How An Uninterruptible Power Supply Is Maintained
Maintenance is a must for all computers and all computer network components. Without maintenance, developing problems are left unchecked, updates and upgrades don’t get installed, and an accurate picture of network and server operation never develops. Planning for the maintenance of any network component can be a challenge and planning for the maintenance of your uninterruptible power supply (UPS) system is perhaps most challenging. Regardless of the apparent challenges this important task needs addressed.
What Maintenance Achieves and Why it’s Important
In short, UPS system maintenance helps ensure that your system is going to perform dependably regardless of changing circumstances. The impact of variables such as power interruptions, variances in voltage and frequency, and other disruptions are minimized through the regular attention given to each data center component. Regular maintenance checks reduce the possibility of unplanned downtime and help ensure that all data center components are operating at peak efficiency. A well-functioning data center provides secure and stable computing power for all employees. Since well-maintained data centers and UPS systems function more effectively, they contribute to overall productivity – and thus to your bottom line.
What is the Maintenance Process?
Maintaining a UPS system is a multi-step process that includes inspection, analysis, and testing.
- First a visual check is conducted on the physical components. Anything found to be worn, loose, burned, or otherwise compromised will be removed and replaced with new components.
- Next all equipment housings are cleaned and vacuumed by hand. Removing dust and minute debris helps maintain the optimal operating temperature of each component; environmental systems work more effectively in spaces where air is able to freely circulate and keep electronics cool. Even though there are few moving parts inside a UPS system, dust can still penetrate module chassis and interfere with necessary function.
- Batteries and capacitors have the potential to leak fluid onto surrounding components. A visual check of each battery will be performed during maintenance.
- The HVAC system and climate controls tasked with maintaining a stable environment inside the space housing the UPS must itself be checked. Depending on the nature of this system and the extent of its infrastructure, this stage may take some extra time to complete.
- An operational test will be run on the entire system, including batteries. The report generated at the end of this test will allow technicians to analyze functioning parameters and gauge the remaining longevity of all battery strings and cells.
Detecting the First Sign of Trouble
All electrical devices generate some degree of heat. This heat must be safely channeled away from the device through the use of fans, heat sinks, outside cooling agents, and a stable environment. Some of the steps mentioned above are done to help create a stable environment optimal for UPS systems. This stability is created through temperature moderation, humidity control, and air circulation. When the HVAC system is working correctly and when all heat regulation components within the system are also functioning, there should be no heat spikes. The only way to detect spots of irregular heat is with a thermal scan. This scan gives particular attention to all the electrical connections present in the system. These points of connections are apt to generate heat when not working correctly; this initial malfunction can indicate an existing problem or one that is in development. A thermal scan will detect these early warning signs and give technicians a chance to deploy early intervention strategies.
Assessing Power Generation and Use
Another important part of UPS maintenance is the testing of the system that manages power transfer throughout the rest of the center and its modules. This test assesses the circuit breakers and transfer switches within the UPS; these components are responsible for regulating the flow of power and, if not working correctly, will supply too much or too little to the other components. The maintenance bypasses must also be checked at this stage to make sure that they’re working within their optimal operating parameters.
Most UPS systems are designed to function for a short, albeit critical, period of time. This length of time allows for maintenance intervention during planned or unplanned interruptions in power before the system is restored to its usual source. Some organizations require a backup power system that is capable of generating its own electricity in the case of a supply disruption or stoppage. UPS systems connected to a backup generator are likely to require additional maintenance checks to assess its function.
The Ideal Maintenance Schedule
Not every step in this maintenance list will be conducted during every check. Doing so would cause unnecessary interruption in organization function and demand the presence of skilled technicians when they really aren’t required.
A visual inspection of component integrity should be conducted once each quarter. This inspection can be completed in a short period of time and requires little special training; with some instruction any technician can perform this check. The check of the climate control system and visual check of the batteries should take place once every six months; vacuuming can take place at the same time.
An operational test and complete thermal scan should be conducted once each year. This may require you to arrange a maintenance check from your UPS company if you don’t have qualified technicians on staff. Every two years test the power system, battery backups, and any generators.
If possible, plan these checks well in advance. Good advance planning allows for adequate preparation for any system downtime that may be required. Because downtime is costly in terms of time and lost productivity, advance preparation is necessary to minimize any negative impacts this period of time may have on your organization.
Between Each Maintenance Check
As thorough as all these maintenance checks sound, there is actually additional work that should be done in between checks. This work will make maintenance simpler and help your team respond to unexpected circumstances. Make an inventory list of all spare parts and materials; keep a running tally of materials used so new items can be ordered and kept on hand. Coordinate the maintenance schedule with larger workplace operations so conflicts in labor and budget allowances are avoided. And finally, make an effort to keep up with the latest developments in the UPS industry. Understanding the larger trends will help your organization adapt to the many changes likely to impact your operations.