It’s the all-important ‘health-check’ that helps keep your uninterruptible power supply (UPS) system operating at peak performance for longer. But do you know exactly what a Preventive Maintenance Visit (PMV) should cover? Riello UPS General Manager Leo Craig shares some of the expert insight he’s gained from more than 30 years working in the critical power protection industry.
Hopefully by now you are familiar with the theme that as far as your data centre’s critical power protection is concerned prevention is better than cure. And one of the most fundamental parts of a comprehensive maintenance contract is the annual PMV, where a fully-certified engineer will analyse your entire UPS system, flag-up and fix any minor issues, make subtle tweaks that enhance overall efficiency, and where necessary identify any parts that need replacing or serious problems that need addressing.
Why should a data centre schedule regular UPS Preventive Maintenance Visits?
There are several obvious benefits for data centre managers who adopt a proactive preventive maintenance approach. First and foremost it promotes uptime – or if you’re the kind of person with a “glass half-empty” outlook, it minimises your risk of damaging downtime.
Because of their complex nature, bugs and failures with your UPS system and components are inevitable at some point in time. But just as ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’, or an annual service helps your car stay safely on the road and driving at peak performance, carrying out frequent preventive checks on your UPS and its components can iron out many problems before they get chance to develop into something more serious.
Having a regular UPS health-check also ensures your system is operating to maximum performance levels. Minor glitches can be rectified and firmware updates installed to ensure the unit is running the latest software. Not only is an efficient UPS less of a drain on energy and less likely to break down, it can even extend the lifespan of many key components by anything from 25-50%, so it’s a winner in more ways than one.
On a similar theme, proactive preventive maintenance helps your data centre plan and budget more effectively. PMVs flag up when a component needs possible replacement, meaning you can schedule – and budget – for such eventualities in advance. This is far more organised and cost-effective than running the risk of unexpected parts failure or a costly complete system crash.
Competence is key
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of what a PMV should cover, there’s one question that’s absolutely crucial to keep at the forefront of your mind – is the engineer who’ll carry out the inspection fully-trained and competent? It’s imperative that the person who you’re entrusting to test, and potentially repair, your critical power protection equipment is 100% up to the job.
Human error is one of the most common – and ultimately avoidable – causes of problems that occur during UPS maintenance
We’ve introduced our own Certified UPS Engineer Programme covering both in-house technicians plus engineers from authorised UPS resellers. Achieving certification requires engineers to complete demanding training on commissioning, maintaining, and servicing Riello UPS products. Successful engineers are assigned their own unique ID number and added to an approved list of technicians, which a data centre can cross-reference against online for reassurance.
You should never be afraid to ask for proof of competence – even on the day of the PMV itself, it has been known for sub-contractors to be substituted in at the last minute if the original engineer is unavailable.
Human error is one of the most common – and ultimately avoidable – causes of problems that occur during UPS maintenance. Without proper precautions in place an engineer, particularly one that isn’t fully-certified, can unwittingly throw a wrong switch or carry out procedures in the incorrect order all too easily.
What should a Preventive Maintenance Visit checklist include?
A PMV can be split into several core elements. The engineer will likely start with a thorough visual and physical inspection of the UPS unit and batteries to check whether all the components are clean and if there’s any signs of poor connection or general wear and tear.
Depending on your maintenance provider, they may also make the most of thermal imaging cameras. We’ve found this non-invasive technology to be extremely effective.
Most of the potential failures with both the overall UPS system and individual electrical components are linked to an increase in heat, a tell-tale warning sign there might be a loose connection. Of course, such state-of-the-art machinery is far more adept at detecting these possible “hotspots” than the human hand or eye ever will.
The PMV is also the perfect opportunity for the engineer to install firmware updates that make sure your system is running the latest and correct software version
If poor connections are identified the engineer can tighten them during the check-up, if it’s safe to turn the UPS off, or highlight them in their post-PMV recommendations. They will also be able to pinpoint any components such as batteries, capacitors, or fans that might need replacing. UPS batteries tend to have a 5-year or 10-year design life, but typically they’ll need replacing in year 3 or 4 (for 5-year models) or year 7 or 8 (for 10-year types).
Fans are a key consumable that require a watchful eye during a PMV, as even though they can perform for up to 5 years, they can be prone to overheating. Unlike other providers, replacement fans are covered as standard as part of a comprehensive Riello UPS maintenance package.
In addition to visually checking the system, engineers will download and analyse previous performance history and alarm logs, then run a series of functional tests to see whether the system runs properly across various operational modes. Advanced functional testing can sometimes also use load banks to apply dummy loads. This simulation enables the performance of the UPS and batteries to be tested at various capacities without interrupting the critical load, which can be continuously run using a bypass supply.
As well as checking the actual UPS unit and parts, a PMV should also include an environmental inspection. Basically, this boils down to checking the surrounds where the system has been fitted and spotting whether there is anything that could potentially be causing damage to the UPS or batteries, such as dust or excessive heat and humidity because of poor ventilation.
Ideally these sorts of problems would have been identified – and eradicated – during the initial installation and set-up of the system, but the configuration of server rooms can change over time in such a fast-moving setting as a busy modern data centre.
The PMV is also the perfect opportunity for the engineer to install firmware updates that make sure your system is running the latest and correct software version. This is another relatively simple but crucial step that enhances overall performance and improves energy efficiency.
Finally, once the engineer has completed all their inspections and tests, they should complete detailed reports of the PMV which highlight any potential faults and recommend what actions need to be taken to maintain optimum operational reliability, such as which consumables may need replacing.
What else can I do to improve the efficiency of my UPS system?
While a thorough annual PMV is certainly worth its weight in gold, there are plenty of other steps your data centre can take to ensure your UPS system remains in tip-top condition.
Keeping up-to-date detailed records of what maintenance has been undertaken can help with ongoing planning for upcoming replacement of parts and consumables, as well as proving the worth of a robust maintenance plan. It’ll also help demonstrate to your finance department that proactively preserving the performance of your UPS system is far more cost-effective than the possible cost of prolonged downtime or having to replace an entire unit.
And while meticulous PMVs undertaken by a fully-trained and certified engineer are by far the best way to keep your system online long-term, there’s also no excuse for ignoring good housekeeping. So it’s worth scheduling a few relatively simple checks of your own to carry out regular intervals, such as making sure the surrounds are clean and dust-free, and that unauthorised personnel don’t have access to server rooms and where the UPS is installed.
For even more robust UPS protection, we’d suggest including round-the-clock remote monitoring as an essential element of your overall maintenance agreement.
A secure, cloud-based service such as our Riello Connect enables you to remotely study key performance data from the UPS unit in real-time. This information can prove invaluable in identifying possible bugs or glitches before they reach a critical stage, while it automatically sends out alarm notifications to key responders if there’s a system fault, so any emergency can be solved as quickly as possible.
Working in partnership with your trusted maintenance provider and ensuring they carry out regular PMV health-checks will keep your indispensable power protection system fighting fit and help your business avoid the dreaded downtime.
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