By Carsten Baumann
From the August 2022 Issue
The deep freeze in Texas last year became infamous for leaving millions without power during record-low temperatures, but that is not the only grid that has been unreliable in recent years. From hurricanes in the Southeast and nor’easters along the eastern seaboard to wildfires in California, the power grid is facing (and sometimes failing to handle) extreme weather events across the country. The increased use of solar and wind has added to this challenge, as these alternate energy sources affect voltages and frequencies on the grid which makes it harder to maintain a continuous flow of electricity.
From lost business data to damaged equipment to missed transaction opportunities, blackouts hurt businesses. A backup power supply has always been essential for facilities in industries such as healthcare, IT infrastructure, and specialty manufacturing. It’s time for other industries to follow suit in recognition of the fact that it is hard to accomplish anything in the modern world without electricity. As they do, electrical contractors have new opportunities to support facility management.
The Importance Of An Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS)
With the world going digital, there is a significant increase in sensitive electronic systems and devices that require guaranteed uptime and high levels of protection. These systems and devices in commercial and industrial buildings such as hospitals, factories, and offices have to rely on the nonstop power that only an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) can provide. Additionally, the last couple of years have demonstrated that remote work, remote education and other home office applications require a better protection for the network, computer and data storage.
UPSs are intended to provide reliable, “clean” power to its intended load, such as IT systems in a data center, even in the event of a power failure or disruption in the main power source. Most UPS systems do this by performing a double power conversion that takes in AC power from the main power source, rectifies it to DC to perform filtering and to charge the UPS battery, then converts the power back to AC. Through this process, the power output is always conditioned, meaning it’s isolated from any spikes, brownouts, or harmonic distortions in the main power source. In the event of a complete power failure, the battery backup kicks in instantly.
UPS As A Competitive Differentiator
When looking for an electrical contractor, facility managers should see if a UPS is included in their proposal. Even if a request for proposal (RFP) to upgrade their electrical systems doesn’t specifically include a UPS, facility managers can increasingly benefit from using a backup power solution and may choose to go with a provider who has that option available.
Electrical contractors work in a competitive field. Put simply, if a contractor can’t meet all the requirements of an invitation for a bid or a request for a quote, someone else will. Adding a UPS to a quote is relatively straightforward. Electrical contractors can either evaluate different options entirely themselves or work with an electrical distributor to help select and deliver the UPS.
To help a facility manager understand the benefits of including a UPS, electrical contractors should discuss the short-term and long-term financial impact on their business if the power goes out. Would a power outage cause safety risks or impact customer operations? What is the cost for a production machine’s downtime? Through this discussion with the customer, the need for backup power should become apparent.
Building Long-Term Relationships
Choosing a UPS model not only offers protection from outages, but can also offer thousands in energy cost savings over the life of the UPS. A more energy-efficient UPS model may cost more upfront in capital costs, but that investment can often be recouped in just a few years from energy savings.
Instead of having the relationship end once the installation is complete, electrical contractors and facility executives can continue to work on long-term contracts that also include UPS service, remote monitoring, and maintenance. This can be done by either delivering the monitoring services or the electrical contractor can sub-contract their customers to a vendor, including the manufacturer of the equipment to do the monitoring while maintaining contact with their customer. Being in touch regularly with a facility executive about UPS monitoring and maintenance helps to develop a relationship where a one-time electrical contractor becomes a trusted, long-term advisor.
Ultimately, power outages cause deep significant disruptions. Each business has its own equipment that requires protection from blackouts, whether it be cash registers, security cameras, network and communication equipment, or building management systems. In a world where today’s businesses need to be “always on,” having an uninterruptible power supply is a critical solution that adds much-needed resilience to facility executives’ businesses in a time of increased grid unreliability.
Baumann is the Director of Strategic Initiatives and Solution Architect at Schneider Electric. As a solution architect, Baumann helps clients with their Industrial IoT and Microgrid initiatives that achieve greater resiliency and sustainability objectives, while creating economic benefits. Prior to this role, he supported the consulting and engineering community by advising on resource-optimized energy management solutions in the data center market.
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