Are Your UPS Batteries the Weak Link in Your Backup System?

Every data center faces some of the same potential disasters, and near the top of the list is the risk of power failure. When that happens, data centers need to have the proper procedures in place to ensure smooth transition to uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), but do you know how to prevent vulnerabilities in your UPS system? UPS batteries are often the most vulnerable part of your system and can lead to serious headaches, costly downtime, and lost revenue if you are not maintaining and managing them correctly.

 

Data center experts estimate that batteries are to blame for system downtime and UPS load loss in about 9 out of 10 cases, but fortunately it can be prevented with the right preparation and maintenance.

 

The Purpose of UPS Batteries

 

The uninterruptible power supply (or power source) at a data center is tasked with taking over in emergency situations when the main power fails. In order to have a properly functioning UPS system, you need to have UPS batteries in place that can handle your entire data load without failing—after all, a backup system without proper battery life won’t provide much security in a power failure situation.

 

To begin, make sure your data center has the right UPS batteries to meet the needs of your systems. There are three main types of UPS batteries that vary in terms of cost and overall reliability. Valve-regulated lead acid (VRLA) are the most affordable, but also the least reliable. Flooded or Wet cell batteries provide better protection and longer life with a higher price tag. Factoring in things like life expectancy, capacity, voltage, and convenient access points can help you get the one that will offer you the best protection when you need a backup system.

 

Determining a Battery’s Useful Life

 

The way that you use, maintain, and charge a UPS battery will have an impact on its useful life. Batteries in storage will naturally decline over time, particularly if they are not used or charged regularly or if they are not recharged after a power failure that discharges some of the battery life. While in storage batteries should be charged about three times a year; without these frequent recharges the UPS battery will likely only last between 18 months and two years, much shorter than the usual three to five year lifespan.

 

A UPS battery has reached the end of its “useful life” when capacity falls below 80 percent of its rated ampere-hours. After this the battery will begin to steadily and quickly decline and should be replaced as soon as possible. Batteries generally last between three and five years, although the specific amount of time your battery lasts will vary depending on usage, storage, and maintenance.

 

Before purchasing any battery, check to make sure it has not been sitting on a shelf in a warehouse for a while prior to purchase. Since they require frequent recharging, purchasing a battery that is more than one year old and has not been recharged means you will get a shorter lifespan than a brand new battery.

 

Causes of UPS Battery Deterioration

 

In any backup system the UPS batteries might fail for one of several reasons, including:

  • Infrequent or nonexistent maintenance
  • Less-than-ideal storage conditions
  • High humidity or fluctuating temperatures
  • Loose connections or inter-cell links
  • Dried out or damaged cases that lead to electrolyte loss

 

With so many different things that could go wrong when it comes to your UPS battery, having a well-defined maintenance schedule is critical to keeping them in top shape for when they are needed.

 

Ensuring a Proper Storage Environment

 

One of the best ways to prevent degradation for UPS batteries is to store them properly. The battery manufacturer should specify the ideal environment for keeping and storing UPS batteries, but generally speaking, the storage environment should be:

  • Indoors
  • Protected from weather, humidity, sunlight, etc.
  • In a dry location
  • Around 77 degrees, but if you cannot achieve exactly that temperature try to at least keep it between 60 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit

 

Proper UPS Battery Maintenance

 

Once installed, it’s important to keep track of all your battery maintenance. Perform visual inspections on a regular basis and log any information about potential problems that you see during the inspections, such as damaged cases or leaks. If left unaddressed these things could cause corrosion, fire, and other damage to your data center.

 

Next, perform regular readings on the batteries to determine if they are wearing out too fast—this is especially critical if you have a series of batteries wired together, as a failure in one of them could impact the entire string.

 

If you do have a power failure and must rely on the batteries for backup power, make sure to recharge the batteries within 48 hours of discharge to prevent extensive and irreparable damage.

 

Write down the replacement cycle for each battery so you don’t lose track, especially if you purchase batteries at different times over the course of several years, or if you add batteries to your storage slowly over time.

 

Sealed UPS batteries are often referred to as “maintenance-free” but don’t be fooled by the name—they still require regular maintenance checks like any other battery. The “maintenance-free” part only means that you won’t need to replace the fluid inside the battery.

 

Feel Confident With UPS Battery Maintenance

 

At Titan Power we understand the importance of preventive maintenance for UPS batteries. Being prepared for any contingency is critical to your success and continued operations, and we can help you get the right maintenance plan for your UPS batteries so you feel confident in case of an emergency.

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