Industrial environments can be harsh in terms of temperature, humidity, vibration, dust and all sorts of other elements. Given that, companies tend to take steps to protect the equipment and PLCs that must operate in such environments, be it an assembly line, mining operation, nuclear power plant or what have you. The equipment is typically built to withstand the conditions in which it’ll be operating and, probably, subject to periodic maintenance to make sure it’s all working as it should be – because downtime can be expensive.
That’s all well and good. But to ensure there’s no downtime or equipment hiccups, industrial users should also take steps to protect the uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs) that are protecting their equipment. In addition to protecting from outright power failures, the UPS is also crucial to ensuring power quality is consistent, with no voltage variations, transients, distortions or the like, which can be harmful, especially to sensitive equipment.
The first step, of course, is to ensure you have a UPS that’s intended for an industrial environment. A UPS that lives in an industrial environment has far different characteristics from one that sits in a data center, where temperature and humidity are tightly controlled. Ambient temperatures of above 25°C (or consistently lower than what’s comfortable for humans), or humidity rates below 20% or above 88%, will impact the UPS product lifecycle. In such instances, you should have an industrial UPS that is specifically built to withstand such conditions.
But like most any equipment that has moving parts, a UPS also requires periodic maintenance. And for UPSs that protect critical industrial components, routine preventive maintenance is likely not enough: you need proactive maintenance.
Most vendors offer some sort of preventive maintenance contract with their UPSs. That entails a technician coming out once or twice per year to go through a checklist of items on the UPS, such as connections, filters, capacitors, fans and the like. It’s a highly visual examination; if a component looks like it’s working properly, it’s left intact.
Preventive maintenance is a great way to ensure you are keeping the UPS up to OEM standards. To take that approach to the next level, consider more proactive maintenance.
In addition to examining the various UPS components, proactive maintenance involves replacing certain components according to a schedule that predicts their expected lifecycle. It’s like owning an automobile, which requires all sorts of routine maintenance and part replacements. For example, on cars with timing belts, once you get up over 90,000 miles or so, you have start to thinking about replacing it – because if the timing belt fails while you’re on the highway, it can damage your engine, not to mention leave you stranded.
The exact timeline for when you should change various components will depend on usage, manufacturer’s recommendations, or other factors.
For a modular UPS, for example, it is recommended to replace components regularly such as the power modules and other components after 10 years of operation, Batteries should be replaced every 3 to 5 years, depending on usage, environment, run-time requirements, or other factors.
The point is, you buy a UPS to keep your industrial equipment running, even in the face of power fluctuations and failures – because it’s important that the equipment not go down. It’s only logical, then, that it’s equally important that the UPSs that are protecting your equipment also not go down – and proactive maintenance is all about ensuring just that.
To learn more about how to protect against failure of one of the most important UPS components, the capacitor, check out this free APC by Schneider Electric white paper no. 60, “Avoiding AC Capacitor Failures in Large UPS Systems.” Or, if you’d prefer to have some help, Schneider Electric also offers proactive maintenance service plans. Click here to learn more.
Mike O’Brien is a Field Services Senior Program Manager, at Schneider Electric, a global specialist in energy management and data center solutions. He is responsible for delivering value add Service Offers to Schneider Electric Customers. Mike joined American Power Conversion (later Schneider Electric) in 2002 as a customer service representative and has since worked in various sales, management, and commercial operations roles. Mike holds an M B.A. in Global Business from Johnson & Wales University.