Network uptime is critical for any business. Business disruptions are not just an inconvenience for customers. Real-world incidents such as fire and flood, or digital threats like malware attacks or coding errors can damage the company brand. An essential component of assuring your technology uptime is the UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply). These devices can often be forgotten as they have long lifespans and generally sit at the bottom of the tech rack. But UPS batteries need regular testing and maintenance; otherwise, the backup systems may not be able to function properly when they are needed most.
What Is A UPS?
A UPS, or Uninterruptible Power Supply, is a device that provides battery backup when the electrical power fails or drops to an unacceptable voltage level. Small UPS systems provide power for a few minutes; enough to power down the computer in an orderly manner, while larger systems have enough battery for several hours. In mission-critical data centers, UPS systems are used for just a few minutes until electrical generators take over.
Why Do You Need A UPS?
An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) protects critical loads from utility-supplied power problems, including spikes, brownouts, fluctuations and power outages, using a dedicated battery.
There are three basic functions of a UPS:
- UPS avoids damage to hardware caused by overcurrents and voltage spikes. Many UPS models also continuously regulate the input power.
- It avoids data loss and damage. Without a UPS, data stored on devices subject to sudden shutdowns can be corrupted or completely lost. If power management software is used, the UPS allows and facilitates the controlled shutdown of the system.
- UPS ensures the availability of networks and other applications. When used in conjunction with power generators, UPS units ensure that they have enough time to ignite in the event of a power failure.
Even though the primary role of any UPS is to provide short-term power when the input power source fails, most UPS units are also capable of correcting other common utility power problems.
- Total Loss of Input Voltage
- Power Surge or Spike
- Power Sag
- Single Points of Failure
Despite the benefits of a UPS, when not properly maintained, these devices can be the “weakest link” in your disaster prevention systems and redundancy planning.
How Do You Know It’s Time To Replace Your UPS Battery
A UPS battery should be replaced when it no longer holds a sufficient charge or when it reaches the end of its useful life, which is typically 3-5 years for lead-acid batteries and 2-3 years for lithium-ion batteries. The battery should also be replaced if it shows signs of swelling, leakage, or other damage. It’s a good practice to check the battery regularly and replace it before it fails to ensure that the UPS can provide backup power when needed. It’s also important to note that the frequency of battery replacement may vary based on the usage of the UPS and the environment in which it is stored. If a UPS is used frequently or in a high-temperature environment, the battery may have a shorter lifespan.
Some signs that it’s time to replace your UPS battery:
Your UPS was purchased 3 to 5 years ago
While a UPS lifespan can extend to over 10 years, the lifespan of many batteries is just 3 to 5 years. It is best to consider replacement your battery in the 3-to-5-year range depending on how mission-critical your systems are. A best practice is to replace the UPS unit itself when the second battery replacement is coming up, generally 6 to 10 years from the date of purchase. Contact Excedeo if the lifespan of your UPS is coming up and you are interested in exploring your replacement options.
The UPS is beeping or displaying caution lights
UPS systems are very efficient at signaling alerts if case of malfunction. These warnings can just seem like flashing lights and loud noises to the untrained eye.
A clear sign that a UPS battery is about to fail is the a sharp beeping sound coming from the UPS or amber caution lights or symbols on the unit’s digital display. If you notice either the lights or the sounds, test your battery immediately. If your tests show that the battery has failed, it is time to replace it. If the codes do not indicate a battery failure, contact Excedeo for assistance in diagnosing, repairing, or replacing the unit.
The battery life is shorter than advertised
If the battery is losing power or not living up to the lifespan stated by the manufacturer, declared lifespan, the battery may need to be replaced. Many factors can shorten a battery’s lifecycle, from material defects and temperature variability to humidity and other environmental factors. In your testing cycles, if the UPS battery is not performing within the expected parameters, it may be time to replace the it.
Chassis bulging or damaged
As older lead-acid batteries age, they are known to bulge or “swell,” which can distort the chassis. Anytime you see leaking, or discoloration caused by heat or acid, you should immediately replace the batteries from that unit. The acid leakage could destroy other essential systems of your UPS, or the battery could even explode and combust!
Systems go offline during a power outage
If the power goes out and the UPS system fails to keep your systems online, the battery should be inspected and replaced. This recommendation assumes the devices that went offline were correctly plugged into the UPS or PDU attached to the UPS.
Batteries give bad voltage readings
During your maintenance cycles and disaster preparedness testing, if the UPS shows inconsistent voltage readings or behaves in unexpected ways, be sure to do further testing on the battery. Battery testing will include impedance or resistance readings, in addition to voltage readings.
The UPS is in a warm environment
Heat can drastically reduce battery life. As the temperature increases, so does the speed of the chemical reactions within the battery. The increase in chemical reaction speed can increase the output of the battery, but also increases the speed of battery degradation. An extended period of temperatures above 80F can greatly shorten battery life as well as your overall technology equipment lifespans. If your UPS equipment resides in an area that is consistently above 80F degrees, we recommend installing equipment as soon as possible. Don’t expect a 3-to-5 year expected battery lifespan from a UPS housed in a warm facility.
No preventative maintenance
Another potential sign that is time to replace your UPS battery is if you haven’t been performing routine preventative maintenance on the units. Routine maintenance can prevent a host of potential issues and ensure that your UPS will be ready to protect your equipment when it is needed the most.
Battery run time or load capacity is inadequate
Be sure to check your power consumption in relation to your uptime requirements and adjust your UPS or battery types to fit your needs. In the event that you are using two UPS units for redundancy or if you’re powering your equipment from both “house” power and UPS power, be sure to use Monitored or Metered PDU’s to avoid overloading the UPS when the power fails. Similar to overloading the intended power ports on the device due to technology growth, you can overextend the UPS load capacity.
Energy savings and environmental sustainability
Modern UPS systems and Lithium batteries have many benefits over lead-acid-based units for power protection in your data center or network closet. If you are still using lead-acid-based units, we recommend replacing them with Lithium-based units. You will reduce your carbon footprint, achieve higher uptimes, longer battery life, and a higher return on your investment.
When it is time to replace your UPS, be sure to properly dispose or recycle those bad batteries. Regular maintenance and testing are critical to keep your infrastructure humming along. Check your UPS batteries regularly to ensure that your facility is ready for the unexpected.
Contact us today if you need assistance with maintenance, or need a quote on the right UPS or other IT hardware for your San Diego business.