outages being the norm in South Africa, we’ve taken a look at how best to care for, and make use of, your UPS device to ensure you are able protect both your equipment and data.
What is a UPS?
An uninterruptible power supply or uninterruptible power source (UPS) is an electrical apparatus that provides emergency power to a load when the input power source or mains power fails.
What is the purpose of a UPS device?
The primary purpose of a UPS is to provide protection to electrical equipment like computers and data centers when there is a power disruption. It gives you temporary power and the time you need to properly close applications and processes and shut down systems in an orderly manner to avoid data loss, corrupted files and applications, and other failures that could the result from blackouts. It also protects equipment from spikes or drops in the electrical supply.
A UPS is not designed for prolonged powering of equipment. Although a UPS can certainly provide full functionality during a five-minute blackout, it shouldn’t be used to bridge periods when electricity fails for prolonged periods. This is the job for a generator.
What is the impact of Load shedding on your UPS?
A battery in normal conditions needs to be overcharged in a range of 5 to 10 percent which requires around 72 hours to reach this stage after a deep discharge. Therefore, under current Eskom Load Shedding conditions, with daily and deep discharges, your battery bank will not be fully recharged when the next load shedding occurs, leading to a fast autonomy loss (2 to 5 days). Additionally, plate crystallisation occurs which might damage the battery permanently.
Under an Eskom load shedding scheme of 4 hours batteries are exposed to a very deep discharge which means a slow and long recharge need of more than 72hr. Again, with the current Eskom situation, the full recharge cannot be achieved leading to premature capacity loss.
Battery life will be reduced by half for each 10°C above the battery designed temperature; in the event of load shedding, a battery room cooling system without an automatic re-start system might leave the batteries working under a high temperature environment which will impact on the battery design life.
Tips for care and best use of a UPS device
Install your UPS unit in a cool dry place
Your UPS must be kept in a location with a temperature not exceeding 25°C. Every 10°C rise in temperature may cut your battery life in half. Leave at least 5 centimetres of space on each side of the unit for proper airflow. Do not place your UPS device near open windows or high-moisture areas.
Do not connect devices with a high power draw
A UPS is not designed to power high power devices like heaters, kettles, fridges, aircons or printers. Educate your staff about what sockets can be used for these types of devices. Connecting devices with a high power draw to your UPS will damage the UPS and becomes a potential fire hazard as they may cause the UPS to overheat or short out.
Perform regular maintenance
Fully discharged batteries must be recharged within 48 hours to prevent damage. Be mindful of your batteries’ discharge status because over-discharging and excessive charging – like in the case of weekly battery cycling – can cause charging problems and a shorter battery life.
To reduce the risk of power loss without notice, the use of a battery monitoring system can help to predict when the system needs a longer recharge, equalisation, or replacement.
Have your UPS serviced annually by a qualified technician
A technician will execute a runtime calibration, which if not done too often, can extend the life of your UPS batteries and perform capacity testing to check the internal resistance.
Replace batteries with newly purchased batteries when needed
Buying spare replacement batteries can be good idea but if you do, store them at below 10C and for no longer than 12 months. Batteries that are kept for too long will have a shorter lifespan.
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