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Issue of May 2004 
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Choosing the right power conditioning equipment

Other than a good power conditioning strategy it's important to procure reliable power conditioning equipment

As today's business applications are based on technology solutions and use enterprise wide sophisticated hardware, the need for power protection systems providing impeccable power quality with high reliability and availability becomes inevitable.

A large network is a part of the business solution in any enterprise. And the most critical factor in such a situation is total system uptime. In such a situation the prime consideration is given to system’s protection.

This creates the need for a UPS system which provides the most effective protection of the enterprise-wide system. However, this UPS system should address space constraints and have the ability to communicate with other devices. Developing such a power protection system has become a challenge amongst the power protection industry’s leaders.

Good equipment

A good power conditioning strategy is essential to maximize business uptime for critical applications. A power conditioning solution takes into account the business uptime requirement, from the mains supply stage to the load stage. One should ideally select a UPS vendor, who is a complete solution provider in all respects of power conditioning.

The vendor should be willing to study the requirement, the condition, mains power supply, and the surroundings of the installation requirement. As a part of the total solution, the vendor should conduct a power audit including a harmonic study and suggest the appropriate solution, which would provide the highest uptime for the business, considering the best possible Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) to the customer.

Factors to consider

Look for vendors who are at least a decade old in this industry. Better if the vendors main business is power protection. Choose a vendor that views the concept of UPS systems as managing a complete power conditioning solution project.

The vendor should be capable of entire site preparation, implementation, and power quality management for all infrastructure-dependent activities. The vendor should carry out power quality audits for all major installations periodically. There should be proper on-site warranty policies and the after-sales service support capabilities.

A UPS should adhere to the norms and specifications as per the standards. The UPS must have an Isolation Transformer, which isolates the input for better protection. Features like appropriate earthing and bonding, alternate distribution, static switches, servo controlled voltage stabilizer, proper battery monitoring, and maintenance are other considerations.

Check points

The UPS capacity should match load requirements.

The actual power drawn by the equipment should be measured before assessing the UPS capacity. Select a UPS with a Volt Amps (VA) rating that significantly exceeds the rating shown on the equipment. Depending on the application, the UPS hardware and software features needs to be checked.

For example, if the UPS is supporting a group of servers, you should use communication software, which has the ability to close applications running on each server and ensure its safe shutdown. Intelligent UPS systems with communication ports allow you to communicate through TCP/IP or via PDAs or Web phones.

Choose the right topology. There are three types of UPS topologies—online, offline, and line interactive. Each provides different advantages and disadvantages. Decide on the topology appropriate for your enterprise. You may choose the latest products with Digital Signal Processor (DSP) controlled UPS systems.

Specifications

Once the topology and the basic needs are planned, one needs to compare the specifications of the short-listed products.

The product that offers maximum output load in the current capacity (expressed in amps and time duration), is better. The same is the case with transient voltage surge suppression capability, output response time, and faster battery recharge time.

Information about the specified battery life, recommended environmental conditions, and whether user-replaceable or not, is important. Check for alarms or LEDs or LCD that indicate mains failure, output overloads, whether the inverter is running on UPS battery, and whether the battery charge is low.

If you buy a more expensive unit, ensure that the software will automatically save data, close applications, and turn off the computer equipment in advance, before the UPS standby power goes out, following a mains failure.

Summary

  • Choose the right power protection solutions provider.
  • Pick the kind of UPS to match your conditions and budget. While the manufacturer's claims make every unit, even the cheapest, sound like they solve all problems, it just isn't so.
  • Determine which size, or VA rating, will support your load and future plans. Alternately, check the electronic equipment manufacturer's labels to calculate your power requirements.
  • Choose the run time you need—or minutes that the UPS can support the load before running out of battery back-up power during an outage. Do not buy a higher rated UPS to get more run time. The objective is to size the UPS to properly support the power load, and then add extra battery packs to give more run time. While the less expensive products do not have extra battery options, most good quality units do.
  • Consider accessories that can improve your protection. Sophisticated units allow swapping a faulty UPS for a new one without turning off the computer or server, others allow only the battery to be replaced under load. Other accessories connect your UPS to networks and SNMP systems for sophisticated monitoring and control.
  • Think about redundancy. If you have a real critical system, you may want a top of the line fully redundant system that provides two complete power protection paths and automatically switches between them if one should fail.
  • Compare the features, prices, software, and warranties.

UPS Sizing

  • List all equipment to be protected by the UPS. (Remember to include all monitors, terminals, modems, routers and any other critical equipment.)
  • List the wattage and VA ratings. These figures can be found on a plate on the back of the equipment. Multiply amps by volts to determine VA.
  • Multiply the VA by the number of pieces of equipment (quantity) to get VA subtotals.
  • Add the VA subtotals to get a total.
  • Use the total figure to select a UPS. When choosing a UPS be sure that the total VA requirement of supported equipment does not exceed the UPS VA rating.
  • For any clarifications on this contact your vendor.
 
     
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