In recent years more and more companies in Cyprus are relying on their Electromechanical Consultants, to specify and select for them a suitable UPS system, for their Server Rooms/Data Centers or other critical, Telecom, Medical & Industrial applications.
I intentionally wrote “burden” because to a trustworthy consultant, who has not been trained or specialized on UPS, but is aware of the heavy responsibility placed upon him, this is what selecting a UPS for a client feels like.
How do you specify and evaluate something you have not been trained for?
At this point perhaps it is useful to restate what a UPS is (Uninterruptible Power Supply) and what it does.
A UPS is a “sophisticated electronic device”.
A UPS uses state of the art electronic circuits and batteries to regenerate a new Stable and Uninterrupted Electricity Supply.
A UPS is used to protect your precious computer systems or other mission critical applications, from disturbances on the electricity supply, including Power Interruptions.
It was the initiative of the client to include the UPS in the agreement. The client is probably thinking, since a UPS is another electrical device, an Electromechanical Consultant should be able to handle it.
I get it! UPS are not exciting or even interesting.
For many project developers and businessmen, it may just be a necessary black box not worth spending their time on. That is why they pass it on.
If you are a businessman with a growing need for more computing power, you feel you need to appoint someone knowledgeable to upgrade, or possibly re-design your server room/data center and the corresponding electrical installation.
Or perhaps you are having a new building constructed and you must appoint a specialist to handle all the electromechanical matters. An Electromechanical Consultant is an unbiased, independent person you place your trust in.
You may have the impression that by definition, an EM consultant is able to specify for you, select and make recommendations as to which UPS to purchase, with minimal involvement on your part.
This Consultant had possibly undertaken such jobs in the past and has possibly advised you that they have the know-how.
Perhaps they do or perhaps they don’t!
How can you know?
Have you asked the right questions?Questions such as:
- Do they have inside know-how?
- Have any of their engineers been trained and certified in “UPS technology”?
- Are they keeping-up with UPS technology?
- Do they know how to size your system?
- Are they going to make a list of your critical loads and determine your specific power requirements?
- Are they aware that, different types of loads (that’s your equipment) have different electrical characteristics, which affect how one calculates UPS power?
- Are they calculating correctly your load requirements and therefore the power of the UPS you really need?
The last point alone can reduce your costs by 50%.
To make matters even worse, the consultant invites “electrical contractors” to make an offer, including the UPS among the other “electrical” specifications.
What happens then is that, the electrical contractor invites offers from UPS suppliers. You would think that as a customer, your interests are secured in this way. But you would be wrong!
The electrical contractor selects the lowest cost offer, which just satisfies the often dubious specifications. Rejecting, in his haste to keep his offered price as low as possible, educated and informed suggestions or recommendations from serious UPS suppliers. Who often identify the limitations of the specifications.
Suggestions which could prove extremely beneficial, both performance wise and financially to you the customer are ignored, since the issued specifications cannot be influenced at this tender stage!
I will demonstrate the importance of the points raised with examples of cases we handled recently and let you draw your own conclusions.
The Consultant concluded before contacting us, that the client required a 60kVA UPS. Knowing this client’s existing requirements from his first shop, since we installed the UPS, we were surprised! So we questioned the correctness of the UPS power rating.
Probing deeper by asking the consultant questions in order to understand what equipment would be used and their number, we suggested that the client could well be protected by a 20kVA UPS. A safety margin is always added to allow for some expansion.
We justified that by sourcing on line, from various technical sites as well as from the manufacturers, the power ratings and by adding the power requirements of the equipment expected to be used at the new site. Of course this takes time and effort.
When I asked the consultant’s engineer how they came-up with the 60kVA, I was told they took a percentage of the total power requirement of the shop!?
We finally compromised on a 30kVA UPS with the consultant, to allow for future expansion.
After installing this 30kVA UPS it was confirmed that the client actually had a maximum peak power consumption of 18kVA. Well within our estimates.
Had the client purchased a 60kVA UPS, he would:
a) not only have paid double the cost for no reason
b) his running costs, such as cooling and electricity bills, would have been significantly higher.
Since the unit would have been running at near 30% load, it would have been much less efficient, with high power losses, resulting in higher electricity bills.
I was very pleased we were able save this customer a considerable amount of money.
Sometimes I wonder how many similar cases there are in Cyprus!
We have good relations with Electromechanical Consultants and some are open to input from specialists.
Is yours open to advice?
Have you made certain they have internal specialists on UPS?
If not do they use outside UPS experts to consult them?
To my knowledge, there are no independent UPS consultants in Cyprus. However there are a few, serious and professional UPS importers, with proven reliability, who can help you determine your UPS needs, even though they may naturally promote their own products.
You could mitigate the effect they would be pushing their own products, by asking quotations directly from 2 or 3 different reputable suppliers. But only after they visit you to study and determine your specific Power Quality needs. You will then have a choice. The chances of correlation between their findings are higher, since they are knowledgeable. Which will then put you in a better position to select one of them. You can also query discrepancies directly.
Allow me to offer a second real example of inadequate specifications, we have come across.
A consultant issued a tender for a small UPS with very long back-up time requirements. He did this without specifying a crucial parameter, relating to the UPS charger.
- This was necessary, to ensure the UPS was able to recharge the batteries correctly and quickly after a power interruption. At the same time, this would ensure that UPS batteries reached their full design life.
- This would mean a saving for the customer long-term, since he would not have to replace the batteries frequently.
- In addition, without proper charging the customer would not have the long back-up time that he needed, because the batteries might never be fully charged.
The point is that the customer is usually left alone to face the consequences after a project is completed. If the specifications are not correct he will have to accept less than what he has paid for. Can you relate to this?
In this example and before the tender closing date, we sent a documented analysis to the consultant making recommendations.
The consultant agreed and adopted our suggestions. As a result, the specifications were revised and a more appropriate UPS was specified.
A potentially frustrating if not damaging situation for the client, was averted.
It is worth mentioning that we make recommendations and specification corrections to a large number of tenders, after these are issued and published. We do that based on years of experience and hard earned/costly knowledge, free of charge.
A third and final example is of a rather more difficult technical UPS specification.
The potential buyer invited several UPS suppliers to offer UPS to satisfy their specifications. These were based on load estimates made internally by the buyers’ engineering team.
Having being advised of the type of load, we asked if they had taken into consideration the harmonics generated by the specific type of load. Load harmonics should be taken into consideration when UPS power is determined. They had not!
This was a very important issue and the project was put on hold, in view of the mission critical nature of the application. Actual load measurements were made which revealed that the original power ratings specified were significantly lower than the required load power.
Had they proceeded with this “significant investment”
the project would have failed and heads would roll.
Once more I was extremely pleased we had prevented a potentially catastrophic situation.
With 37 year experience in this field, we at Digicom Ltd have the knowledge to help on most UPS matters.
Recognizing this expertise and performance ABB-GE, leaders in the field of Power Generation, Distribution, Control and Quality, have certified Digicom Ltd as “Critical Power Experts”.
There are certainly others in Cyprus. Worthy and knowledgeable UPS suppliers you can consult with. My advice is to consult at least two!
Are UPS Experts, consulted by your Electromechanical Consultants?
Particularly if they don’t have inside expertise!
If yes all is well for you.
But it is worth your time and money to find-out. Ask them!
Which brings me to the purpose of this article and I will present my point with these metaphor.
If you have a problem with your heart,
do you visit a dentist for it?
After all “they are both doctors” right?
Of course you don’t!
And if you first visit your general practitioner, under our new Health Care system, will he not refer you to a heart specialist?
I suggest you would insist he does. Will you not?
Why? ….Because you know each one of them specialized in a particular area of medicine!
An Electromechanical Consultant generally specializes in designing/specifying electrical and mechanical requirements of your project or building.
Digicom Ltd specializes in Critical Power and
Uninterruptible Power Supplies and are
certified “Critical Power Experts”.
Our experience so far, has shown not many Electromechanical Consultants in Cyprus, have sufficient knowledge or deep understanding of UPS technology and related issues.
This was our conclusion after examining hundreds of tender documents they had issued and discussions we had personally.
It is also a fact that some consultants use ready made, general specification templates, which they copy and paste, issued by a Government Department!?
These, for various and obvious reasons, allow nearly everyone to comply and certainly do not and cannot satisfy your “specific” needs as a customer.
In addition, we found that some consultants, use even these simple templates incorrectly. They create “tailor made” specifications, by cutting and pasting different technical paragraphs from different UPS power ratings and technologies.
This creates a set of chaotic, unrealistic specs, for non-existent UPS, which no one can satisfy. Unfortunately this presents the opportunity to select a UPS based on one’s own preference. Not on compliance to specifications.
If I were a businessman trying to appoint a consultant for my UPS needs, I would be very concerned.
Most businessmen want what is best for their systems and their companies, long term, at the lowest cost possible.
However that does not mean they are willing to reject a technically correct UPS, of good quality, with proven reliability and service support, in the interest of paying less for a wrong, lower cost unit.
They expect to be given the best advice for a long-term, effective solution.
Our experience with UPS systems has clearly shown that a cheap UPS system has the highest overall Total Cost of Ownership.
Suppliers selling at near cost, cannot set up the required infrastructure to support the machines they are selling long term with the correct preventive maintenance, every UPS needs. Neither can they attract and train competent engineers to respond to emergencies and take care of customers.
So next time you are thinking of upgrading your server room/data center or even building new facilities with computer systems, ask a UPS specialist.
Make sure they have the knowledge, certifications and references to prove they can give you the correct, most economical solution long-term.
A good quality UPS should serve you for 10 to 15 years, if it comes with proper and dependable preventive maintenance.
We have observed that lower cost UPS, usually fail within 5-6 years, sometimes causing damage to their loads. The very computer systems these are purchased to protect.
- If you know you will have to replace a low cost UPS, much earlier than a quality, reliable, but more expensive UPS and
- if you also take into consideration, the time and business lost during the failure and replacement,
- as well as the possibility of serious damage to your computer system, (repair costs unknown)
- and corruption to your data,
wouldn’t you prefer to invest in the right UPS from the start?
- A UPS tailored to your specific needs, by a proven expert in the field?
- With no mistakes, doubts, if and buts!
- Who would also have responsibility of maintaining it, to reach its design life?
- Who would lighten your work load of keeping track of how your unit performs, when consumables have to be replaced etc., saving you many headaches?
I would love to read your thoughts or personal experiences as a consultant or a customer.
Please leave your comments bellow and I will reply as best as I can.
If you want to learn more about UPS systems or discuss your specific requirement, contact us at 22-765432 for an exploratory telephone conversation or a visit.
You can also connect with and learn more about Mr. Christos J. Papakyriacou on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/christospapakyriacouupsexpert/