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Synonymous with stability, UPS Battery Backups are great for providing seamless uptime to important operations. Nevertheless, the knowledge to troubleshoot potential problems and downtime is far more nuanced once batteries are involved.
Via layered and structurally redundant external RTU systems, the guess work is done for you.
In this article, we'll go into some considerations before choosing an appropriate monitoring unit, as well as determine whether RTU monitoring is a good fit for your business.
Achieving 100% - Because 99.9% is Not Enough
How much downtime is acceptable for businesses today? You may have heard the golden rule of 99.9% uptime or 365 days per annum. Before the advent of mobile apps, this was an excellent standard. You had an audience who would still tolerate some telecom outages, and building clientele was usually through old-fashioned means like word of mouth and solid retail facilities. Since the release of robust mobile apps and online ordering, customers have changed. Expectations have risen to the point 24/7, always online connectivity is a standard rather than the outlier, rendering 99.9% an obsolete standard.
To remain competitive, you should consider eliminating virtually any downtime (99.999% allows only minutes of downtime per year). And the most obvious defense against downtime is keeping all equipment powered during outages. In order for your UPS backup itself to maintain 100% integrity, you should consider upgrading to a comprehensive and monitored RTU system.
Maintaining Battery Integrity and Health
Although UPS systems are renowned for their reliability, much like your own laptop battery, they have a finite lifespan; gradually losing capacity per charge cycle. Although capacity loss and general battery failures are well known issues, determining their next occurrence is still an inexact science. Caused by a myriad of factors such as temperature variations, overheating, discharge cycles, and improper storage conditions, a single cell can and will deteriorate in seclusion. As operating environments are often identical, it is time consuming to manually troubleshoot and find errant single cells.
With an always on and automated external RTU, UPS cells will be actively monitored for voltage anomalies, decreasing capacity, old age, and temperature issues. They will be stored in ideal conditions, and alerts can be set to notify technicians without increasing their workload. Lastly, RTUs can monitor a myriad of hardware and manual processes that would greatly benefit from automation.
In summation, one bad cell spoils the entire string, and the best safeguard against a compromised UPS system is an active, automated monitoring system.
Avoiding Equipment Failures Caused by Improper Voltages
Most companies use equipment that requires precise voltages, i.e. motors, circuit boards, and fragile voltage sensitive components. As a result, proper and balanced voltage is paramount to longevity and performance. However, there is no one size fits all rule, and it is critical to determine, and replicate, ideal factory specifications.
A general example of voltage variations can be demonstrated with circuit boards and motors. High voltages affects motors and motor windings positively due to the associated lower currents. Yet the same setting may overload volt sensitive circuit boards. Slightly lower voltages have the opposite effect, yet this generality is affected by manufacturer specific exceptions. As a result, proper profiling and long term monitoring with units such as the BVM 48 G2 is critical to longevity.
Real-World Examples of UPS Monitoring
DPS Telecom has seen clients roll out UPS monitoring systems at dozens of sites to protect battery cells from extensive and expensive damage. The battery monitoring systems that they deploy cover both VRLA ("Valve-Regulated Lead-Acid") batteries and flooded batteries.
These clients monitor several aspects of their UPS batteries.
Float voltage must maintain a steady level of 54 volts. If this level rises too high, the battery cell will dry out. If it falls too low, sulfate deposits will build and the cells will eventually short out.
Ambient temp at the site must remain near the ideal level of 77°F. a higher temperature degrades the cell, and a lower temperature decreases the capacity of the battery cells.
Overcharging, at a level of 20 amps per 100 amps of battery capacity, is also monitored carefully.
Monitoring voltage to prevent deep discharge is perhaps the most important role of the UPS battery monitoring solution. As an example, if you discharge batteries at 44 V and they drop to 42 V, you have damaged the batteries.
Monitoring Other Systems
RTUs will monitor much more than UPS Backups. Just about every piece of telecom, transport, and switching gear you own will benefit from external monitoring.
For example, mission critical server rooms can be actively monitored for temperature variations, offline status, and errant voltages via the internal management panel from an independently powered RTU.
DPS RTUs, for example, have the choice of 32 discrete alarms, 8 analog units, and 8 controls as well as LAN visibility of 8 serial devices with multiple SNMP Managers.
DPS Telecom units also have the added benefit of supporting legacy transmissions that use dial-up, RS232/RS485, as well as Microwave RF.
Regardless of the scale of your business, our RTU boxes can be catered to every business model, allowing owners to effortlessly automate formerly tedious and manual processes.
Costs of Extensive Monitoring
The range of RTU monitoring is very large and should be compared with potential losses; whether your business can absorb the costs from downtime, equipment failure, and/or lack of automation. Also it may be wise to look for a solution catered to your business model.
For example, a previous DPS Case study has proven that top of the line models are not always necessary. That to maintain cost-effective operations it is imperative to keep in mind the scale and scope of monitoring via systematic evaluation.
On the other hand, while it is tempting to cut corners and use the UPS's internal interface, it will fail along with the UPS; thus defeating the purpose of owning fault tolerant hardware. Remember, the purpose of redundant power is to safeguard against *any* downtime. When your company has already invested thousands in high-quality UPS hardware, ensuring it performs flawlessly with a secondary monitoring system is an intelligent, and budget friendly decision.
Cost of Network Connectivity for Remote Devices
A prime consideration before pursuing RTU monitoring is determining whether there is stable network connectivity to your intended site. In general, connectivity is not an issue for fully wired buildings where Cat-5, 10Mbps+ speeds is today's IEEE standard.
However, for remote and mountainous regions, customers may want to consider digital Microwave RF solutions. Both analog and digital RF systems have a large transmission range, yet requires a modern yet routinely maintained RTU that supports legacy communications. Choosing legacy transmissions is also far more cost-effective, eliminating the need to run new physical lines and further delaying setup.
Informed and Knowledgeable Tech Support
The third critical consideration is whether the RTU Manufacturer's support is comprehensive and responsive.
Nothing is more frustrating than when you need to address an urgent issue but your first technical contact reads off a script.
You want to choose a company who doesn't cut corners, and opts to hire experienced engineers who know exactly how to troubleshoot your specific issue.