Backup power - why site surveys are a win-win
Winter is approaching and with it, brings the inevitable likelihood of power outages. Many South African organisations are gearing up by investing in alternative power solutions or, at the very least a UPS system to manage the safe shut down of systems in the event of an outage. It’s important however, to ensure that the solution you choose is the best fit for your business - or it will fail you when you need it most.
Selecting the best UPS to meet your requirements isn’t as simple as choosing one from a catalogue or going with the solution that works best for another company. Your business has unique requirements and there are a lot of factors that go into planning the right solution. These include calculating the exact power load and ensuring that there are not external problems which could impact the functionality of the system.
Incorrect planning could result in a system that is unequal to the task. You could end up overspending on a system that over-caters for your requirements. Price has no impact on the suitability of a solution. Your chosen solution in fact, could end up costing more in the long run due to damages caused by incompatibility or additional components required later. For these reasons, it is essential to ensure a proper site survey is carried out before investing in a UPS or generator solution.
Site surveys are often seen as unnecessary spending, however, UPS and generator power systems can be exorbitantly expensive, and the costs of site surveys are often negligible when weighted against the overall solution. The benefits of conducting a proper site survey extend beyond saving money on your solution. -They can help identify inefficiencies in your business’s power environment, the correction of which could save you even more money.
Proper site surveys are more than simply visiting a site and quickly assessing what equipment requires power backup before proposing a solution. Quick surveys may be able to determine what the electrical load is, but will not be able to detect underlying power problems, invisible to the naked eye. Nor can they assess any events which may impact power delivery. For example, an industrial machine may cause a large power drain when it is switched on, and such activities need to be catered for in the event of a power outage.
Typically, a quality site survey should include monitoring your business’s electrical environment for at least seven days, factoring in the parameters relevant to the equipment being catered for (which should be confirmed before starting). This will give an overview of factors such as poor power factor (inductive) loads, voltage fluctuations, harmonics, transience and any patterns which may impact a backup power system.
A good power service provider will be able to provide you with a UPS solution that can operate easily and efficiently within the existing parameters of your organisation’s existing electrical environment and confine its output to fit within the tolerances of the equipment it supports.
The surveyor should also inspect the electrical distribution within your site premises, tracing from the source of power to the load in order to check for any obvious flaws. These should be corrected before installing a UPS or taken into account with the proposed solution. Something as seemingly inconsequential as a bad power terminal can cause inefficiencies in the delivery of power to your entire organisation. It can also put unnecessary pressure on a UPS system.
Over and above examining the existing electrical environment, the survey should also inspect the proposed area where the UPS is to be installed. Improper housing without the necessary cooling and filters can negatively impact the lifespan of a UPS system, and may well cause the system to fail before it even starts.
Once the seven day (minimum) evaluation is completed, and the parameters of both the existing and proposed environments are confirmed, the service provider should be able to produce a report on the power status of your business. This report should detail the requirements as well as suggest any recommended corrections to be done before a UPS is installed.
A site survey will also equip the service provider with all the information needed to specify the perfect solution options to meet your requirement. In so doing, you will be protected, knowing that your chosen solution will work, and that accountability for an incorrectly specified solution rests with the service provider. It’s a win-win.
Kevin Norris is the Consulting Solutions Architect: Renewable Energy at Jasco Intelligent Technologies.