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The Stack Archive Expert View

Protecting your UPS from afar: remote monitoring and maintenance services

Mon 5 Sep 2016

While UPS installations exist to protect their critical load from power problems, they equally must be protected from factors that could harm them – even if this is difficult to achieve due to a lack of trained staff or resources.

In this article, Alan Luscombe, Director at Uninterruptible Power Supplies Ltd., a Kohler company, shows how an effective protection strategy, comprising both remote system monitoring and on-site maintenance, and tailored to the needs of a particular installation, can be arranged with a suitable UPS supplier.

Your UPS installation exists solely to provide uninterrupted clean power to your critical systems. Accordingly it makes sense to ensure that the UPS equipment itself is in the best possible health at all times; any latent problems should be spotted and resolved before they can cause system failures. However, performing adequate levels of monitoring and maintenance can be a challenge if the UPS is in a remote or unattended location, or if there is a shortage of trained staff available.

Most major UPS suppliers recognise this issue and offer solutions for their customers. These usually include a number of monitoring and maintenance options, which customers can tailor to suit the needs of their particular UPS installation and its various components. These cover electrical and electronic subassemblies, cables, connectors, batteries and, often, generators.

Monitoring for batteries, UPSs and generators

UPS Ltd’s flexible solution comprises three separate monitoring packages: PowerNSURE battery, PowerREPORTER UPS and HawkEye2 Generator. These can be complemented by onsite maintenance services, available both at scheduled intervals and in response to alerts raised on site or by the remote monitoring activities.

PowerNSURE is an advanced battery monitoring product that uses battery-top sensors, which are accessed over a local network or via the Web. The sensors continuously measure the internal resistance, voltage and temperature of every single battery cell sequentially. Battery resistance values are important, because they can warn of developing problems within the cells. Problems are indicated if one cell resistance measurement is significantly different from all the others. Abnormal rises in internal resistance can be caused by damage through overcharging, leakage of electrolyte or corrosion.

Overcharging can create other problems including gassing, dry-out and thermal runaway. Undercharging can also damage batteries, sometimes permanently. Both conditions can be caused by poor equalisation, in which some battery cells receive an excessive charging voltage while others do not receive enough. Using voltage measurement feedback, PowerNSURE runs an equalisation process to prevent this happening. As a result, battery life is prolonged, while early action can be taken if any resistance values become abnormal.

Battery temperatures are also monitored, as excessive heat can cause failures, while low temperatures can negatively impact battery performance.

PowerREPORTER provides a 24/7/365 Internet-based remote monitoring service for UPSs, and is especially useful for remote or unmanned sites. Through constant communication with the UPS system, it detects any error or alarm messages. If an incident is flagged, the software automatically connects with UPS Ltd’s service centre network via email, transmitting a status message and providing any available details relating to the fault.

This information is relayed to a field service team, who can then interrogate the UPS, and perform any necessary diagnostics. A technician can then visit the site within the contracted agreement timeframe, briefed and equipped with any necessary spare parts. These emergency responses are complemented by provision of monthly status reports detailing trends and alarms.

Generators can similarly be managed 24/7/365 using UPS Ltd’s Hawkeye2 remote monitoring. Hawkeye2 automatically starts a customer’s generator system once a week, running it for 10 minutes and checking vital operating parameters such as voltage, frequency, oil and water temperatures, battery condition, emergency stop and fuel levels. A full condition report is then sent to a monitoring centre via phone line or GSM upload. SMS or voicemail reports can also be sent to nominated numbers.

Notification of a mains failure and generator operation is given, then continuous monitoring of a wide range of electrical and mechanical generator conditions is available while a customer’s machine is running. Automatic low fuel warnings are issued, and site-specific alarms – intruder or fire, for example – can be monitored.

On-site maintenance

While monitoring is essential to gaining visibility of a UPS’s status, it must be complemented by on-site maintenance contracts to round out an effective UPS care strategy. Service levels should be agreed to guarantee response times appropriate to the critical load’s needs. Regular checking of battery physical conditions, along with very occasional load bank testing, is particularly important, but other UPS factors should be regularly checked as well. These should cover correct operation of instrumentation and indicators, switchgear, airflow, air-filter changes, cleanliness and freedom from debris, secure connections, absence of corrosion or damage, and that the UPS is running smoothly.

 

Please refer to the UPSL glossary for definitions of terms used in this article.

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