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Don’t let an aging UPS bring you down: Assess your replacement options

Mon 27 Mar 2017
FYI, this story is more than a year old

An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) is something like an aeroplane in that it must work all the time; if it fails some pretty awful things can happen.

What’s more, if an aeroplane is having mechanical troubles in flight, you can’t just pull over like you would in a car. Similarly, if a UPS has operational problems, it could have serious repercussions depending on what’s connected to it.

So, when a UPS is getting on in age, which can vary widely depending on the environment and type of UPS, customers need to start assessing their options for what to do with that UPS. In some cases, it’ll be clear the UPS should be replaced. That’s true if any of the following apply:

  • Original equipment manufacturer (OEM) support has ended. This typically occurs after the model has been out of production for 10 years or so, depending on the manufacturer.
  • At this point, if the unit is no longer eligible for a service contract, you may be on the hook for the full cost of any repairs on a time and materials basis – that can quickly get expensive.
  • Spare parts are unavailable or scarce from the OEM and third parties, making repairs costly and time-consuming, if not impossible.
  • Excessive maintenance costs and risks of failure are likely.
  • The UPS can no longer support the critical IT loads for which it was intended.
  • UPS firmware and/or software is no longer compatible with the latest security protocols, leaving it open for cyber attacks and communications issues.

In other cases, it may not be so clear cut that the UPS should be replaced vs. repaired or refurbished. In such cases, you should consider factors such as the additional benefits you’ll get from a newer UPS.

Like most IT equipment, UPSs have seen lots of advances over the years in areas such as energy efficiency. A new UPS is likely to operate at greater than 96% efficiency (depending on load) whereas a legacy UPS may operate at less than 90% efficiency.

For a 500 kW UPS supporting 400 kW of IT load, that can translate to hundreds of thousands of dollars in energy savings over 10 years, from lower power and cooling costs.

What’s more, newer UPSs take up less room because they’re generally smaller. Many are also easier to service than older models, with front-access service – so you no longer need to position the UPS away from any walls.

A more modern UPS will have a more intuitive human machine interface (HMI), often with touch screens to improve operator interaction as well as remote management capabilities.

You’ll have a much-improved ability to monitor the systems, plan service, and react to any potential issues, all of which help to further reduce operational costs.

Another factor to consider is the extent to which your load requirements have changed. For example, within the IT space, companies have shifted a greater percentage of their IT workloads to the cloud or colocation providers.

Look for similar shifts in your environment. Perhaps the 250 kW or 500 kW UPS you bought 8 or 10 years ago can be replaced with an 80 or 100 kW unit, and one with greater energy efficiency. By substituting a smaller UPS, you’ll see significantly lower energy costs and a reduced footprint.

Every case is different but if your UPSs are 10 or more years old or simply starting to show their age, now is the time to start assessing your options.

Article by Daniel Murphy, Schneider Electric Data Center Blog 

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