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When To Replace a UPS

when to replace a upsPinpointing when to replace a UPS for a customer is about as easy as answering the inevitable question, ?How long will my batteries last??

The decision to replace a UPS is a complicated one. One factor that plays a large role is the ROI. Calculating ROI for replacing a UPS, which is an important step to getting any capital expense approved, is difficult because reliability benefits are not easily measured in dollars.

Even though it can be challenging to determine, there are some factors that have measurable cost savings and can legitimately be included in ROI calculations. All of these factors are important, but their level of importance varies from site to site, therefore they are listed in no particular order.

Technology trends such as virtualization have created an environment where IT equipment is being used more efficiently than ever before. As these programs are deployed the end result is a reduction in load on existing UPS systems.

Generally speaking, a UPS operating at less than 50% load is a candidate for replacement. Replacing an existing UPS with a more appropriately sized unit will mean a lower CapEx than installing a new unit of the same size. It will also increase the customer?s PUE and reduce OpEx costs. A decrease in CapEx and OpEx will bring the total cost of ownership down.

If it?s time to replace the UPS batteries, the cost of the battery replacement service can be applied to a new UPS. These costs include materials, labor, freight, inside delivery, and removal/EPA disposal of the old batteries.

A new UPS won?t require a service contract while under warranty. If your customer is paying for a service contract, the funds for the contract renewal can be applied to the cost of a new UPS. For a UPS with a two year warranty, saving service contract costs can majorly improve the ROI.

Something to keep in mind when thinking about service contract costs is the general age of the UPS components. Manufacturers know components such as capacitors and fans have a finite service life. Since a service contract is essentially an insurance policy, manufacturers constantly re-evaluate service contract pricing relative to the estimated costs of servicing and replacing parts in aged equipment. Contract pricing is adjusted (read: increased) accordingly to maintain the risk/reward goals of the service group. This means that the older the UPS is, the more your customer will be saving by not paying for a service contract.

The age of existing an UPS can play a large role in the cost of replacement parts. Once End of Life (EOL) occurs manufacturers raise the price of replacement parts. For customers without a service contract, the risk of pricey Time and Material charges will also increase proportionally with the age of the UPS.

End of Service Life (EOSL), which takes place around ten years after EOL, is another time when the cost of maintaining your UPS will increase. At EOSL the manufacturer may entirely discontinue the production of all new parts, such as control logic boards, which only leaves take-offs from decommissioned units and bench repaired products left. Neither of those options are altogether desirable.

Advances in technology means that UPS systems now include features such as:

These technological advances don?t correlate directly to a short ROI for replacing a UPS, but they are worth noting because they affect the overall efficiency and reliability of a data center.

Newer UPS designs are meant to integrate seamlessly in a hot/cold aisle configuration and utilize more of the vertical space above the footprint of the system cabinets. With data center costs approaching $500 per square foot, a smaller UPS is an attractive option.

If replacing a UPS of the same VA rating the footprint may or may not change, but if the new UPS has a lower VA rating it will definitely have a smaller footprint.

While saving space in a data center is not as simple as multiplying the difference in square feet by the cost per square foot to build a server room and applying the dollars to ROI calculations, it offers some level of objectivity to the ROI decision, even as an intangible benefit.

Installation costs are a major consideration in determining ROI. The newer UPS equipment tends to have a higher output power factor, so if you are replacing an existing UPS with a new UPS of the same kVA rating the new UPS will support more load and require an input feeder with a higher amperage rating. If the existing wire and conduit are too small, installation costs can be substantial.

If the percent load on the old equipment allows replacing it with a UPS with a smaller kVA rating, you increase the chances of re-purposing the existing feeder and drastically reduce installation costs making replacement a more viable option.

Freight can be estimated with a fair degree of accuracy but rigging costs can vary widely and are proportional to the size, weight and number of system cabinets. Don?t forget to consider other factors including floor and wall protection, which may be required by property managers, service elevator issues, ingress/egress issues, and EPA disposal of the existing UPS equipment.

UPS are rarely deployed as the sole part of a backup power plan. Instead, they are one part of a larger system and changes to the rest of that system affect what is needed from a UPS. For instance, if a UPS was originally deployed with a one hour battery, but an emergency generator was later added to the system, a long battery run time is no longer needed in a new UPS. System updates such as this reduce the total cost of ownership by reducing the cost of the new UPS, the cost of the service contract and future battery replacement costs.

The decision to replace an existing UPS may not be simple. But the above factors provide tangible and intangible data which, when considered as a whole, will lend at least some clarity.

To speak to someone about the specific factors that impact your decision to replace a UPS, contact Lamar Britt at 800.790.1672 or

By Lamar Britt and Kara Odell