2 FM quick reads on UPS commissioning
1. Staff Training, Maintenance Schedule Help Keep UPS Running
Ongoing staff training and a comprehensive maintenance schedule are both critical elements of ensuring your data center UPS can handle the load.
Data center facility staff wear multiple hats, and day-to-day operations could go on for many months or even years without UPS interaction. Therefore, facility staff must be properly trained on the use of the UPS system on an ongoing basis, preferably annually, as the personnel who were present during the initial UPS training may not be there 10 years later. But, even when facility personnel remain the same for a decade, annual training provides a much-needed refresher in recognizing what the UPS system dependencies are and what should happen when something goes wrong. The operators responsible for maintaining the UPS should understand how the system's redundancy is intended to operate.
Also, be proactive in implementing a routine maintenance schedule. Here are some guidelines broken down by UPS component: Batteries: Replace every 5 years and do yearly testing each year in between.
Air conditioning: Service it properly, including replacement of filters, etc.
Control boards: Once the UPS starts aging, batteries aside, the next thing to fail are the control boards. Inspect them every year at a minimum. Replace every 10 years or less. Look at consulting with the UPS manufacturer for their suggested replacement schedule.
Cooling Fans: While most manufacturers build redundancy into their UPS cooling fans, fans are a moving mechanical component and will wear out. Replace on an as-needed basis, but be proactive, as multiple fan replacement is recommended also in the 5 to 10 year range.
Power filtering capacitors: Also recommended to be replaced in the 5 to 10 year range, but varies from manufacturer to manufacturer.
The initial UPS design should both provide the data center owner with peace of mind that the mission critical environment has been executed as designed and put the facility personnel in the best possible position to easily maintain the building, through installation and daily operations.
2. Commission, Test UPS To Ensure Proper Operation
A data center UPS plays a critical role in keeping the data center operating the way it's supposed to, and it's up to FMs to make sure it can play that role. Among the ways to do that are to commission the system thoroughly and test it under real-world, worst-case scenarios. Failure to do either of these things due to budget concerns can lead to much greater expense in the long run.
Because data centers are often designed years before the facility is actually built out and populated with equipment, commissioning the UPS system can be especially crucial to confirming that it can actually hold the data center's load. Additionally, while most UPS manufacturers are diligent in their quality assurance, there's no guarantee that the contractor installed it properly or that it didn't get damaged in transit. As a UPS system design becomes more complex with additional levels of redundancy, it becomes more important to go beyond generic factory startup services and properly commission the system. An artificial load equal to ultimate data center design load is used to simulate the conditions under which the UPS will be expected to operate (called the load bank test). Because the load may vary from moment to moment (i.e., ramping up from idle first thing on a Monday morning, etc.), the tests should include step load testing for various scenarios that the UPS may be expected to accommodate without failure.
A UPS can fail in many ways: overload, battery failure, fan failure, overheating, EPO activation, etc. These are common failure modes that the UPS manufacturer has theoretically anticipated in its design, so don't be afraid to incorporate tests for worst-case scenarios. It's better to understand how a system will perform ahead of time in a controlled environment rather than guess what will happen when it's supporting a critical load. With redundant N+1 and 2(N+1) configurations, it is expected that if there is a fault in the system, the system will be able to automatically compensate for that failure. But with that additional redundancy also comes additional complexity, and associated test scripts should be expanded to account for additional possible failure scenarios. Having facilities personnel witness these tests is also an ideal way to get a head start on training for when things go wrong.