3 Keys to Ensuring a Successful UPS Modernization Project

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As part of your annual UPS maintenance routine, you may find a number of UPSs that needs an update – whether it be a firmware upgrade, component replacement, or completely swapping them out for new models. In this post, I’ll offer up some keys to ensuring a successful UPS modernization project.

Perform a UPS needs assessment
The first order of business is to assess your current and future UPS needs. In general, you want to size your UPSs appropriately, to provide adequate run time for the loads they need to protect. In many cases, companies install UPSs and leave lots of room for growth. Should that growth never materialize, you’ve now got a UPS that is inefficient. Older UPSs become very energy inefficient when they are lightly loaded. And with 2N systems, they are lightly loaded by definition. This inefficiency is a waste of money. Newer UPSs maintain high efficiency at lower loads. This is something to consider when evaluating whether to buy new or not.

Consider, too, how your needs have changed, or will change. As companies virtualize more servers, move IT loads to cloud providers, and migrate to highly converged infrastructure, they may well dramatically reduce the amount of IT infrastructure they need to protect.

It’s entirely possible that you may be able to replace your existing UPSs with smaller units, meaning the switch won’t cost as much as you think and you’ll save on ongoing operating costs.

Replace or revitalize
It’s also possible that instead of replacing UPSs, you’ll be able to revitalize or modernize them.

In some cases, the decision will effectively be made for you. If OEM support has ended or spare parts are unavailable, you’ve really got little choice but to replace the unit. In other cases, a UPS may need so much maintenance that it just no longer makes sense to keep pouring money into it. Or perhaps the UPS may no longer be able to meet its performance requirements, meaning it can’t support the IT loads that it needs to.

On the other hand, in many cases you can revitalize a UPS by replacing certain components that wear out over time, to bring it back to a high level of performance. Figure 1 shows the various components that can be replaced, at least in relatively modern UPSs of the last 10 years or so. The most common elements are:

• Batteries, which should generally be replaced every 3 to 5 years under normal operating conditions, or sooner in environments that are excessively hot, cold, humid or dirty
• DC capacitors – a visual inspection and/or thermal scanning can detect any issues
• Fans, especially in UPSs that employ double conversion technology, which requires the fan to run more frequently; look for high temperatures or changes in sound that indicate the fan is not running.

Figure 1

UPS Service Life Chart
Find a good partner

It’s entirely possible that the sorts of evaluations described above are beyond the scope of your IT organization. Or maybe you just don’t have the time given all the competing demands you need to meet.

In either case, or perhaps just for peace of mind, you may want to find a partner to work with. Ideally you’ll want one who can thoroughly assess your entire electrical installation and give advice on the various issues noted above.

Look for one that’s willing to work with what you have, swapping out components from one UPS and using them in another where possible. The partner should also look to repurpose existing breakers and wiring, and to evaluate them to ensure they meet both UPS requirements and applicable NEC codes.

However you decide to tackle the job, make sure to give your UPSs the attention they deserve, and upgrade or replace those that are no longer up to the task. To learn more, check out Schneider Electric white paper 214, “Guidance on What to Do with an Older UPS”, and white paper 272, “A Framework for How to Modernize Data Center Facility Infrastructure.”

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