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SUMMER MAINTENANCE


KEEP IT COOL


Summer signals a warning for battery backup systems, which are vulnerable to overheating as temperatures rise. Riello Technical Services Manager Jason Yates offers some top tips to reduce your risk of damaging failure.


As we all slowly start getting used to the ‘new normal’, it’s only right we spare a thought for facilities managers. For the last couple of months, you’ve had to keep things going, often in the most trying conditions with heavily reduced staffing levels.


And as lockdown slowly starts to ease, you’re having to work flat out to ensure sites meet stringent new guidance that keeps people safe and reduces the risk of infection.


With the massive disruption caused by the ongoing coronavirus crisis, it’s understandable that routine maintenance might have taken something of a backseat.


But as we now head into the traditionally busy summer maintenance season, it’s essential FMs ensure their standby power systems won’t wilt under the pressure as temperatures get set to rise.


Background about batteries Batteries are integral to any uninterruptible power supply (UPS). Without a well-maintained, fully-functioning battery set that kicks in during a mains failure, the UPS is practically useless. To demonstrate this importance, as many as 80% of UPS failures are linked to problems with the batteries.


Although alternatives such as lithium-ion continue to grow in popularity, the vast majority of UPS systems still use sealed or valve-regulated lead-acid batteries (SLA/VRLA).


42 | TOMORROW’S FM


Single-phase and smaller UPSs are typically installed with five-year design life batteries, while larger three-phase and industrial-scale UPS batteries will come with a 10-year design life.


Now it’s important to emphasise here that while a five or 10-year design life battery can last for that length of time – assuming perfect operating conditions – it’s not advisable to use them for that long.


International guidance from the Association of European Automotive and Industrial Battery Manufacturers (EUROBAT) states a battery reaches the end of its safe service life when capacity drops below 80% of its original value.


That’s why it’s become accepted practice to swap out five-year batteries in year three or four, and 10-year batteries in year seven or eight of service life. This gives you enough of a safe margin of error to mitigate for any drop-off in performance.


Hot and bothered There are several factors that can affect the length of UPS battery life. One example is the frequency and depth of discharge. Each discharge slightly reduces capacity, although partial discharges have less of an impact than draining the battery fully.


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