Do facility managers understand the true cost of emergency power? 10 years ago, UPS (uninterruptible power supply) solutions were largely just the domain of data centres and the emergency services. However, with growing reliance on sophisticated IT and electrical infrastructure, there has been greater strain on the grid and power failures have become even more prevalent. Today, UPS systems can be found supporting even the smallest businesses and residential properties.

With an increased uptake of backup power equipment there are concerns that some of the solutions being installed are not only inefficient but also, not fit for purpose. Facilities managers are also being challenged by economic and environmental pressures. They are having to implement ‘leaner’ solutions, whilst still safeguarding their buildings and cutting costs. With sustainability and environmental matters becoming increasingly important, it is vital to not only install the right solution for the building but to also know the efficiency rating of the equipment.

It goes without saying that the most UK business are now heavily reliant on IT solutions and, with the real threat of a nationwide ‘energy gap’, reliable backup power is more critical than ever before. In the current economic climate, no one can afford any unplanned downtime.

The ambitious energy reforms within the 2008 Climate Change Act saw large parts of the UK’s power generating infrastructure replaced with renewable energies such as wind power. The country has also seen a number of power stations decommissioned over the years, which has contributed to the volatile stability of the power grid.

These changes kick started the drive for mass infrastructure improvements, with many facilities managers reassessing their power protection systems. Supporting this movement, Power Control Ltd has placed a great deal of emphasis on educating the industry on emerging UPS technologies, their extended capabilities and the true cost of power.

UPS design has evolved significantly over the last decade and users are beginning to recognise that achieving high efficiency does not have to compromise power resilience. Traditionally, it was believed that whilst transformer based solutions delivered the highest levels of protection, they were not able to offer the same efficiency levels as their transformer free counterparts.

Thanks to ongoing research and development from leading UPS manufacturers such as Borri Spa, today’s transformer based backup power solutions can achieve the same high efficiency levels of standard transformerless systems. With a 95% efficiency rating, energy savings from an ECO UPS are typically between £4,000 – £60,000 (40 – 600kVA) per year, which over the lifetime of the equipment is a substantial payback. These high efficiency savings and unfailing resilience can only be achieved if the right UPS solution is selected. There are a number of important factors that need to be taken into consideration.

The first is the core requirement of the UPS. What will it be used to support? For critical loads, centralised UPS solutions are recommended to ensure constant power protection across all running equipment.

Next to consider is what the power load will be and what runtime is required. For large loads which also require constant power over several hours a combined UPS and generator solution is likely to be the most appropriate solution.

In environments where over 20kW of power is being consumed, a three phase UPS solution is typically recommended. However, this is dependent on the quality of the site’s electrical framework. Essentially, selecting the correct UPS system depends on application and ensuring that the UPS equipment itself is correctly configured.

Another key area to bear in mind is the additional investment needed for switchgear and cabling. Accurate cable sizing is essential to keeping costs down. UPS systems such as those from Borri Spa have been manufactured with low THDi (less than 3%), which allows for cabling to reduced by up to 25%

Efficiency figures also need careful consideration. Equipment efficiency must be checked under partial load conditions to see true efficiency ratings. It is important to note that most reported efficiency figures are quoted at 100% load but a UPS should never be specified to run at 100% capacity.

Finally, and perhaps the most important part of a power protection strategy, is UPS maintenance.  All UPS systems should be covered under a maintenance contract. Getting an upfront maintenance cost, will avoid hidden price hikes and help confirm TCO projections. UPS maintenance is critical to preventing unplanned downtime and can, in the long run save £thousands.

Many essential procedures begin with preventative maintenance to check critical equipment, including UPS systems. With the repercussions of Covid-19 still rippling through the economy and tough new coronavirus measures sweeping in, new ways of working will impact the performance of the national grid. If it does falter, having a UPS could be the difference between being operational and survival and, in the worst case, total closure.

Emergency power protection is an essential part of infrastructure and facilities managers need to ensure that it is a priority. Having a greater understanding of available UPS technologies will help to ensure that buildings are safeguarded and the best fit solutions are installed.

For more information or to find out how Power Control can help specify requirements please visit www.powercontrol.co.uk