You May Be Dead And Not Even Know It

Meeting tenants’ increased demands for robust, reliable wireless connectivity has become a top priority for commercial real estate owners everywhere, but by no means should it be their only priority. Take a building’s battery backup system for instance— CRE owners should be able to say with 100 percent confidence that their system is working properly. If they can’t—there’s a very good chance their uninterruptible power supply (UPS), which serves as an emergency power source in the event the main power fails, could already be dead.

In order to ensure your building’s battery backup system is working properly, it’s critical that you perform regular testing and maintenance. Your UPS system is in place to prevent costly downtime and the damage it could do to your or your tenants’ mission critical equipment. Without the proper maintenance tests, the backup system you rely on could fail when you need it the most. By conducting consistent battery testing, you can be proactive rather than reactive with any repairs that need to be made.

Telecommunications solutions provider ANS Advanced Network Services uses state-of-the-art equipment to perform battery testing, which measures how healthy backup batteries are. ANS Advanced Network Services acts not only as installers, but as consultants who can offer design services, issue recommendations, and provide solutions if your batteries are not working properly. Additionally, ANS Advanced Network Services provides similar services for direct current (DC) power systems, including connection inspection, battery capacity testing, and alarm verifications.

The ANS Advanced Network Services team recently conversed with Connected Real Estate Magazine about why UPS and DC battery maintenance is critical for CRE owners and the role these battery systems play in public safety and more.

Connected Real Estate Magazine: How does a commercial real estate owner benefit from regular UPS and DC battery maintenance and testing?

ANS Advanced Network Services: (Testing) ensures the system will stay online when it’s needed. If power is lost, and CRE’s do not have a battery maintenance program in place, they can’t be sure the batteries will be available.

Connected: On what type of recurring basis would you recommend conducting these maintenance checks?

ANS: Most maintenance programs should be performed quarterly and annually. You could set up on an even more incremental schedule to load test your equipment, batteries, and critical power infrastructure. For example, when generators are set up, it’s best practice that they be exercised once a week, once a month, or once a quarter, assuring they will be ready if needed. Most generator sets have that functionality available and you can implement a similar schedule with the batteries.

Customers will receive a report that will provide them with information associated with the testing performed, as well as the health of their backup power system.

Connected: And ANS follows the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) standards for your tests, correct?

ANS: Yes. What we do is recommend for the carrier specification; for example, our typical maintenance plan is according to the Verizon program, which is more defined than the IEEE.

Connected: What else will CRE owners who take part in ANS’ backup power maintenance program expect?

ANS: Customers will receive a report that will provide them with information associated with the testing performed, as well as the health of their backup power system. For example, a negative 48-volt, DC power plant is typically housed in telecommunications facilities and spaces. It’s in the wireline and wireless switches, cell sites, as well as the PBX room of a building. The UPS is more of an enterprise IT focused, or data center application.

A quick comparison of UPS versus a DC power system is that AC UPS units are a double conversion system, whereas a DC power system is a single conversion system. This means that a UPS takes in your commercial AC service, converts it to DC to condition the power and charge the batteries and then converts the power back to AC for distribution to your equipment. At the equipment level, IT equipment converts this back to DC at the equipment power supply. Each conversion point creates heat which is lost energy. The DC system only has a single conversion when converting the commercial AC feed to a DC feed for distribution to the equipment.

The DC model is more efficient, but the trade-off is the electronics are typically a little more expensive, and the power distribution requires a larger gauge copper conductor to go a comparable distance to an AC based system. From an operations perspective, you typically save more money on a DC plant than you do with a UPS because there’s less energy that is dissipated in the conversions.

Connected: If a UPS or DC battery is not working properly, how does that impact a business’ bottom line in terms of downtime?

ANS: Depending on their customers, downtime is going to have a different calculation in terms of what the inputs are to the calculation. Factors include the number of personnel, the number of facilities, and whether it’s a vertical type of application. If your tenant is in the finance sector and loses the ability to make trades, those can be incredibly high costs, and the tenant is going to hold you responsible for the costs incurred. Based on tenant leases, there are certain provisions that may have to be the guaranteed by the owners.

If your property is a hospital or a critical care location, it’s going to affect lives. If you have a UPS and a generator that’s backing up the infrastructure in an operating room, what happens if that equipment goes down? If those batteries die and you have someone on the table that’s having open-heart surgery, and all the facility equipment suddenly turns off—they’re going to lose that patient. Now you’re opening yourself up to liability associated with lawsuits.

Similar to your public safety and your DAS, if there’s a catastrophic event at your building and commercial power is lost and your UPS does not work, what are the first responders going to do if they have no communication abilities inside that facility? How will the people that are trapped inside the building communicate with the authorities? They will have no way to communicate out.

Connected: To a commercial real estate professional, computer backups may be part of the consideration for a battery backup plan. Is there a way to centralize the battery backup systems throughout your building in order to minimize downtime?

ANS: There is, but it’s more challenging because at that point you are supporting many more devices with different levels of criticality. So, if you’re talking about a 20-30 story office building and a trading center, it may make more sense to have disparate systems feeding each couple floors for computers, with a different backup system for the trading center and other mission critical applications, instead of one centralized unit that’s going to handle the whole facility at the same level. The reason being is that the UPS sizing for all systems at a mission critical level, and the additional AC distribution cabling could be cost prohibitive at that point.

“If your tenant is in the finance sector and loses the ability to make trades, those can be incredibly high costs, and the tenant going to hold you responsible for those costs incurred.”

Generally, seventy-five percent or more of commercial buildings, high rises, et cetera, will have some sort of generator and UPS backup. And they’ll have certain protected panels. Those protected panels will have circuits for critical systems, and they are typically designated with an orange outlet to differentiate them from non-protected outlets. These outlets will be placed in IDF closets, mechanical spaces, air handlers, and fire alarm panel rooms to support the critical infrastructure of a building.

That’s really the critical infrastructure, from a building standpoint. If they support the phone needs of the tenants in the building, the protected power panels would also need to support their PBX. But the likelihood that they would have all their desktops backed up on that same platform is pretty low because that adds a lot more cost and ultimately, the cost of having a user down is less than the cost of having critical equipment not come back up when commercial power is lost.

Connected: What can lead to UPS or DC batteries overheating?

ANS: If the batteries are not located in a proper environment such as the telco or IDF closets, or if the telco closets are small and do not ventilate and dissipate the heat created by the increasing amount of equipment located in those closets. Over a period of time, the batteries start generating heat at a rate that cannot be internally dissipated and they continue to generate more heat in a self-feeding cycle. This is called thermal runaway, and the batteries start swelling and can crack, leading to the potential for a fire and a hazardous material situation if the battery acid leaks out. That is what can happen when your batteries go awry.

Connected: Finally, what sets ANS Advanced Network Services apart from other companies when it comes UPS battery backup services?

ANS: Our differentiation is we use a stricter level of testing parameters associated with the carrier specifications, versus what’s typically applied to UPSs and DC power systems in a commercial real estate or enterprise environment.

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