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Load Bank Testing

Load Bank Testing

An unplanned outage is not the time to find out that your battery won’t perform. Our comprehensive preventative maintenance programs are just one way to monitor the condition of your batteries. However, it is not possible to calculate battery runtime from the static readings collected during preventative maintenance visits. Capacity Testing, or Load Testing, is the only way to accurately calculate how much runtime is left in your battery system. In addition, load testing can help protect the manufacturer’s warranty.

Capacity Testing

IEEE 450, IEEE Recommended Practice for Maintenance, Testing and Replacement of Vented Lead-acid Batteries for Stationary Applications recommends capacity testing upon installation, within the first two years of service, periodically and annually when the battery shows signs of degradation or has reached 85% of the expected service life.

The purpose of Load Testing is three-fold:

  • To determine the capacity of the battery
  • To determine if the battery is capable of supporting the connected load for the specified time.
  • To reveal internal conduction path issues that would otherwise not be ascertainable.

Customers receive a full report upon completion of testing. The report details the battery tested, charger/UPS information, pretest individual cell float voltages, battery discharge performance data to the cellular level, problems uncovered during testing and corrective action recommendations.

When applied regularly, load testing can be used to track the battery’s health and capacity while estimating the remaining life of the battery. The battery manufacturer provides rated capacity values. Capacity Tests usually last 5 or 8 hours; during the test, the technician is looking for how much capacity the battery can deliver before the terminal voltage drops to the end of discharge voltage times the number of cells. Test timing should be approximately the same as the battery’s duty cycle and the same testing time should be used throughout the lifetime of the battery. This consistency will improve accuracy when trending battery’s capacity changes.

When an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) fails in a data center, industrial facility, or utility, more often than not, it’s the batteries that are at fault. Because batteries seem like the simplest component in an otherwise complex emergency power system, they can be overlooked when it comes to maintenance.

But such an oversight is costly. The fact is, the batteries that back up a UPS are critical to ensuring system availability, protecting critical infrastructure, and preventing expensive downtime in the event of a power outage. Even if batteries are inspected as part of an overall UPS maintenance program, industry experts agree that these critical components are important enough to warrant a regular preventive maintenance program all their own.

Start with Standards

A number of widely accepted regulations and testing standards exist to help inform battery preventive maintenance programs in data centers, industrial facilities, and utilities.

Specifically, the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) established standards-driven recommendations and best practices for the minimum battery maintenance procedures necessary to prevent battery failure. The following IEEE standards address the frequency of inspections, what specific items to inspect, measurements to take, how and when capacity or discharge tests should be conducted, and criteria for battery replacements. These IEEE standards apply to battery systems in data centers, utilities, and other industrial operations:

  • IEEE 450 for vented lead-acid batteries (VLA)
  • IEEE 1188 for valve-regulated lead-acid batteries (VRLA)
  • IEEE 1106 for nickel-cadmium batteries (NiCad)

Beyond IEEE standards, utilities must also consider the National Electric Reliability Corporation’s (NERC) PRC-005-2 standard, which addresses protection system maintenance. Established in response to the 2003 blackout that interrupted electric power to more than 50 million people from New York, to Ohio, to Ontario, Canada, these minimum maintenance requirements help ensure the reliability of the Bulk Electric System.

In addition to establishing requirements for stationary (standby/backup) battery maintenance and testing, NERC PRC-005-2 dictates that: Backup batteries must “perform as manufactured.”

There is a maximum allowable elapsed time before a battery should undergo maintenance.

The transmission owner, generator owner, and distribution provider must have evidence of compliance for a specific period of time.

Utilities that fail to complete the required maintenance at the correct intervals may face hefty fines that could be tens of thousands of dollars.

Go Beyond Requirements

Keep in mind that while IEEE and NERC establish minimum requirements for battery maintenance, many utility, data center, and industrial facility managers choose to add maintenance activities that exceed published standards. This decision typically pays off many times over in terms of added protection for business-critical operations, optimized battery system performance, and greater peace of mind. Experienced battery service teams can help ensure the best investment in additional battery maintenance for a specific system. Skilled service technicians should have extensive knowledge of integrated systems and can provide the professional support needed to comply with industry regulations. In addition, the right service partner can provide baseline information for subsequent testing and trend analysis throughout the battery service life.

Protect Your Batteries. Protect Your System.

Don’t allow a bad or failing battery to jeopardize the performance and reliability of your emergency power system—putting your business at risk for catastrophic consequences. By working with a professional services organization that understands battery maintenance requirements and industry best practices, you can maximize your investment in your batteries and ensure ongoing protection for your business-critical operations.

How does your organization go beyond the minimum battery maintenance requirements in order to optimize performance or improve availability?

Examine the NERC definition of “reliability” as contrasted with that of the IEEE Stationary Battery Committee’s definition of “reliability” as it relates to batteries.

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