In order to remain productive during the current energy crisis – which promises to continue for some time – businesses will need to consider backup power supply systems.
A UPS system
An uninterrupted power supply (UPS) system protects equipment from power fluctuations, as well as the possibility of data loss resulting from sudden outages and power surges.
A UPS in itself is not adequate as these devices do not run for longer than an hour and a half, whereas the typical length of a power outage is generally between four and five hours.
If the UPS battery is completely drained, it can take as long as a week to fully recharge. If the power fails more than once in a seven-day period, the run time of the UPS will be affected.
UPS systems range from desktop units that supply enough power to keep a lightweight desktop computer running for 10 minutes without wall-supplied power, to walk-in freezer-sized units deployed in data centres to keep an entire bank of servers running.
The most important step in your UPS selection will be to ascertain your power needs before spending any money on equipment.
There are three main UPS design types available:
- A standby UPS unit charges its battery and then waits for the mains power to drop off, mechanically switching to the battery backup (about 20 to 100 milliseconds) in order to maintain the running of the equipment.
- A line-Interactive UPS unit has a similar design but includes a special transformer which makes it better at handling brownouts and power sags.
- An online UPS unit completely isolates the devices attached to it from the wall power by continuously filtering the wall power through the battery system.
Because the attached electronics run completely off the battery bank, there is never any power interruption.
A UPS is therefore critical for ensuring continued security of important machinery and data.
Standby generators offer a reliable solution to extended outages. As a permanent installation they will provide uninterrupted backup for days. They connect directly into the electrical mains and are powered by an external fuel supply, such as natural gas, liquid propane or diesel.
An automatic transfer switch is able to disconnect power from the mains on detection of an interrupted service and, once safely off the grid, start up the generator and transfer backup power.
An inverter is an electronic device or circuitry that changes direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC) voltage so that devices can continue to receive power from another source. The input voltage, output voltage, frequency and overall power handling will depend on the design of the specific device.
The size of the inverter will depend on the power in watts (or current in amps) of the appliance/equipment you want to run. You need to know both the continuous rating in watts or amps; and the peak/surge rating in watts or amps.
Most inverters include a generator transfer switch. They are designed to operate with a generator or interruptive power source and are ideal where other means for charging the batteries is available (such as solar panels or external battery chargers).
The power stored in the batteries is readily available to be used by a suitably sized power inverter to provide an 230V AC power supply, needed by all critical office equipment.
The benefit of power inverter units over proper UPS systems is that you can size your own battery pack to it, thereby providing you with as many hours of backup as you need.
As every company is different, it is advisable to assess your own needs before discussing it with an established service provider. Once you have done this, the service provider will be able to suggest the type of units your business should be looking at.