There aren’t many successful businesses that can function well without electricity. You can easily imagine the worst-case scenarios and find the real-life horror stories: Business is humming along and all seems right with the world, until the building or site loses power.
Lights go out, computer screens darken, machinery stops and productivity screeches to a halt as you immediately worry about lives, injury, safety and damage. You also don’t want to be one of the American businesses that collectively lose about $50 billion annually due to power failure. These facts underscore the need for a failsafe backup plan.
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Any outage scenario causes worry and wonder among employees, as well as stress and strain for the team in charge. Instead of working efficiently, everyone gathers around a window to see or discuss the cause, which can be one of many things.
Common Reasons for Power Loss
Utility companies routinely summarize the reasons for any power outages in their newsletter or regular reports. The causes range from everything in the list above to animals making their way into transformers and other components. Whether the power outage lasts a few seconds or several days, business operations need to continue. And they need do so continuously and consistently.
The causes may vary, but outages cause worry about how projects will finish on time and on budget. Every business and household needs lights, heat, equipment and other necessities to function, and certainly to prosper. Without power, injury, loss, damage and decreased revenue become unwelcomed realities.
Now imagine a different scenario when there’s an interruption in the power supply. A UPS keeps everything running seamlessly through a short-term outage. In the case of a long-term outage, it allows plenty of time for conversion to an alternate power source. Imagine that yours is the building that keeps humming despite the circumstances, and the people inside it experience calmness instead of chaos.
What is an Uninterruptible Power Supply System?
UPS stands for uninterruptible power supply. And with a complete system, you can remove “power outage” from your list of worries. The technology continues to improve as the importance of maintaining power to essential systems and operations becomes more and more critical.
Many people don’t realize how much the data-driven world has changed overall power needs, as the Internet and big data in general keep driving up demand for cleaner and more reliable power. Energy surges, spikes or dips cause fluctuations and irregularities that can adversely affect your equipment and your data, so the systems provide a clean, consistent and uninterrupted power flow that protects against those effects.
Many refer to the concept of backup power as a “backup plan,” and a UPS plays a big part of it. A UPS might be a single-phase or triple-phase configuration and could be powered by an array of batteries or a flywheel component.
Generally speaking, an uninterruptible power supply system can be anything from the little black box that sits somewhere near your desk and protects your personal computer to the mega-ton, megawatt models with the capacity to power big business.
A UPS System Serves Multiple Purposes:
Protect against power interruptions
Provide adequate power during short-term interruptions and “ride-through” time to convert to backup supply
Refine the quality of the power as it reaches your building, office and equipment
Include a backup source for long-term outages, such as generators
You will typically find battery-based systems in smaller operations like the home computer or office and the flywheel configuration in bigger systems used to power large facilities. The flywheel-type UPS can augment or replace batteries and deliver immediate, continuous and ample power during an outage or during a switch to an alternate power source.
Different UPS systems work in different ways. The Office of Science and Technical Information provides in-depth information about the harmonics and electrical systems of UPSs, and so do the companies that sell and manufacture them. A UPS will normally be one of three main types, or sometimes a combination of them.
The Main Types of UPS Systems
A standby UPS system might also be called an offline or line-preferred UPS. It normally has an inverter, battery, static switch, low-pass filter and surge suppressor. The system remains on standby unless there’s a primary power failure.
A line-interactive UPS system contains a battery and inverter that are always connected to the output, and if power fails, a switch changes the electrical flow. The continuous connection provides superior filtering.
A double conversion UPS system has a backup battery that is charged by the input AC and powers the output inverter for a seamless switch.
The bigger systems usually include a switch gear and power transformers to provide consistent, reliable electricity and guarantee from zero to only seconds per year of downtime. Critical-operation facilities require a clean, stable and consistent power supply. The UPS can act as a filter for the power coming in from a utility source and protect against the outages and other anomalies that originate with the source.
Anywhere you have operations that can’t stop, there is a type of UPS available to make sure they don’t. The various types are as follows:
Data: A UPS for applications such as a server farm or communication center.
High Temp: Some people need a UPS that will withstand hotter-than-average environments.
Industrial UPS System: These power systems are geared toward use in such settings as manufacturing and other types of plants and factories.
Medical: Hospitals and other medical settings use a UPS to ensure continuous operation of critical equipment like life support.
Military: Systems are certified for quality under military specifications.
Benefits of Uninterruptible Power Supply Systems
The government’s Energy Star website points to the efficiency strengths of a UPS. It can protect against power surges or other variations like frequency distortion or voltage drops. Energy Star-rated UPS systems can help reduce general energy loss by as much as 55%. For example, a 1,000-kVA UPS used in a data-center application could save as much as $18,000 per year in energy costs.
Advantages of Using an Uninterruptible Power Supply System
Continuity: Experience no outages to critical equipment like computers to factory production lines.
Consistency: Electronics within a UPS tells it when it needs to work and kicks in alternate power as needed, which eliminates glitches or surges and allows time to safely shut down main systems if and when needed.
Protection: Safeguards against all the oddities of electricity such as surges, spikes, dips and failure because the UPS essentially senses those things and switches to alternate power before the anomalies cause damage.
Filter: A line-interactive UPS acts as a kind of filter by refining the power as it comes into the UPS then adjusting its output so that internal systems receive a clean, consistent supply free of abnormalities.
While UPS systems provide exceptional reliability and protection and keep critical systems running, they require some investment and preparation. The smallest UPS to power your home office or computer can be several hundred dollars.
The Benefits Outweigh the Costs
Depending on the options and features, the UPS system for a hospital, data center or emergency medical service, for example, might be an investment of tens of thousands of dollars, but it begins paying returns immediately in protection. For the long-term, an efficient UPS can pay for itself within a few years based on reduced energy costs alone. This is one of the many benefits of uninterruptable power supply systems.
Be prepared to pay an electrician for anything more than basic installation of the smallest system. Hobbyists and the inexperienced should know that attaching a UPS and its accouterments is a job for the professionals. Most UPS systems need a cool, dry, dust-free place to exist, and if you choose a battery-based system, know that the batteries last about 5–10 years and must be disposed of properly according to environmentally friendly standards.
Most UPS systems draw power in order to remain charged, so some people are surprised to see the initial spike in energy use before the long-term efficiency proves itself.
These are just some of the industries that can benefit from UPS Systems:
Hospitals and medical centers
Data and call centers
Telecommunications and cable companies
How Do Uninterruptible Power Supply Systems Work?
The different types work different ways, but they all aim to store power then supply it when needed. In a data-driven world, even a momentary glitch with the power has the capacity to result in lost data, zapped systems, missed changes, corrupt files and lost production.
A flywheel or battery-powered UPS plugs into a power source, draws energy, stores the energy. Many times, it filters and refines it as well. The three main types of uninterruptible power supply systems are standby, interactive line, and online.
Power consumption as it relates to UPSs is expressed in VA or kVA. The best way to determine your needs is to consult an expert, but you can roughly calculate the VA or kVA value you might need using the total consumption in watts and the power factor.
For example, maybe a desktop computer is 400 W with a power factor of 0.8. You’d divide the wattage by the power factor to get the VA: 400 ÷ 0.8 = 500 VA. If the power is expressed in amps, multiply the amps by the input volts to get the VA.
The best advice: Consult a professional as you figure out your UPS needs and keep in mind that the large-scale models require sophisticated calculations to make sure each component fits the application.
Standard UPS features can include a number of benefits, such as the following:
Little electromagnetic interference and acoustic noise
Reduced-distortion input current (THD)
Short transition from regular to backup power
Highly efficient and reliable
Most consumers only see or buy the smaller types of UPS systems, but many of them exist that are big enough to protect and power any kind of business.
Flywheel UPS Systems Are Leaner and Cleaner
A Caterpillar® UPS with flywheel technology, available through Warren CAT, provides the most superior power and advanced technology in UPS systems. They feature an exclusive kinetic-energy storage device that functions like a traditional UPS but without batteries and with a lot less maintenance and hassles.
The complete line of Cat® UPS systems offers capabilities that range from 150 kVA to 3.6 MVA. They will carry a facility through an outage or interruption. Depending on the model and technology, they will refine the incoming power so it’s as clean as your system needs it to be. Flywheel-style Cat UPS systems have several advantages like no-break technology and an infinite life cycle.
The Components of a Flywheel UPS System
Bypass and output contactors
Options include cabinets with static bypass, MMU isolation, MMU connection, maintenance bypass and dual output. The flywheel motor compartment contains no permanent magnets and has a magnetic bearing integrated into the field circuit.
Advantages of a Flywheel UPS System
Produces superior-quality output
Eliminates batteries or reduces the number
Lowers system maintenance, operating and replacement costs
Requires less upkeep
Needs less space at a size that’s about 75% smaller than battery-based systems
Reduces annual, overall energy costs by as much as 4%
Provides fail-safe backup power
Option for high-temp operation up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit
Poses no safety hazard to employees or the environment
Enables easy expansion through modular, scalable architecture
A flywheel UPS addresses both efficiency and environmental considerations. For example, a traditional battery-based UPS of say, 300 kVA, would occupy 40 square feet, weigh about 13,000 pounds and use about 52,269 BTUs. A Cat UPS 300 kVA system would occupy 14 square feet, weigh 4,475 pounds and use about 25,300 BTUs.
One of the Cat UPS systems is a high-endurance model designed to operate at temperatures as low as -4 degrees Fahrenheit and as hot as 104 degrees F. You can put monitoring equipment for the Cat UPS system anywhere in the building, with optional Ethernet connections and various choices for computer display.
Caterpillar ingenuity masters the science of using kinetic energy to provide a true, uninterrupted power supply. When power surges, dips or ceases, inertia enables the rotor to keep spinning and create kinetic energy to convert to electricity. The flywheel spins with such low resistance (virtually none), that frictional loss remains very low, thereby creating a super-efficient environment.
UPS Systems Offer Proven Insurance
Business people and consumers wade through all kinds of information in an effort to make informed decisions about what kind of insurance they really need. Then they must decide where to get the best, most cost-efficient kind. An uninterruptible power supply system provides nearly failsafe protection against power failure and interruptions, keeping crucial systems healthy and business productive.
Find a qualified expert to help you explore the different kinds of UPS, as well as which one best fits your business and applications. A Cat UPS comes with the added strength of specialized professionals including electricians, engineers and technicians to support you. They can translate the language of UPS systems and their many parts including power generation, transfer switches, distribution panels, and mobile or permanent alternative-power sources, as well as services or support for all of the above.
What’s your back up plan? In some scenarios, that question might cause worry, woe or a cold sweat. Armed with comprehensive knowledge, an expert partner and the right UPS system, you will meet that inquiry with confidence and pride.