By Guest Blogger, Falcon Electric
In our ever-connected world, things are about to get even more connected and automated. Thanks to the advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), advanced cloud platforms, software sensors and smart devices, today’s “things” will be tomorrow’s “can’t live without things.” Smart homes, smart cities, security, self-driving cars, drones, robots and sophisticated industrial processes will all benefit from this next evolution of Internet of Things and Industrial Internet of Things (IoT/IIoT). However, the more interconnected things become, the more they rely on clean and steady electrical power in order to communicate and carry out the myriad of critical functions we require and expect from all connected devices.
While AI, robots and the cloud garner the headlines, in the background are the sentries of utility power ensuring that steady power is always available in order for IoT/IIoT to communicate, perform, monitor and analyze. During the PC revolution, uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs) came on the scene to provide minutes of backup power to PCs in case of a power outage. These small UPSs were inexpensive and did their job. However, with the proliferation of PCs, UPSs became a commodity while their quality and performance degraded.
All that Data
Data is at the heart of things. The vast web of intelligent computers, objects and devices collect and share a huge amount of data. In manufacturing plants, oil and gas refineries, electrical and water utilities and other data-intensive applications, having real-time access to remote control information, as well as being able to facilitate predictive maintenance, safety management, data analytics and collaborative operations, is paramount to successful operations.
Today, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems process critical data so plant operators can make smarter, more efficient decisions. However, SCADA and other industrial management devices such as Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) are vulnerable to cyber-attacks and will most likely be replaced by IIoT. The benefits of faster installation, reduced cost, enhanced data security, and accuracy, as well as worldwide remote control and real-time monitoring, will drive the next evolution of industrial processes.
Industrial Power Protection
While data may be at the heart of connected things, it is electrical power that keeps the data going. In industrial settings, where demanding environments and severe temperatures are not uncommon, protecting power and ensuring connected control, communications and monitoring systems stay running, is the job of the industrial UPS.
Power pollution from an industrial plant’s pumps, motors, and other systems can wreak havoc with data and equipment operations. Also, power coming into the building may be compromised or “dirty” and need to be cleaned before reaching protected equipment. An office-grade UPS is unable to perform in wide-temperature ranges, harsh environments or protect against polluted power.
The Right Tool for the Right Job
Today’s industrial-grade UPSs are made with robust components, enclosures, smart circuitry and batteries that can go the distance in industrial settings. There are a few manufacturers that make double-conversion online industrial UPS models that are designed to operate in a wide operating temperature range of -20°C to 55°C (-4°F to 131°F). For outdoor and/or high-temperature installations, UPSs that are able to reliably perform in an ultra-wide range of -30°C to 65°C (-22°F to 149°F) is the optimum solution.
An industrial UPS requires robust batteries that can withstand these high and low temperatures. Prolonged exposure to wide temperature swings can significantly reduce a normal battery’s service life. Some, but not all industrial UPSs incorporate long-life, 10- to 12-year batteries that are specially designed for demanding temperatures. Furthermore, the addition of extended 40 Amp Hour battery modules can provide several hours of backup time to keep critical applications operational.
Safety First – UL 1778 and UL 508
It’s important to ensure that the industrial UPS you choose has been tested and certified by Underwriters Laboratory (UL). When operating in difficult power environments, make sure the UPS is certified under UL 1778 for -20°C to 55°C operations. It is vital that the electronics, plastics, and batteries are all agency certified (UL, cUL, CE) to operate in this temperature range. The higher-grade components used in the UPS’s critical circuitry assure reliable operation over a wide temperature range. Internal cooling and battery thermal insulation are also more efficient in the industrial-grade UPS. Installing a low-cost, office-grade UPS that is only rated to operate in modest temperature-controlled environments is not recommended.
When it comes to incorporating the UPS into an industrial control panel, it’s imperative that the UPS also have agency safety certification to operate within the specified temperature range. It’s important to know that after a control panel has been installed, it is inspected by a local code compliance inspector. He or she verifies that the installation and internal equipment are in compliance with UL 508. The inspector is responsible for looking at each piece of internal equipment and specifically looks for the UL 508 listing label on the equipment. If the inspector finds any equipment without the UL 508 label, including the UPS, it must be removed from the control panel. This can cause project delays and extra costs.
The Bottom Line
As things become more and more connected, power must be available to all things 24/7. Don’t take electrical power availability for granted. It’s not an “if” we lose power scenario, but a “when.” Deploying the right tool for the job, in this case an industrial UPS, can make all the difference in keeping critical industrial data, communications, processes, predictive maintenance and monitoring up and running.