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UPS Knowledge

How to detect and avoid UPS capacitor failure
  • 2019-06-18 17:52:33
  • admin

UPS failure

What is UPS (uninterrutiple power system)capacitor failure?

A capacitor can either fail in an “open” condition in which the capacitor simply stops functioning, or it can fail in a “short” condition, in which it may develop a leak of the dielectric medium or even an explosive “pop” if the venting is forceful.

In the event of a leak, most capacitor designs will only allow the electrolyte to leak gently, preventing the corrosive material from affecting the other components. In real life however, not everything fails as designed.

The big question, naturally, is how a failure would affect the standalone UPS/three phase UPS.  This is dependent upon where the capacitor is located, the health of the capacitors, and whether they’re working in a series or parallel.

The important takeaway is that in most cases the failed capacitor won’t initially take your UPS down, but it will immediately affect its performance.  You may not even see it, either, as capacitors operating in an “open” condition rather than a “short” may not show any signs of an electrolyte spillage.

Ultimately, the performance of the online UPS will suffer.  It’s filtering ability will be affected and, “when a capacitor in the power train fails, a typical three phase UPS transfers to bypass mode.” That leaves your critical equipment unprotected.  Not good.

Because failure of the capacitors can be so difficult to detect, the most effective way to eliminate the threat is to stop capacitor failure before it happens. A few simple steps can keep you on safe ground:

1.Schedule regular maintenance.

Routine UPS maintenance, in which filters are cleaned, fans are tested, and dust and debris is removed from the overall unit, will help your UPS run at a cooler temperature, extending cap life.

2.Watch the capacitor shelf life.

Typically at about the six-year mark, a more thorough examination of your capacitors should be performed.  This can include visual inspection and thermal scanning to understand and track potential problems. For some systems, this may include putting your UPS system in bypass or even shutting down your UPS to gain access to the capacitors.

3.Replace capacitors proactively.

A great resource for the life cycle of both AC and DC capacitors is referenced in a white paper on the topic. It is important to know what your lifecycle maintenance on a UPS system should include. Talk to your UPS manufacturer about your specific system and when it makes sense to inspect or replace your capacitors.

Capacitors can be a source of frustration and confusion for facility managers.  The different types of failures, and the variety of ways it can affect your UPS, can cause a fair degree of uncertainty.  That’s why preventative maintenance is the only surefire course of action.

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