5 Tips to Ensure Power Quality
If you’ve never had a major power quality problem that led to an equipment failure, down time and angry customers, it can be easy to take power quality for granted. As power professionals, we need to plan for the worst case scenario and assume that a major power failure could happen at any time.
We’ve all heard the chatter about the sensitivity of electronics to power variations and the increasing criticality of networks. The Internet of Things and Big Data are now ubiquitous terms in our industry and while it’s fun for some to throw these buzzwords around the board room, those of us behind the scenes are the ones losing sleep at night because these new trends put extra strain on our electrical systems and data centers. In this world of 24/7 connectivity and instant availability of information, down time has evolved from an inconvenience to simply not an option.
Power quality problems can come in many forms. Some are very minor and nearly undetectable while others are catastrophic. Any change in power, voltage, current or frequency that interferes with the normal operation of electrical equipment is a threat and can interrupt the normal operation of your facility. There are many common power problems that can interfere with a facility’s ability to ensure power quality.
So how do you prevent power quality problems? You can’t. But you can plan for them and you can take steps to minimize their impact on your business. To help, we’ve put together the top 5 tips to ensure power quality in your data center and facility.
Tip #1 – Have a Plan B
Consider the sequence of events when there is an outage. There is tremendous pressure on IT and facilities personnel to save money where possible. We often see corners being cut as a result. Sometimes that means that the battery back-up for the UPS is reduced to the absolute minimum. It only takes a couple of minutes for the generator to come fully online when there is an outage. But is there any room for error? An industry standard for UPS run time is around 5 minutes. That is generally enough time to allow for the generator to start up and start producing clean power (by generator standards) or for the site personnel to recognize that the generator isn’t going to start as expected and initiate Plan B. Speaking of, what is your Plan B? A gentle shut-down? Another power source?
Sometimes procrastinating on a UPS battery replacement seems like a good way to save some money. Keep in mind that run time is gradually reduced as your batteries age. If your batteries are more than 5 years old, you probably don’t have as much run time as you think.
Tip #2 – Identify possible points of vulnerability
No one likes to think that the worst case scenario can happen, but occasionally it does. That’s why you have a Disaster Recovery plan. When was the last time it was thoroughly reviewed? Best practices suggest a review of the DR Plan every 12 months or whenever there is an equipment change that affects the power path. Have you ever tested the DR plan and the cut-over to the DR site?
Sometimes figuring out what can go wrong requires a fresh perspective from someone specifically trained to look for the absolute worst case scenario. A Risk Assessment Service can be the perfect way to get a set of trained eyes looking at your power systems and data center infrastructure to help identify possible points of vulnerability.
We’re seeing more and more problems resulting from aging infrastructure. Because they are usually restricted to card access only, electrical rooms housing switchgear and the major electrical systems for your site frequently go unseen and unchecked. Regular maintenance and inspection of all equipment is important but even more so for aging infrastructure. Consider keeping your power system equipment under a service and maintenance contract for added peace of mind.
Tip #3 – Confirm the operating environment is within recommended standards
Did you know that each 15°F rise in temperature cuts the life of a sealed battery in half? Batteries need to be protected from the elements, heat can interfere with the proper operation of servers, and humidity can cause water damage. There is no doubt that your data center environment is carefully monitored and managed. But what about equipment outside of the data center? Do you have battery banks in the electrical room? If so, it’s important that the temperature and humidity in the electrical room is controlled as carefully as it is in the data center.
What about all of those networking closets in your facility? Or branch offices that connect back to the central data center? These areas can also go unseen and forgotten. If you have servers or UPS systems in network closets, they are generating heat. Consider a network closet assessment service to review the condition of all these non-data center areas of your facility.
Tip #4 – Check the service and maintenance schedule for your equipment
The hardest problems to fix are the ones you didn’t see coming. Regular periodic preventive maintenance visits for your data center power and cooling equipment and the facility electrical systems helps predict failures before they occur. When possible, service by the manufacturer is recommended as they typically have the most highly trained technicians and can guarantee genuine factory replacement parts. Most manufacturers offer extended warranties and factory service plans for data center power and cooling equipment. Many can also offer regular preventive maintenance and service coverage for switchgear, chillers, generators, and other electric power system equipment.
With a factory trained technician inspecting your equipment at regular intervals, it’s easier to keep track or wear and tear on the equipment and predict when upgrades or replacements are needed. Go through your facility from the point where the utility power enters the building to where it leaves the data center. Has all of that equipment been inspected in the past 12 months? If not, it’s time to start working on a maintenance and service schedule.
Tip #5 – Consider modernizing aging equipment rather than replacing it
Budgets are tight and for many, getting approval for capital expenses and new equipment has never been more difficult. Aging infrastructure and systems are becoming ubiquitous. In response to these challenges, many manufacturers are offering modernization services for their equipment. These large-scale upgrades can have almost the same net effect as purchasing new equipment, but at a fraction of the cost. With UPS modernization, customers are saving money on equipment, avoiding installation costs, and eliminating the need for downtime. Switchgear and power systems modernization are having a similar effect.
For many customers, space is becoming a large problem. In response, many manufacturers are working on outdoor power solutions such as the VaultFlex Enclosure. These temperature-tolerant cabinets can house batteries, rectifiers, and other power equipment in just about any environment – including outdoors and in extreme conditions. Facilities and IT managers are no longer restricted to the space available in climate-controlled data centers. On a larger scale, some manufacturers such as Schneider Electric, are even offering portable data center modules housed in a container and offering up to 1MW of additional power protection.
Today, power quality goes well beyond thinking about surges and sags. Those industry buzzwords – Internet of Things, Big Data, Cloud Computing – all create their own challenges for facilities and IT managers charged with maintaining uptime. The tolerance for an interruption is zero. Power Solutions has partnered with the best in the business at power protection and conditioning. We are experts when it comes to planning for the worst case scenario and we can help you put together a comprehensive service and maintenance plan so you can be prepared for the next outage.