News Article

Band-Aid Fixes Don’t Actually Fix Problems, Especially in the UPS World

Oct 1, 2019 | Industry

Band-Aid fixes don’t actually fix problems – we all know that, right?

Take a close look at the image above. Do you see what we see?

This customer is using a fan to regulate the temperature of the battery cabinet in this Liebert Npower 50kVA UPS. Why? Because they haven’t pulled the trigger on routine, age-based component replacements. Bad idea (in case that isn’t obvious).

And just as troubling, there is no plan in place to address the underlying cause – their age-based replacement components are well past their expiration date.

Using band-aid fixes isn’t all that uncommon, though. When is the last time you saw a car driving down the road with the passenger window covered by a trash bag, or the bumper hanging on by duct tape? Or the same car driving around on a donut tire for weeks? All very bad ideas.

Not all band-aid fixes are as obvious, but it doesn’t mean the risk isn’t there. Driving an extra 1,000 miles past your oil change due date, removing the batteries from a smoke alarm to stop the low-battery alert from beeping, or even the literal sense of putting a band-aid on an injury that truly requires medical attention are all quick fixes that can be easily overlooked.

In the UPS and critical power world, it’s no different.

Your UPS system is designed to do one primary thing: keep your business on if and when utility power goes down. For that to happen, routine maintenance and age-based replacements are required. When these two things are neglected for too long, not only is the performance level of the entire UPS system impacted, but it creates an unsafe and unpredictable environment for your business. When neglect reaches a point where band-aid fixes are used to mask the issue, things get scary.

We tend to see this more often with older UPS units than newer ones. It’s like driving a car that already has 100,000 miles on it and going another 10,000 without ever checking the oil. Have you ever seen an older car charred on the side of the road, and wondered, “How did that happen!?” Hint: There were likely many warning signs in advance. The driver simply didn’t act on those warning signs, ahead of time.

Don’t ignore the warning signs. Don’t put preventive maintenance and age-based recommendations on the back burner. And please, please don’t use band-aid fixes like the one we saw above.

What are the warning signs when it comes to UPS failure? (We’re focusing primarily on batteries in this example)

  1. Nationwide Power serves as the beep on your fire alarm when the battery is low. We notify our clients well in advance of when their age-based components are due for replacement. If we don’t catch your attention the first few times, we will continue to alert you until you just can’t ignore us anymore.
  2. For businesses out there who do not have a service provider like Nationwide Power, or for the handful of our customers who neglect to take action, there will be other, more noticeable warning signs.
    • Beeping alarm on the unit
    • Rising temperatures in and surrounding the unit
    • Environmental alarms, if in place
    • Swollen batteries
    • Unmistakable odor
    • Thermal runaway
    • Building evacuation
    • Fire department visit
  3. If these warnings are still ignored, the consequences can be quite severe and damaging.
    • It only takes one bad battery to take down an entire string and/or entire unit. This means, that one bad battery that could have been replaced for a nominal amount just escalated to potentially thousands of dollars.
    • In some cases, the battery failure can be so damaging to the UPS unit, that the damages to the entire system are irreversible, resulting in a full system replacement.
    • The chemical components of the lead-acid batteries that fuel UPS systems – when the batteries are well past end-of-life – begin leaking into the air and interacting with electrical components in a way that will catch fire to the unit.
    • In some instances, the fire is not contained just to the UPS system. The entire business – and potentially lives – are put at risk.
Image: Swollen batteries due to neglect and failure to replace in a timely manner.

As a national UPS service provider, our job is to track and inform our clients of when their age-based replacements are due, with enough lead time for our clients to plan and budget. It is the customer’s responsibility to act on those recommendations as timely as possible.

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