Why modern UPS systems still require proactive maintenance

Power Control
13 Nov 2018

Stringent manufacturing processes and tighter quality control means modern UPS systems are more reliable and less likely to fail than those containing older technology. Older, analogue UPS systems often experienced drifting values and input currents across phases that would need onerous balancing. As UPS technology has moved towards digital processors (DSP), there is less of a need to regularly calibrate the units.

It can be argued that a new uninterruptible power supply, housing the latest UPS technology should not require servicing per se during the warranty period, so what is the point in having a service or preventative maintenance contract?

Whilst the UPS unit itself may be considered reliable, there are a number of extraneous variables that can affect the performance of the UPS systems in the long term. Variables such as adverse environmental conditions that a preventative maintenance visit would identify before they cause harm to the system – even if that problem won’t manifest for a few years. Uninterruptible power supplies by their very nature must provide a reliable supply of uninterrupted power if, and when, required.

Rob Mather, Solutions Director at Power Control says: “Many businesses fall into the trap of a false economy. Anything that can affect the reliability and performance of the UPS system that is not addressed, negates the purpose of having a UPS in the first place.”

Believing that money will be saved by not investing in a reliable service contract means there is a risk of not identifying and addressing a potential fault, possibly causing £thousands of downtime and broken machinery.

Whilst modern digital signal processor (DSP) controller units do not suffer from the calibration drifts of legacy analogue units, there are other reasons an annual preventative maintenance visit at the very least. Firmware updates are crucial for ensuring the UPS system is working at peak performance. The revisions come in numerous forms, from having different settings available on a monitoring tool, to preventing a loss of load in a certain scenario.

Firmware updates are released to counter and remove any abnormalities found in certain conditions and reported to the manufacturers R&D team. A new firmware may also be released if in certain applications the UPS requires a different setting to be available. Not every firmware revision will be applicable to improving the performance of all uninterruptible power supplies, but it could impact the longevity of a UPS, or affect warranty status.

As a result, a service contract will offer additional reassurance in the form of knowing an alternative power supply will protect the critical infrastructure of a business in the event of a power failure. Most maintenance providers will offer an emergency callout facility with varying response times, generally from a 4hr response time to the next business day depending on the service level agreement (SLA).

This provides peace of mind that a potential failure will be identified and resolved before a problem occurs.

Whilst the UPS system is still under warranty, it is advised that either the manufacturer or the company who provided the UPS, maintain the UPS. Although third parties may be capable to maintain the unit, any warranty claim could be protracted as the end user may be required to prove to the manufacturer that the UPS has been correctly maintained.

Once a UPS is no longer covered under warranty, it is advised that a service provider is thoroughly checked to ensure that they have the resources available to deliver on any promises made by the sales team. Questions should be asked about what will happen in certain scenarios; does the company have spare parts, do they have access to firmware updates, do they subcontract to the manufacturer, what is their stock of new UPS systems and do they include callouts and parts?

An all-inclusive maintenance contract will cost more initially but there are no hidden costs, alternatively, a basic contract will be more cost effective but there could be large repair bills if the UPS fails.

Rob Mather commented, “For me, the most important thing to remember is why the UPS was purchased in the first place. Generally, it is to provide business continuity in the event of a mains failure. The actual UPS unit is not important, it is the function provided that is essential. So, with this in mind, the purpose of a preventative maintenance visit is to anticipate a fault before it happens.”

Power Control maintains third-party UPS and backup power equipment, whilst spare parts are available for a plethora of Uninterruptible power supplies, and have engineers experienced and trained on a magnitude of UPS brands; the biggest dimension is the stock availability of replacement and loan UPS systems. If the most important requirement of a UPS is to have business continuity, what does it matter if the failed UPS is replaced rather than repaired if the timescales and costs are similar?

For more information please email info@powercontrol.co.uk or call the office on 01246 431431