How Long Does a UPS Battery Last, and What Can be Done to Make it Last Longer?

In South Africa, where load shedding and unplanned outages have become part of everyday life, Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) systems play a vital role in ensuring continuous business operation. However, not many people know that the battery is one of the most critical components of a UPS system. Therefore, understanding the lifetime of these batteries and how to optimize their performance is quite important. 

In this blog, we will discuss the factors affecting the lifespan of UPS batteries, their performance during load shedding, and what you can do to maintain, monitor, and prolong their health.

Understanding UPS Battery Lifespan 

A battery’s lifespan is divided into two main facets:

  1. Design Life – The theoretical life that the design will give as per the manufacturer’s specifications. 
  2. Service Life – The actual life achieved when in service in the field, which is affected by many things, including ambient temperature, maintenance, and frequency of discharge and recharge cycles. 

Design Life Expectancy of Float Charge Batteries

For lead-acid batteries designed in accordance with a trusted international standard such as the Euro Batt standard, there are several battery design life expectancies.

  • 3 to 5 years – Normally, for the smaller ampere hour batteries like 7, 9, and up to 33 AH. This is where long battery life is sacrificed for lower cost in high-volume markets.
  • 10 years, 12 years, and 15 years – This is for the lower volume market where quality and longer life expectancy have more influence, and the price has less influence on production and design.

Practically, though, actual service life is generally as follows:

  • A battery with 3 to 5 years design life will give you 1 to 3 years of service life.
  • A battery with 10 years or more design life will give you 6 to 8 years of service life.

These design life and service life expectancies are based on a battery that sits on float charge with a very occasional discharge, not cycling discharge and charge cycles like we are experiencing under load shedding and unplanned and frequent power cuts. 

Frequent power cuts and load shedding introduce a cycling application on your UPS batteries that will result in a further decrease in service life. So, for example:

  • A battery with 3 to 5 years design life under these cycling conditions could fail in 3 to 6 months. 
  • A battery with 10 years or more design life could fail in 1 to 2 years.

Remember: A battery is a consumable item; it can only be used so many times before it is used up. The depth of discharge each time will also determine how long the battery lasts.

 It’s essential to choose high-quality batteries that are designed to endure the tricky conditions posed by ESKOM’s unreliable power grid.

How Irregular Discharge and Recharge Cycles Affect UPS Batteries

The unpredictability of load shedding schedules exposes UPS batteries to irregular (and often too frequent) discharge and recharge patterns. Regular power interruptions mean that batteries undergo cycles of discharge and recharge: they discharge to provide backup power during outages and recharge when the power is restored. These cycles can strain the batteries, especially if the gaps between outages do not allow the battery sufficient time to recharge fully.

Load Shedding’s Impact on UPS Battery Performance

Prolonged power outages force batteries to provide more power, pushing them closer to their discharge limits. This also results in increased heat generation within the battery, which changes the chemical process inside the battery, contributing to battery degradation. As batteries age prematurely, their capacity to hold a charge reduces, compromising their ability to provide consistent backup power.

Monitoring UPS Battery Health 

Regular monitoring of UPS battery health is crucial for maximizing its lifespan. Advanced UPS systems offer built-in battery monitoring tools that provide insights into the battery’s state. Monitoring parameters such as voltage, temperature, and internal resistance can help identify any potential issues.

What Can be Done to Make UPS Batteries Last Longer?  

  1. Temperature Control

Maintaining an optimal environment for UPS systems is crucial. High temperatures can accelerate chemical reactions within batteries, leading to a shortened lifespan. To ensure temperature control, consider installing the UPS system in a dedicated, well-ventilated room with adequate air conditioning or ventilation. Monitoring the ambient temperature regularly is essential to identify potential overheating issues promptly. Cooling fans or thermal management systems can further enhance the longevity of UPS batteries by keeping them within the recommended operating temperature range of 18 to 22 degrees.

  1. Regular Testing

Routine battery testing is a must in UPS maintenance. Conducting regular tests allows for the assessment of each battery’s capacity and performance, providing effective insights into their health. This proactive approach helps identify weakening batteries before they fail. Implementing a schedule for comprehensive battery testing, including load tests, ensures that any deteriorating batteries are detected early on. Some modern UPS systems come equipped with automated testing features, simplifying the testing process and providing real-time diagnostics. Regular testing, coupled with a well-documented maintenance plan, contributes significantly to the overall reliability of the UPS system.

  1. Invest in Quality Batteries

Selecting high-quality batteries such as ELITE VRLA HIGH RATE UPS and LEAD CARBON HIGH CYCLIC batteries designed for frequent discharging and recharging cycles is an important part of ensuring your UPS’s longevity. While these batteries may have a higher upfront cost, their construction and durability make them more cost-effective in the long run. It is essential to research and invest in batteries from reputable manufacturers like Standby Systems, considering factors such as cycle life, discharge characteristics, and overall performance. By prioritizing quality, you can minimize the risk of unexpected battery failures.

  1. Mitigating Effects with Intelligent Battery Management

To counteract the harmful effects of load shedding on UPS batteries, investing in a UPS system with intelligent battery management features, like the Master MPS Range, is highly recommended. These advanced systems are designed to optimize battery performance and enhance longevity.

Features of Intelligent UPS Battery Management 

  1. Dynamic Charging Algorithms

 UPS systems with intelligent battery management employ dynamic charging algorithms that adapt to the changing power conditions. These algorithms ensure that batteries receive the ideal charge during periods of stable power, maximizing their capacity and readiness for following outages.

  1. Voltage Regulation

Voltage fluctuations before and after load shedding can negatively impact battery health. Intelligent UPS systems regulate voltage levels, providing a stable environment for batteries and preventing overcharging or undercharging.

  1. Predictive Maintenance

 Some advanced UPS systems offer predictive maintenance features that analyse historical data and usage patterns. This enables pre-emptive identification of batteries that are showing signs of deterioration, allowing for a timely replacement.

  1. Hands-on Maintenance

Hands-on maintenance is a crucial part of ensuring the longevity and optimal performance of UPS batteries. This involves physically inspecting the UPS system and batteries to identify and address potential issues. Hands-on maintenance includes the following: 

  • Visually inspect the UPS batteries for signs of dust and debris, which can negatively impact ventilation and cooling. 
  • Examine the batteries for signs of corrosion, including discoloration, pitting, and roughness on the surface. Clean areas that appear corroded.
  • Perform a physical damage assessment that includes checking for cracks, damage, or misshapenness in the battery casing. Replace damaged batteries promptly.
  • Inspect the battery terminals for any signs of corrosion or poor connections. Clean terminals if necessary and ensure secure connections to maintain optimal electrical conductivity.

In Conclusion 

You can ensure that your crucial systems remain operational during power outages by leveraging intelligent UPS systems, implementing regular monitoring and maintenance practices, and investing in quality batteries like the ones we stock. With these strategies in place, the UPS batteries become a reliable solution providing uninterrupted power supply in the face of South Africa’s energy uncertainties.Standby Systems offers a comprehensive range of batteries, products, and services. Our experienced technical team is ready to advise you on the best UPS system and battery solutions for your business’s specific needs. Visit Standby Systems’ website or contact us at 011 794 2541 or 011 794 3406 or WhatsApp 082 450 2361

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