Power Solutions Review

by Robin Koffler - Date: 2008-11-14 - Word Count: 597 Share This!

A power solutions review is essential at the outset of any power continuity or power protection project, if the highest levels of reliability and resilience (fault tolerance) are to be acquired. A review aims to establish:

The quality of available mains power and any history of power problems.
The quality of power required by loads in terms of voltage, frequency and current.
Future demands and the reliability of the power supply to meet them.
Sources of alternative back-up power that may be available onsite.
Priority-based load shedding and shut down. 

What you need to establish is what type of loads you have, linear or non-linear, what category they are, in terms of their criticality to the continuous running of the operation or business and any potential there may be for power problems including sags, surges, brownouts, harmonics, electrical noise, spikes and transients as well as the propensity for complete blackouts. This information will tell you what type, size and configuration of power protection system you need to give maximum reliability and resilience.

So, how do you do a power quality review?

Monitoring Power Solutions

Firstly, to assess the quality of mains power at a particular site, power-monitoring services are offered by specialist companies, such as Riello UPS. Using specialist tools and software, an analysis can be taken of voltage and current distortion and/or frequency variations so that as assessment can be made of the type of conditioning and filtering that may be required.

IT system event logs and electrical system maintenance records can provide useful information upon which to base assumptions. An event log, for example, could contain important data concerning specific system hardware failures, data corruption and/or system lock-ups. Electrical system maintenance records will tell you of any incidents of sudden circuit-breaker tripping, fuse ruptures, relay chattering and the dimming or flickering of overhead lights.

Assessing Load Types and Demands

Each load may vary considerably in type and size and will have its own demands in terms of current drawn (AMPS), power consumed, and voltage and frequency of supply required. In Europe, for example, loads typically draw either a single-phase 230Vac or three-phase 400Vac supply at 50Hz. In North America this is, typically, 120/208Vac single-phase or 277/480Vac three-phase.

Computer and telecommunications loads can range from single, desktop computers and keyphone systems to fully integrated date centres deploying the latest software-based PBX technologies and high-end servers. In this case, each peace of hardware should be assessed to establish its in-rush (switch on) current alongside the normal running current of its power supply unit, which in most cases, these days, is SMPS (switch Mode Power Supply). At switch on, most SMPS equipment has high in-rush current, which needs to be considered when sizing UPS equipment.

Whilst loads are assessed in terms of their power draw, a safety margin needs to be added to allow for system expansion within a two to five year period. A guideline factor is typically 25 percent of today's load. It can be achieved by either over-sizing the power protection solution (less desirable given today's demand for efficiencies and reduced installation costs) or by enabling the installation of additional capacity at a later date; UPS running in parallel configurations, for example, whereby additional units can be brought into the configuration when required.

The time it takes to conduct a power solutions review is well worth the effort, particularly if costly and disruptive downtime is to be avoided. In these days of global markets and online businesses, it has reached a point whereby no business can afford any downtime, let along a minimal amount.

Related Tags: uninterruptible power supplies, power solutions, power protection, riello ups

Robin Koffler is the General Manager for Riello UPS Ltd the UK subsidiary of Riello UPS (RPS S.p.A) a leading European manufacturer of Uninterruptible Power Supplies and a co-author of The Power Protection Guide(ISBN 978-0-9554428-0-3)- available from Amazon.com

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