Site Surveys for Power Supplies & Standby Power Systems

By: Robin Koffler

Guaranteeing uninterrupted power has never been more important for facilities managers. A site survey, early in the specification process, is vital for a successful UPS installation and future business continuity.

Above 5kVA, a reputable UPS supplier will usually recommend a site survey. For such installations, the site generally requires a little more thought about health and safety risk assessments, method statements, logistics and floor loadings, electrical installation, remote monitoring, environment and aftercare. Below 5kVA, surveys are less usual unless there are specific installation issues, such as those associated with long runtime battery packs.

Site survey is integral to successful UPS selection. For facilities teams, intent on optimum business continuity, site surveys should be an integral part of the pre-sale process. They offer the perfect opportunity to discuss the uninterruptible power supply installation with the manufacturer's technical energy consultant (TEC). Trust and communication established at this stage often sets the pattern for a successful relationship.

A key part of UPS specification involves identifying both critical, essential and non-essential loads. It's an inherently complex task that inevitably draws on site observations as well as theoretical data. Significantly, there's a distinct difference between the power ratings on rear panel labels and those in operating manuals; that's why ascertaining actual load ratings involves measuring the values drawn from the local distribution panel. This type of assessment is hard to achieve without specialist uninterrupted power knowledge and a site visit.

An overview of applications and equipment. Similarly, Power over Ethernet (PoE) applications often require upgraded capacity. With the criticality of certain applications dictating the degree of protection required, network managers need a sound overview of applications and equipment. During the site survey, a comprehensive network overview can establish this alongside highlighting how it is departmentalised. For example, if one component is shut down, how many other departments will continue to enjoy uninterrupted power?

With every square metre having to earn its keep, space planning is vital. This requires comprehensive understanding of current and planned loads and their role in business continuity. It is particularly important for a high-density datacenter and requires careful consideration of existing and future cooling and power requirements. The significance of the trade-off between uninterruptible power supply footprints (UPS and batteries) and revenue-earning hardware should not be ignored. Should server space be given over to UPS and batteries or should they be housed elsewhere?

A supplier that truly understands. When specifying UPS for uninterrupted power, everyone wants to avoid the risks of over- or under-specification. A site survey, enabling exploration of power protection needs, can help avoid this. An optimally specified uninterruptible power supply solution can only be procured from a supplier that truly understands the subject, an organisation's vulnerabilities, complexities and business continuity objectives - hard to achieve without visits and site surveys.

In many ways, the science of uninterrupted power is less about electrical engineering than the dynamics of departmental interaction. Not least, it's about the increased susceptibility to power issues of remote loads at the edge of the grid. Not only are power cuts more frequent here, but problems such as sags and surges too. A thorough site survey, allied to proven UPS technology, is essential. It also provides the structure for good documentation going forward, which in today's dynamic and fast-moving business environments is a must.

A partnership supported by thorough site survey. Last but not least are the challenges of location, architecture and site availability. As well as creating site-specific needs, failure to properly understand the implications of these could jeopardise installation, UPS operation, maintenance of uninterrupted power and business continuity. Physical location of a UPS, the means of accessing its location, load-bearing capabilities and working regimes during and after installation are all better understood from on-site.

Designing, installing and operating UPS for uninterrupted power may seem complicated. It needn't be, with support from a suitably experienced vendor and proper preparation. For a start, there's The Power Protection Guide, written by power continuity experts Robin Koffler and Jason Yates of Riello UPS and published by entiveon, with its detailed information on designing and implementing secure power continuity. The next step is to enter into a consultative partnership with a reputable manufacturer and get them to site to fully understand the business continuity challenges.

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