Data Centre Management (DCM): Importance Of Battery Maintenance

We take a deep dive into the benefits of UPS battery maintenance and testing in a four-page feature in Data Centre Management’s influential Buyers’ Guide 2020 edition.

UPS systems provide data centres with invaluable protection against damaging downtime and disruption.

But without a well-maintained and fully-functioning battery set, an uninterruptible power supply is virtually useless.

So we offer operators some handy hints to reduce the risk of premature battery failure in the latest edition of Data Centre Management (DCM) magazine.

The publication incorporates its Buyers’ Guide 2020 pull-out and is one of the best-read of the year. Our feature on UPS battery maintenance fills four pages.

Over the course of our double double-page spread, Technical Service Manager Jason Yates provides an in-depth investigation about UPS batteries.

He explains the difference between design life and service life, before going on to explore the factors that can impact battery lifespan. These include operating temperatures, frequency and depth of discharge, and operating voltage.

Did you know that the way unused batteries are stored can also make a difference?

As Jason explains, unused batteries automatically discharge small amounts of energy. This requires them to be topped up every three or four months, depending on manufacturer recommendations.

Keeping unused batteries at 10oC also prolongs service life.

Preventing Failure With Testing And Battery Maintenance

The article goes on to highlight some of the most common conditions that affect UPS batteries. These include sulphation, corrosion, dry out (water loss), and top mossing. It also explains what thermal runaway is.

This happens when an increase in temperature inside the battery releases additional energy that causes a subsequent rise in temperature.

But what can data centre operators do to reduce their risk of failure?

Jason outlines how battery maintenance, monitoring, and testing can help maximise the lifespan of UPS batteries. He covers some of the basic manual checks data centre staff and service engineers should carry out, as well as explaining how battery monitoring and battery care systems work.

He then goes on to outline more in-depth UPS battery tests that offer more comprehensive breakdowns at the individual cell level:

  • Impedance testing: non-intrusive and doesn’t take the batteries out of service. Applies an AC current to each battery and measures the impedance in milliohms. Annual testing builds up a performance history and highlights any broad signs of deterioration.
  • Discharge (load bank) testing: by far the most accurate assessment of battery capacity. Tests the batteries under normal and peak load, showing which cells hold charge and which are approaching end of service life. Main drawback is the batteries need to go offline during the test. While usually available again inside 24 hours, it can sometimes take several days.
  • Partial discharge testing: discharges the batteries by up to 80%, which means they should be fully available within eight hours. If there’s an issue with the mains, there’s still 20% capacity to provide battery backup, which isn’t the case with a full load bank test.