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Controlling your costs

Louis McGarry, sales and marketing director at Centiel UK highlights the importance of factoring in total cost of ownership when it comes to your UPS and provides us with some invaluable tips on keeping costs down.

When it comes to replacing or purchasing a UPS, the focus generally seems to be on the upfront cost of hardware. However, ongoing costs can result in far greater expenditure if an incorrect configuration is selected at the outset and that UPS doesn’t have the flexibility to be adapted to future load requirements (less or more!)

When considering a budget, there are many elements to think about including pay as you grow options; CapEx verses OpEx, the cost of future replacement parts, any remedial work, plus maintenance costs and running costs to name a few. It is important to be clear about the role of the UPS and to talk to those experienced in ensuring the correct system will do the job of protecting the power of an organisation, in the most available and yet efficient way possible.

Right sizing

Right sizing is key to managing budgets over both the short and long term. The initial purchase price is less if a smaller system is actually required and so are ongoing running, maintenance and replacement costs.   

I recently helped a multi-media company replace a legacy UPS. A 200 kVA UPS was running at 85% efficiency because it had been sized 15 years ago to support an infrastructure that never reached full capacity. This is a typical scenario where the replacement of an oversized and inefficient UPS could offer significant savings for the client. We switched this for a 50 kVA N+1 system running at 97% efficiency.  

The new UPS system was right-sized to protect the actual load and because it was a modular system, it offered the benefits of N+1 redundancy and scope for future ‘pay as you grow’ expansion as required. We reviewed the total cost of ownership (TCO) of the new system compared with the old UPS. These calculations took into consideration the efficiency of the new UPS at its actual load, plus the cooling requirements to maintain the environment based at a conservative cost of 10p/kW hour. We calculated the company could save up to £30k within five years in energy alone.  

We see this situation a lot, where a full review of the UPS system and load requirement can result in a smaller, more efficient UPS being used, which still offers the flexibility to grow to the demand of the infrastructure. In this way multiple savings are the outcome of a right-sized, efficient solution. For larger installations, the cost savings can be even higher.

Autonomy

Another consideration is a lower autonomy. I usually hear a few people take a sharp intake of breath at this point!  Historically, when a generator isn’t available, on-site battery banks can be sized from one to two hours, and even when a generator is available, autonomy is still sized at around 30 minutes. Is this really necessary?  

Reducing the autonomy can dramatically reduce the amount of batteries needed, in-turn reducing the amount of space required to house many tonnes of VRLA blocks and importantly the power associated to keep them cool (and at 10p/kW h this soon adds up.)  

Becoming agile

Becoming more agile is another way to keep control of budgets. This requires careful management of the system that’s been installed. Modular systems all using the same sized modules can be interchanged as necessary. 

I recently worked with a data centre that had adopted a completely decentralised approach, creating a group of small data centres on one site with a standardised infrastructure. This includes each data centre having the same type of modular UPS and standardising the rating of UPS frames and UPS modules so that they can be re-prioritised dependant on load demand.  

This approach allows the modules to be redeployed between the data centres based on priority, to ensure redundancy is kept at the most critical sites. It also means, if there are any issues, modules can be ‘hot swapped’ avoiding any risk to the load – zero downtime. This is an example of agile critical power solutions supporting an agile infrastructure environment.  Availability has been maximised while at the same time minimising costs.

Installation is the start not the end

The key to developing an efficient and agile system for protecting power, is regular review of the load and ongoing monitoring. It may be possible to reduce the autonomy to say just five minutes by putting in a better battery monitoring system for example. SMNP monitoring and keeping up with maintenance also means you can potentially make better use of the resources you have and ultimately reduce TCO.  

Therefore, installing a new UPS and closing the door and forgetting about it is not the future of efficient, agile systems. It is also not the best way to keep control of costs. Nor does it take full advantage of the true modular nature of the most modern UPS solutions.

Therefore, to ensure a high-level of power protection while minimising the budget, the best value for money approach is to calculate the TCO properly. The numbers do not lie! Choosing a reliable supplier who will act in your best interest as a trusted adviser and provide ongoing support is also essential.  

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