Understanding the true cost of emergency power

The increasing unreliability of power supplied by the national grid, and impact this has on both business operations and valuable equipment, has resulted in significant investment in emergency backup power systems. The cost of both investment and the running of such systems is a major consideration for businesses, so we’ve outlined how to work out which is the most cost-efficient backup solution for you.

What are the emergency power types?

When it comes to backup power solutions, there are two systems that tend to dominate. These are:

1.     Backup generators

This is essentially an engine – reciprocating or turbine – which burns fuel to provide electricity. They rely on a variety of fuels, from diesel and petroleum through to gasoline and natural gas, which will impact the cost of running. Generators range in size and functionality which will determine their pricing, and the ongoing maintenance costs will also need to be factored in.

2.     Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS)

This is an electrical device which provides instant backup power to a system if there is even the slightest blip from the main electrical source. A UPS device will traditionally provide sufficient power to engage another backup power source for the system to safely shutdown. UPS systems will also protect equipment from any voltage surges, drops, noise or distortion so that only clean energy is supplied. This way, there’s no loss of valuable data through corruption or damage to your equipment.

The growing role of UPS backup

While UPS backup systems have been around for years, they were primarily used solely in data centres and for emergency service applications. However, as UPS designs have evolved, they’ve become more prominent across various industries, supporting everything from equipment in small businesses through to residential properties.

UPS Topologies

Keeping the costs down when investing in a UPS backup power supply means choosing the right UPS topology for your particular needs. These include:

1.      Standby UPS

The most basic of the UPS options, this UPS switches to battery backup power when there’s any electrical interference. The UPS switches to DC battery power and then inverts it to AC power to run the equipment. These are suited to:

  • Consumer electronics
  • Entry-level computers
  • Point Of Sale systems
  • Security systems

2.      Line interactive UPS

This will correct minor fluctuations without requiring battery backup. It is able to regulate brownouts (drop in voltage) and swells (over voltage). These are used for:

  • PCS
  • Consumer electronics
  • Gaming systems
  • Home theatre systems
  • Network equipment
  • Basic servers

3.      Double-conversion UPS

This provides consistent, clean power regardless of the condition of incoming power. It converts AC to DC power and back to AC power. These are used for:

  • Critical IT equipment
  • Data centre installations
  • High-end servers
  • Telecommunications
  • Storage
  • Advanced network equipment

What to consider when choosing a UPS

If you’re looking to monitor the costs of your emergency backup power, then here’s what to consider when choosing your UPS system.

1.     What will it support?

You need to determine what the backup power system is going to support so that you’re not over- or under-subscribing in terms of the energy requirements.

2.     What is the runtime?

The power load and runtime required will also factor into which UPS is most suitable, whether it’s for a basic switchover to battery before shutting down, or several hours which will require a backup generator as well.

3.     What are the cabling requirements?

When installing a UPS, you need to determine the accurate cabling length and switchgear as this will factor into the overall costs.

4.     What maintenance is required?

Optimum functioning of your UPS is critical to its central role as a backup power system which is why regular maintenance must be performed. You’ll need to factor in the maintenance costs when deciding on your UPS system.

5.     What are the efficiency figures?

A major cost contribution is the efficiency rating of your UPS which should be checked under partial load conditions.

How to determine UPS efficiency

Your UPS efficiency is based on how much power is lost when the unit is actually in use – so how much power is required to run the UPS and how much is available for the system it powers. If a UPS has 96% efficiency, then it uses 4% to power the UPS and the rest powers the system it’s actually connected to. However, this will be at the UPS’s full load. The UPS age will impact its energy efficiency as well.

The formula for calculating energy wastage and UPS efficiency:

(UPS kW Rating x Load %) / UPS Efficiency) – (UPS kW Rating x Load % )) x (24×365) x kWh Price

It’s important to consider all these factors as they will inform the true cost of your emergency backup power. However, you also need to consider the cost of not investing in these mission-critical devices. By consulting with industry experts, JUP Solutions, you can be assured you’re getting the most efficient and cost-effective option for your needs.

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