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Single Phase UPS Management,
Maintenance, and Lifecycle
White Paper 210
Revision 0
by Justin Solis
Executive summary
“How long will my battery last?” and “what is the best
practice for maintaining my UPS?” are very common
questions posed from UPS owners. Few realize there is
more to the UPS than just battery back-up; and that,
like all electronics it has a life expectancy. Many of the
factors that affect battery life also affect UPS electronics. Some factors may be controlled by taking some
preventative measures or simply adjusting some basic
UPS settings. This whitepaper discusses the key
factors that influence both battery and UPS life; and
provides some simple recommendations and guidelines to help you manage your single phase UPS to
maximize the life and overall availability.
by Schneider Electric White Papers are now part of the Schneider Electric
white paper library produced by Schneider Electric’s Data Center Science Center
[email protected]
Single Phase UPS Management, Maintenance, and Lifecycle
Introduction
In order to keep your UPS operating at maximum efficiency, simple preventive maintenance
should be performed on a regular basis. In the past, it was difficult to test and monitor a
UPS. However new designs provide users simpler, yet more advanced ways to monitor their
UPS. Today’s UPS models, for example, are designed to provide regular, automatic status
updates.
Despite the inclusion of self-monitoring software and auto-notification features of many new
UPS models, timely inspections are still necessary to assure a UPS is operating properly.
Proper care and regular maintenance will help avoid unnecessary downtime, saving time and
money.
Most serviceable UPS components are designed to be touch-safe to ensure the safety of the
person servicing the device; however it is still important to keep safety at the forefront when
servicing your UPS. The UPS is directly connected to a source of power, and general
electrical safety precautions should always be taken. When providing maintenance inspections to your UPS, the following general best practices are recommended:
• Be proactive. This is always the best approach to both battery and UPS replacement.
UPSs that have been in service for more than 5 years have a higher risk of unanticipated downtime due to the increased likelihood of internal component failure.
• Be prepared. If you are able to provide proper storage, battery replacements could be
kept on site to increase availability and avoid downtime.
• Be organized. Maintenance inspections should be scheduled routinely to keep the user
up to date on UPS operations. This should include documentation of the performed inspections and the date on which the inspection was performed.
Scheduling and performing preventative maintenance is vital to getting the most out of UPS
systems. However, simply performing the inspections is not sufficient. Keep records of the
type of maintenance performed and the condition of the equipment. Keeping detailed records
of maintenance performed and areas of degradation (e.g., reduced battery runtime) will aid
the user in predicting failures as well as help the support team if a problem does occur in the
future.
Components
most likely to
experience
failure
Due to the important equipment and information UPSs are designed to protect, they generally
tend to be reliable and durable, however there is still a chance that an older UPS could
malfunction mechanically or electronically. The following are the most common causes of a
UPS failure:
• Batteries
• Fans
• Electrolytic Capacitors
• Metal Oxide Varistors (MOVs)
• Relays
Batteries
No battery lasts forever, and UPS batteries are no different. However, the life span of the
battery can be maximized by operating your UPS under the manufacturers’ recommended
conditions which are typically described in the user manual. To help users monitor their UPS,
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newer units have been equipped to alert the user when the battery is approaching the end of
its useable life via:
• Predictive battery replacement dates
• Temperature-compensated charging
• Automated self tests
The most commonly used battery type in a single phase UPS is a valve-regulated lead-acid
(VRLA) battery. The forecasted life span of these batteries is typically 3 to 5 years under the
manufacturers’ recommended conditions; however, this life expectancy will fluctuate greatly
depending on five factors: placement, ambient temperature, cycling, maintenance, battery
chemistry, and battery storage. Being proactive and aware of these characteristics and
conditions will help maximize the life expectancy of a UPS and prepare for any imminent
power failures.
Typical life expectancy
assumptions
• Ambient temperature: 30°C (86°F)
• Internal temperature: 40°C (104°F)
• Load: 75% of capacity
• Nominal input voltage
Placement - When installing a UPS, the user must determine where to install the unit to
best provide power protection of the IT equipment in the room. It is recommended that the
UPS be installed in a temperature-controlled environment. The UPS should not be placed
near open windows or areas that contain high amounts of moisture; and the environment
should be free of excessive dust and corrosive fumes. Do not operate the UPS where the
temperature and humidity are outside the specified limits. The ventilation openings at the
front, side, or rear of the unit must not be blocked. Further discussion on cooling strategies
can be found in White Paper 68, Cooling Strategies for IT Wiring Closets and Small Rooms.
Ambient temperature - All batteries have a rated capacity which is determined based on
specified conditions. The rated capacity of a UPS battery is based on an ambient temperature of 25°C (77°F). Operating the UPS under these conditions will maximize the life of the
UPS and result in optimal performance. While a UPS will continue to operate in varying
temperatures, it is important to note that this will likely result in diminishing the performance
and lifespan of your battery as shown in Figure 1. A general rule to remember is that for
approximately every 10°C (18°F) above the ambient temperature of 25°C (77°F), the life of
the battery will be reduced by 50 percent. Therefore, keeping a UPS at a comfortable
temperature is crucial to maximizing UPS life and capabilities.
Figure 1
Battery life expectancy
vs. Temperature
Cycling - When a power failure occurs, the UPS will automatically switch to battery power to
provide the attached equipment (load) energy. Once utility power has been restored the UPS
battery will automatically recharge to prepare for the next power outage, a process known as
the discharge cycle. The chemistry of a VRLA battery, like the one used in a single phase
UPS, dictates that a battery can only undergo so many discharge/recharge cycles before it
reaches the end of its usable life, and must be replaced.
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At installation, a battery is at 100 percent of its rated capacity; however each discharge and
subsequent recharge will slightly decrease the relative capacity of a battery. The length of
the discharge cycle will determine by how much a battery’s capacity is reduced as shown in
Table 1. While cycling is a necessary part of UPS operation, being aware of the cycling
frequency will help to notice abnormal / frequent cycling and predict the life of a UPS. Many
UPS models are also adjustable, allowing the user to regulate the sensitivity to voltage sags
and other transients to reduce ‘nuisance trips’ that unnecessarily consume battery capacity.
Table 1
Capacity vs. Number
of cycles
Average discharge
depth
Number of cycles before
reaching 60% capacity
100%
200 – 300 Cycles
50%
400 – 600 Cycles
30%
1100 – 1200 Cycles
Maintenance – Most single-phase UPS batteries are classified as “maintenance free” which
leads many users to incorrectly assume that monitoring and maintaining UPS batteries is
unnecessary. A maintenance-free battery only refers to the fact that these batteries do not
require any replacement fluid, therefore understanding how to properly care for and monitor
batteries is essential.
Periodic maintenance inspections should be completed to assess the health of the UPS
battery. The battery should be visually inspected for: cleanliness, leaking and excessive
swelling. Any dust, dirt or debris found during the inspection should be removed to avoid
short circuits or ground faults. If the battery is found to be suffering from excessive swelling
or leaking, it should be replaced and properly disposed.
Battery chemistry – The chemistry of the lead-acid batteries used in UPSs dictates a
battery’s ability to store and deliver power. This capability will inevitably decrease over time.
Even if all maintenance guidelines are followed, a battery has a finite life, and will eventually
require a replacement.
A VRLA battery is determined to require a replacement when it has reached the end of its
useful life, which is defined by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) as
when it can no longer supply 80% of its rated capacity. This loss in capacity reflects deterioration of internal battery components. When the battery reaches this point, the degradation
process speeds up, and a replacement battery is needed. Even if the UPS battery is able to
provide an adequate runtime, a replacement should be pursued. The deteriorated internal
battery components increase the likelihood of unplanned downtime and battery leakage.
Battery storage - Proactive UPS owners may seek to purchase a replacement battery
before one is necessary in order to avoid the potential consequences of downtime. While this
is an acceptable and even recommended practice, there are a few important factors to
consider when placing your UPS battery into storage.
Inevitably, an unused battery will experience a life cycle decrease. Lead-acid batteries like
the ones used in single-phase UPS units experience automatic self-discharge, therefore it is
recommended that a battery in storage be charged every 6 months. Regardless of the
frequency of battery recharge, cumulative storage time should not exceed one year. Failure
to follow these recommendations will result in permanent loss of capacity within 18 to 30
months.
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If it is not feasible to charge a battery while in storage, it is recommended that the battery be
stored at 10°C (50°F) or less. Doing so will slow the degradation cycle of the battery, and
help to maximize its life expectancy.
Fans
As discussed in the previous section, temperature can have a significant impact on the life
expectancy of UPS components. To mitigate the effects of heat, most UPSs are equipped
with fans to help cool the unit, and keep the ambient temperature within the recommended
temperature range. Under recommended conditions fans in UPS units have a life expectancy
of up to 10 years. The fan’s life expectancy is strongly dependent on the environment the
UPS is placed in. In a typical UPS, the fan will turn on or speed up under the following
circumstances:
• Utility power is not available, and the UPS is forced to go on battery
• The temperature within the unit surpasses a predetermined level - usually ~38°C
(100°F)
• The load attached to the unit surpasses a predetermined threshold - usually between
70% and 80% of operating capacity
The only way to prolong the life of the fan in a UPS is to limit the scenarios when it is forced
to operate. Therefore keeping the ambient temperature within the specified range, monitoring the UPS for unusual or frequent cycling, and choosing a properly sized UPS that can
comfortably support the attached load should maximize the life of the fan.
Electrolytic capacitors
Electrolytic capacitors function to smooth out and filter fluctuations in voltage. Under normal
conditions their life expectancy is up to 10 years. Similar to batteries, the biggest factor
affecting the projected life of an electrolytic capacitor is temperature and humidity. Similar to
batteries, a general rule is that for every 10°C (18°F) decrease in temperature, the capacitor
life is doubled, known as Arrhenius' Law of Chemical Activity.
As with the lead-acid battery within a UPS, monitoring the temperature of the environment,
and assuring it remains within the specified ambient temperature range, will greatly enhance
the life expectancy of electrolytic capacitors.
Metal oxide varistors (MOVs)
MOVs lifespan are much more difficult to predict than the previously mentioned components.
The primary reason is that MOVs typically malfunction after being exposed to frequent and/or
extreme voltage spikes.
UPSs are designed to provide surge protection to all connected equipment. The UPS
accomplishes this by utilizing MOVs to absorb excess voltage. Occasionally the transient
voltage may be too severe for the MOVs to regulate, and the MOV may be destroyed. While
there is little a user can do to prevent the effects of extreme voltage spikes, being aware of
the scenarios that may cause a MOV to fail will help the user be prepared, and identify the
problem if it does occur.
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Relays
Similar to MOVs, the life expectancy of the relays within a UPS is difficult to predict. Relays
are electrically operated switches which allow the UPS to operate and switch between on and
off battery. Under normal circumstances, it is unlikely a UPS will cycle enough times to
cause a relay failure, however incorrect or malfunctioning firmware setup could result in
overuse, and an eventual failure.
Unusually high cycling could indicate that the UPS is not operating properly, and the relays,
as well as the battery may be suffering. Having the awareness to notice when these problems are occurring should allow a user to be proactive, and adjust the firmware settings to
prevent substantial damage before it occurs.
Table 2 summarizes the life expectancy and factors affecting the life of the five components
discussed above.
Component
Function
Life
expectancy
3 – 5 Years
•
•
•
•
•
•
UPS Placement
Ambient Temperature
Cycling Frequency
Maintenance
Battery Chemistry
Battery Storage
Provides cooling to the unit
Up to 10 Years
•
•
•
•
Load on the unit
Ambient Temperature
Frequency of Use
Duration of Use
Smoothes out and filters
fluctuations in voltage
Up to 10 Years
•
•
Ambient Temperature
Humidity
Protects circuits against
excessive transient voltages
Variable
•
Dependent on the number
and severity of surge events
Electrically operated switch that
helps UPS transfer modes
Variable
•
Abnormal cycling
Battery
Provides power when utility
power is not available
Fans
Table 2
Summary of components
most likely to experience
failure
Electrolytic
Capacitors
Metal Oxide
Varistors (MOV)
Relays
Topology
considerations
Factors affecting
life
Generally the life expectancies discussed in this white paper apply for all single-phase UPSs;
however the topology of your specific UPS will impact which faults your UPS is the most
susceptible to.
The following will briefly discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the two most common
topologies: line-interactive and double-conversion on-line. More information regarding the
advantages and disadvantages of different UPS topologies can be found in White Paper
79, Technical Comparison of On-line vs. Line-interactive UPS Designs.
Line-interactive UPS
A line-interactive UPS conditions and regulates the AC power from the utility, generally
using only one main power converter. When AC input is present, the “power interface” block
filters the AC power, suppresses voltage spikes, and provides sufficient voltage regulation.
The main power converter (the “inverter” block) redirects some of the input AC power to keep
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the batteries fully charged while the AC line voltage is present. This typically requires less
than 10% of the UPS power rating, so the components stay cool while in this mode of
operation, decreasing the likelihood of going over the ambient temperature recommendations.
Double-conversion on-line UPS
As its name implies, a double-conversion on-line UPS converts power twice. First, AC
input, with all of its voltage spikes, distortion, and other anomalies, is converted into DC. A
double-conversion on-line UPS uses a capacitor to stabilize this DC voltage and store energy
drawn from the AC input. Second, DC is converted back into AC that is tightly regulated by
the UPS. This AC output can even have a different frequency from the AC input — something
not possible with a line-interactive UPS. All of the power provided to the load equipment goes
through this double-conversion process when AC input is present.
Due to its multiple power stages, a typical double conversion on-line UPS will have many
more components (typically three times as many) than a typical line-interactive UPS.
Because these components are continuously processing all of the power drawn by the load
equipment, their temperatures are typically higher than the components in a line-interactive
UPS when AC input is present. Theoretically, both constant operation and higher temperatures reduce the reliability of the components in the UPS. In practice, however, reliability is
often determined by other factors as described below under Reliability Considerations.
Reliability considerations
In both topologies, certain aspects of the designs theoretically increase or decrease operating
life and reliability. For line-interactive, the small number of components and cool operation of
the main power stage both tend to increase operating life and reliability. For doubleconversion on-line, constant operation and higher operating temperatures both tend to
decrease operating life and reliability.
In practice, however, reliability is generally determined by how well the manufacturer designs
and builds the UPS and by the quality of the components used, regardless of topology.
Because quality is vendor-dependent, there can be high quality double-conversion on-line
designs and poor quality line-interactive designs, and vice versa.
The importance
of management
While providing preventative maintenance is crucial to maximizing expected life, providing
proper management optimizes the performance and capabilities of a UPS. Many manufacturers now offer software designed to provide protection, manageability, compatibility, and
convenience.
Advanced management software should offer UPS configuration & control, safe system
shutdown, and energy reporting capabilities. Energy usage cost and CO2 reporting helps
provide a greater understanding of the energy consumed by IT equipment enabling optimal
energy usage. Advanced analysis features can help to identify the causes of potential power
related problems before they occur; ensuring the health of protected equipment. .
In addition to the management software, select manufacturers also offer management cards
for pro-active, 24x7 management and monitoring from a single software application.
These cards typically provide notification features that inform a user of problems as they
occur. Figure 2 shows an example of a management card.
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Single Phase UPS Management, Maintenance, and Lifecycle
Figure 2
Example of a UPS management card (Schneider
Electric’s Network Management Card shown)
End-of-life
(EOL)
Inevitably, every UPS will eventually reach the end of its usable life, however proper oversight and maintenance will ensure you maximize the life of your UPS. Depending on the
factors discussed throughout this paper, UPS being operated under recommended conditions
have a life expectancy of up to 10 years with at least one battery replacement; however it
may be wise to pursue a unit replacement before the UPS experiences a failure. While the
UPS may continue to operate up to or even beyond 10 years, the efficiency of your UPS will
likely begin to decline beforehand.
In addition to the efficiency degradation considerations, by the time your UPS is 5+ years old,
it is likely that extensive improvements and features have been implemented, some of which
may be necessary for your new applications. As technology continues to advance, power
requirements for equipment are growing rapidly. Older UPS technology combined with an
efficiency deterioration likely make it beneficial to pursue unit replacement well before the
UPS experiences a failure.
Therefore, for mission critical applications that will not allow for downtime, a replacement unit
should be pursued when the UPS efficiency begins to decline. When these end-of-life
considerations should be made is largely dependent on the factors previously discussed.
Therefore only proper oversight and maintenance can give an accurate depiction of when you
can expect your specific unit to reach its end of life.
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Single Phase UPS Management, Maintenance, and Lifecycle
Conclusion
UPS are designed to be durable and dependable; however, maximizing your UPS potential
requires proper care from the user. Most users are aware that batteries will eventually need
replacement, however many overlook the importance of monitoring and maintenance. This is
made easier since battery life and UPS life are often affected by similar factors which can
typically be mitigated by the user
Temperature, and frequency of use are the two characteristics that should be most closely
monitored, but the importance of periodic inspections, unit placement, and unit storage
cannot be overlooked. Understanding the magnitude of these effects, and providing proper
maintenance play a critical role in establishing a maintenance plan that fits the needs of you
and your business.
Just like batteries, UPSs have a life cycle, and they will not last forever. However, the UPSs
that last the longest, and provide the best performance are the units that are being provided
the best management and care. Providing optimal oversight to your UPS should be simple;
just make sure you utilize the management features available and that your plan is simple,
consistent, and proactive in nature.
Acknowledgements
Special thanks to Justin Solis for authoring the original content of this white paper.
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Single Phase UPS Management, Maintenance, and Lifecycle
Resources
Cooling Strategies for IT Wiring Closets and Small Rooms
White Paper 68
Technical Comparison of On-line vs. Line-interactive UPS Designs
White Paper 79
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