By Carsten Baumann
From the August 2023 Issue
Extreme weather, the increasing demand for electricity, and aging energy infrastructure have all led to an increasing number of power outages. As power outages become more frequent and disruptive across the United States, facility executives must figure out how to mitigate this risk to their business continuity. Among the critical tools in their arsenal is the Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS). By providing reliable backup power during outages, UPS systems play a vital role in safeguarding critical facilities, protecting valuable equipment, maintaining productivity, and mitigating potential financial losses.
Why UPS Is Necessary
For commercial buildings, having a UPS ensures uninterrupted operations during power outages. It provides businesses additional time to safely shut down systems, save critical data, or even continue operations with minimal or even no disruption until power is restored. Moreover, UPS solutions protect voltage irregularities like sags and brownouts, which can cause performance issues in electrical equipment such as dimming lights or computer reboots.
A UPS system becomes especially crucial if a building houses critical operations or sensitive equipment that cannot afford any disruption in power, such as data centers, hospitals, emergency services, certain manufacturing or research facilities. It ensures continuous power during outages, protects data, maintains life-saving equipment functionality, or prevents damage to delicate experiments and expensive processes.
Overvoltage, characterized by an excessive supply voltage that surpasses equipment design limits, poses a risk of damaging equipment, making UPS protection essential. Frequency variations caused by load fluctuations on the grid can adversely affect electromagnetic loads, particularly motor applications. Harmonic distortions, another concern, arise from nonlinear loads in buildings and cause voltage and current variations. Finally, transient voltage surges, which occur due to lightning strikes or switching components, can be effectively suppressed by a UPS, safeguarding equipment and preventing damage.
What To Look For In A UPS
Facilities can effectively manage and mitigate these disruptions by employing a centralized or distributed UPS. Here are seven factors that should be considered when looking into which UPS system matches well with a specific facility:
- Energy Efficiency: UPS systems can have varying levels of energy efficiency, and it’s essential to consider this aspect when selecting a system. High-efficiency UPS models can help reduce energy consumption and lower operating costs, making them environmentally and economically favorable choices.
- Scalability and Flexibility: Buildings may experience changes in power requirements over time. UPS systems should be scalable and adaptable to accommodate increased power demands or changes in equipment configurations. This scalability ensures that the UPS can effectively support the evolving needs of the building.
- Integration with Renewable Energy: As the adoption of renewable energy sources like solar and wind power increases, integrating UPS systems with these renewable energy systems becomes important. This integration allows for a smoother transition to backup power during outages and enhances the overall sustainability of the building’s energy infrastructure.
- Monitoring and Remote Management: Advanced UPS systems offer monitoring and remote management capabilities, allowing facility managers to remotely monitor power conditions, perform diagnostics, and proactively address any issues with fewer resources. This remote monitoring capability enhances the reliability and maintenance of the UPS system, and ensures business continuity.
- Maintenance and Service: Regular maintenance and servicing of UPS systems are vital to ensure their optimal performance and longevity. Building owners and managers should consider service agreements and support options provided by UPS vendors to ensure prompt maintenance and timely resolution of any issues that may arise.
- Sustainability: For UPS applications, managing the environmental impact involves raw materials, manufacturing, operations, and end-of-life phases. Embracing a circular economy approach and prioritizing secondary use and recycling contribute to sustainability. For example, VRLA batteries have well-established recycling practices, recycling a significant proportion of materials.
- Future Trends and Innovations: The field of UPS technology is constantly evolving. Keeping abreast of emerging trends and innovations, such as new battery chemistries, smart grid integration, or advanced monitoring systems, can help decision-makers make informed choices for their buildings.
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Ultimately, uninterrupted power supplies are indispensable for ensuring continuous power during outages and protecting critical electrical equipment. They mitigate the impact of power failures and address under-voltage conditions, ensuring uninterrupted operations. UPS systems effectively mitigate risks associated with overvoltage, frequency variations, harmonic distortions, and transient voltage surges, safeguarding equipment and preventing damage. Facility executives that have backup power at the ready within their buildings can effectively promote resiliency, efficiency, and sustainability in their power infrastructure, and safeguard business continuity.
Baumann is a solutions architect with Schneider Electric. He helps clients with their Industrial IoT and Microgrid initiatives that achieve greater resiliency and sustainability objectives, while creating economic benefits.
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