Choosing an industrial UPS for harsh environments

As we noted earlier, the industrial uninterruptible power supply, or industrial UPS, is vital in protecting the smooth operation of critical applications such as those in power plants to manufacturing environments.

This need extends to the transportation sector, too, which relies on a variety of UPS setups for various systems to ensure passenger safety and security.

Power protection in rough places

One difference between the UPS you typically find in a data centre or commercial building with those used to support the transportation sector is how the former is typically sheltered from the elements or housed within perfectly climate-controlled environments.

However, the latter are often deployed in harsh environments that can degrade the effectiveness of the UPS.

For instance, consider the signalling and track monitoring subsystems found in a mass rapid transit system. Vibration and noise are expected practically around the clock, as well as grit and dust kicked up by the passage of high-speed train carriages.

Ruggedised systems are a must, and they should include heavy-duty dust filters to protect delicate electronics from lifespan-shortening dust.

For organisations that require it, Schneider Electric offers UPS for light industrial application that comes with both dust filters and built-in protection against significant vibration with varying seismic certifications.

Harsh and humid environments

Vibration and dust aside, examples of environments that are inhospitable to UPS deployments would probably be the presence of humidity or chemical fumes. Over time, these can culminate in the corrosion of the external UPS cabinet or electronic components.

For instance, an area near the city of Mumbai in India is home to many chemical factories, leaving the smell of sulphur in the air. Such pollution can leave chemical residues in the air that can be detrimental to the sensitive electronics found inside the UPS.

Elsewhere, underground tunnels can get damp, while air is particularly wet in the tropics such as Southeast Asia.

A standard defence here would be to use a conformal coating on the insides of the UPS. This is essentially a waterproof polymeric film that protects the internal components of the UPS against contamination and damage by moisture and chemicals in the air.

Enhancing reliability

Another option to boost reliability is to deploy modular UPS in high availability deployments. This starts with N+1 and can scale from there, with redundant units poised to automatically take over should the primary unit fail.

An alternative is UPS systems that don't have to be powered down for batteries to be swapped out. This can allow longer outages to be successfully navigated with the use of extra batteries.

Not all industrial UPS are built the same. For safety and genuine reliability, it is crucial to thoroughly assess the requirements of each situation and select the best UPS for your needs.

It hence makes sense to ensure that an industrial UPS conforms to published standards against intrusion by solids and water.

The IEC offers the IP Code, or Ingress Protection code, which uses two digits to signify protection body parts and liquid. A baseline of IP21 is offered by Schneider Electric and protects against fingers and dripping water.

Finally, you can check out Schneider Electric's Secure Power Industrial Selector here, or their industrial business continuity site with reference guides and case studies here.

Article by Bhagwati Prasad, Vice President, Business Development, Secure Power Division, Schneider Electric