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Uninterruptible Power Supplies

UPS systems improve power quality and provide limited backup power to sensitive electronics. (Photo: David Jones)

Uninterruptable power supplies (UPS) are a class of

devices that power equipment in the event of grid
power failure, nearly instantaneously, protecting the
equipment from damage. UPS systems vary
significantly in their design and functionality, affecting
the amount of time they can power equipment, their
ability to improve power quality and their cost.
UPS systems are used in a variety of applications, including data servers, computer systems, industrial settings and
laboratories. Because UPSs protect equipment, they are appropriate for any situation where electrical loads may be
sensitive to power loss or other power quality issues. UPS systems are commonly used for computers and servers,
for example, because power loss to these loads may result in loss of data or component damage.
Likewise, many types of medical and laboratory equipment are sensitive to interruptions in power supply or poor
quality power. For many health facilities in developing nations, grid power is unreliable or of poor quality, resulting in
scheduled or unscheduled power loss for large portions of the day, or fluctuations in grid voltage that may adversely
affect equipment.
In addition to the potential damage to equipment, power loss in hospitals and laboratories leads to downtime,
affecting the quality and availability of their critical services. Thus health facilities often employ backup power
systems to meet electrical loads in the case of power loss from the grid.
UPS systems serve two main purposes: 1) to provide backup power as quickly as possible in the event of power loss
and 2) to offer some degree of protection from power quality issues that may damage equipment. UPS systems will
fulfill these goals to varying degrees depending on their design and features, which ultimately affect cost.
Meeting power supply challenges at health facilities is important to ensuring quality healthcare services. This paper
will discuss some of those challenges, explain appropriate uses of UPS systems and differences between UPSs and

similar devices. Finally, lessons learned and best practices regarding the use of UPS systems in health facilities with
poor grid access will be presented.

IHFI Experience
USAIDs Improving Health Facility Infrastructure (IHFI) project addresses problems with energy infrastructure in the
health sector in facilities with limited resources. UPS systems are a critical piece of energy infrastructure in health
settings and IHFI has a great deal of experience in implementing such systems in through cost-effective and
sustainable approaches. Much of the information in this article relating to system design, selection and load
characterization is directly relevant to IHFIs activities.
IHFI is confronting power quality and supply problems in Haiti through the use of battery/inverter systems. These
systems are designed to provide backup power to important electrical loads in health facilities, like laboratory and
medical equipment, computers, lighting and ventilation fans. In addition to backup power these systems deliver a
constant supply of clean, AC power, free of any voltage or frequency irregularities, to sensitive laboratory electronics.
Essentially, these systems function in the same way as a UPS system, using similar components.
IFHIs systems typically comprise a bank of batteries, 2-4 inverter/battery charge controller units, a system monitor
and all supporting wiring and electrical hardware. Each inverter powers a single circuit and is connected to a series
of batteries, sized to fit the connected loads. Usually, one circuit is designated the no contact circuit for sensitive
laboratory equipment, and has a dedicated inverter that operates like a double conversion UPS, providing clean
power at all times. The remaining inverters power contact circuits and are only needed to supply battery power in
the event of grid power loss.

IHFI inverters in Haiti, two units are on contact circuits, while the third covers no-contact loads. (Photo: Kim
This modular system type allows for flexibility in design and sizing; battery bank and inverter capacity can be tailored
to the needs of individual facilities. It is also a cost effective approach to installing the backup power and power
quality capabilities of a UPS, but with greater backup time, or autonomy, through increased battery capacity. In Haiti,
backup power capacity is important, as grid power can be unavailable for long periods and the generators on-site are
not always reliable.
Another benefit of the modular battery/inverter design is standardization of materials and maintenance procedures.
IHFI has installed approximately 20 of these systems in health facilities throughout Haiti; being able to use a
consistent approach to system design and procurement over a diverse set of facilities promotes sustainability and
familiarity on the part of facility administrators and energy technicians. This has also allowed IHFI to implement a

standard battery maintenance training program for technicians at every facility. Were a mixed group of UPS and
battery backup systems put in place it would be more difficult to maintain and monitor them in a consistent manner.
The appropriateness of different types of UPS systems, whether they are battery/inverter systems, or double
conversion or standby units, depends on the power supply and quality situation and load characteristics of a
particular facility. In Mozambique, the IHFI project surveyed eight health labs to determine the best UPS option. The
final recommendation was to install large, unitary double conversion UPS units to cover no contact loads, rather
than battery/inverter systems or multiple smaller UPSs.
Circumstances at the labs in Mozambique differed from those in Haiti. The labs have reliable access to grid power
and backup generators were already in place. The main concern, then, was to protect sensitive loads from power
quality problems. Double conversion UPS units are ideally suited to this situation as they provide clean power but
have only a limited amount of backup capacity.

Types of Uninterruptible Power Supplies

UPS systems provide a comprehensive, modular solution to protecting sensitive equipment from power supply
problems. There are a variety of power quality issues that are commonplace which UPS systems and other, similar
equipment address. UPS systems come in several configurations that offer different levels of protection for a range
of costs. The following is a brief description of each, a discussion of the power quality issues they are built to solve
and a comparison of their most important features.

Double Conversion or On-line UPS

A double conversion or on-line UPS system provides full protection and electrical isolation from power quality issues
while ensuring an instantaneous source of backup power in the event power loss from the grid.
This type of UPS offers the highest level of protection by fully isolating connected loads from grid power. AC power
from the grid is converted into DC power before being converted back into AC power again. This AC power output
has perfect voltage and frequency characteristics, therefore addressing all potential power quality issues.
Furthermore, internal capacitors store energy throughout the conversion process, providing a seamless transition
from grid to battery power.
The basic configuration of a double conversion UPS is shown below. This figure presents the essential power
conversion components, but a number of other components are involved in the process, including capacitors,
transformers and bypass circuits.

These systems have a higher cost than either standby or line-interactive UPSs, but give superior protection. A good
deal of energy is lost through the double conversion process, however, so the efficiency of these systems is less than
that of the other UPS options.

Standby or Off-line UPS

In a standby or off-line UPS system, the load is supplied power directly from the grid, with no power conditioning or
protection other than basic surge protection, or in some cases, noise filtering. When grid power is lost, power is
supplied from the systems internal battery.
This is the least expensive type of UPS system, and provides the lowest level of protection. Furthermore,
inexpensive models often produce a square-wave rather than a perfect sine-wave when converting DC battery power
to AC power, which could be damaging over time to some sensitive equipment. A schematic is shown below.

Line-interactive UPS
Line-interactive UPS systems offer another level of protection over the basic standby system. These systems provide
a degree of power conditioning by regulating the voltage of the incoming grid power. This functionality does not
provide perfect clean power, or isolate loads from all power quality issues, but it does solve basic issues such as
under-voltage and over-voltage, which can be common.
As the second-tier option for UPS systems, line-interactive UPSs have all of the functionality of a standby UPS plus
some basic voltage regulation. This class of UPS is priced min-range. A schematic is shown below.

Each of these UPS technologies is designed to meet the power quality and backup supply needs of electronics
equipment in a variety of applications and markets. Generally, double conversion and line-interactive systems are
geared toward business and industry, while standby units are intended for the average consumer computer system.
Despite this distinction, there is a good deal of overlap in the cost and capability of different system types, reflecting
the diversity of applications for which they are designed. The following table compares the three main types of UPS
by their typical range of cost, size, efficiency and power conditioning capabilities.

UPS type

Cost (US$)


Normal mode

Typical power conditioning


50 -500

0.3 - 1.5

97% - 99%

Surges, Noise


80 - 2,000

0.4 - 5

95% - 99%

Surges, Noise, Voltage


400 15,000+

0.7 - 20+

85% - 97%

Surges, Noise, Voltage, Harmonics,


The price of a UPS system is only loosely tied to its overall capacity; battery runtime, power quality and monitoring
features also play an important role in determining price. Another important distinction between UPS units is how
they are integrated into a building circuit: at an outlet or hardwired. Outlet UPSs plug into existing electrical outlets
and in turn provide several on-unit outlets to supply supported loads. Hardwired units are wired directly into an
electrical circuit; supported loads are plugged into existing outlets connected to that circuit. Outlet systems are

typically of lower capacity and may be any of the three UPS types. Hardwired systems are normally high capacity
line-interactive or double conversion units.
Also note that high-end double conversion systems used in data centers and other energy intensive IT applications
can have a system capacity of many MW. These systems are typically specially designed and built to purpose, thus
there is no limit to the size and cost of such systems.
The challenge of selecting the right system to meet the demands of a health care environment is understanding
which features are necessary and which are not. These considerations are discussed in following sections.

Example of a standby UPS.

Example of a line-interactive UPS.

(Photo: Hundehalter, available under
aCreative Commons AttributionShare Alike license.)

Example of a rack-mounted, double

conversion UPS.

Power Quality Issues

Power quality refers to the adequacy of a power supplys voltage,
frequency and waveform characteristics. Electrical equipment is
designed to use electrical power with certain characteristics, like 12 or
24 volts, or, when designed for AC power, 50 or 60Hz frequency.
Similarly, power supplied by the grid, or some other source such as a
generator or battery bank, is intended to meet a certain voltage level
or frequency.

Perfect AC sine wave.

Most power systems operate on alternating current (AC) power as opposed to direct current (DC) power (including
the grid). AC electrical power is represented by a sine wave, where the current regularly changes direction. The rate
of this change in direction is the currents frequency, which is typically 50 or 60Hz (50 or 60 changes per second).

Electrical equipment is designed to consume power with particular voltage and frequency characteristics, in the form
of a perfect sine-wave. Power supplies, however, are never perfect, and there are inevitably variations in the voltage,
frequency and waveform of AC electricity. For most common appliances and electrical devices, these variations are
acceptable, but some medical and laboratory equipment are unable to tolerate less-than-perfect power, due to their
complex and sensitive circuitry. While not all power quality problems will lead to immediate damage, cumulative
effects over time will harm equipment or result in less efficient operation.
One of the major purposes of a double conversion UPS system is to provide perfect power to sensitive loads, like
those often found in a health lab. Discussed below are a number of common power quality issues, including power
loss, which health facilities must be prepared to address in order to ensure the safety of critical equipment. The
issues listed below are loosely categorized, with more exact definitions available based on the cause and duration of
each issue.


Power interruption


A power loss can last anywhere from milliseconds to days, depending on the
cause of the interruption. In the event of loss of grid power many health
facilities have some backup power source, typically a generator. Although
backup power may be available, it will not be instantaneous, resulting in a
brief loss of power furthermore, generator start up often produces a spike in
voltage. UPS systems protect equipment against such threats, smoothing
out the transition from grid to backup power.

Voltage sag/ Undervoltage

Voltage sag is a decrease in the utility power voltage lasting as long as one
minute. This power problem can adversely affect sensitive electronic loads.
UPS systems or voltage regulators are needed to address voltage sags.

Voltage swell/ Overvoltage

Voltage swell is the opposite of voltage sag, an increase in the utility power
voltage lasting as long as one minute. Similar to voltage sag, swells can be
destructive to sensitive electronic equipment.

Voltage transient/ spike/ surge

A voltage transient is a short, sudden, and sometimes extreme, change in

voltage or current. These types of power problems can be caused by
lightning strikes as well as other issues in grid operation. Transients can
damage all manner of electrical equipment, including lighting. Sensitive
electronics may be damaged, data loss may also result. UPS systems, as

well as basic surge protectors, insulate equipment from transients.

Noise is characterized as unwanted, random signals in the power supply.
Noise is often caused by the equipment connected to an electrical circuit. In
most cases, noise in unavoidable, as it is not due to malfunctions but rather
anomalies in the way electronic components operate.

Harmonic distortion
Harmonic distortions are alterations to a pure sine-wave. Such distortions
are due to non-linear loads. Computer power supplies are a common cause
as well as lighting ballasts and variable speed drives, such as those found on
high-efficiency air conditioners. Harmonic distortions can cause overheating
of equipment and wiring, as well as efficiency losses.

Related Devices
In addressing backup power needs and power quality issues, there are a range of technologies available in addition
to UPS systems. For each class of device, functionality and cost will vary depending on the intended application
(larger, or more robust equipment is typically more expensive). Health facilities can benefit greatly from utilizing these
technologies in a manner appropriate to the availability and quality of their power supply, and the extent to which
funding and human resources can be dedicated to their energy system.
Various types of equipment used for backup power and power conditioning are briefly described below. Most of these
devices are actually components of UPS systems, but can be utilized outside of a UPS to achieve similar results.




An inverter is a basic piece of power equipment responsible for converting

power from DC to AC. Inverters are a component to any UPS system as they
are required to convert DC power from the battery to the AC power needed to
run equipment. In double conversion UPS systems, inverters are used to
condition grid power to a perfect sine-wave.

They are also necessary accessories to PV systems and battery banks, as

both produce DC power requiring conversion to AC before powering
conventional AC loads. Thus inverters may be small circuits internal to UPS
systems or other equipment types, or may be stand-alone units capable of
handling large quantities of power, as in the case of a bank of batteries or a
PV system.


Battery bank

Rectifiers perform the opposite function of an inverter, converting AC power

from the grid into the DC power needed to charge batteries. This type of
circuit is essential to any equipment running on DC power, including most
electronics and computers; for example, computer power supplies include a
rectifier. In UPSs rectifiers make up part of the charge controller, which uses
grid power to keep the internal battery fully charged. In double conversion
UPSs, the rectifier is the first step in the double conversion process, filtering
out noise and other power quality problems from the AC grid.
Batteries store chemical energy that can be converted directly to electrical DC
power when connected to an electrical circuit. All UPS systems include a
battery to store energy for when grid power is lost. Similarly, large battery
banks can be constructed to provide backup power to entire building circuits
for long periods of time.
Batteries used in such systems are rechargeable, and, depending on the type
of battery being used, may be charged and discharged thousands of times.

Charge controller

A charge controller is needed to charge a battery, including that of a UPS.

Battery charging is a multi-phase process that involves applying a series
specific voltages to the battery leads. If a battery is not charged properly, its
life can be shortened substantially or it can be ruined completely. Charge
controllers are responsible for carrying out this process.

Power conditioner

A power conditioner is a device that addresses one or more power quality

issues, including voltage sags or swells (e.g. automatic voltage regulator) and
harmonic distortions (e.g. harmonic filter). Double conversion UPS systems
perform the same functions as power conditioning equipment, but go further
by providing a degree of backup power in the form of a battery.
An automatic voltage regulator outputs a target voltage within a narrow range
from a larger range of input voltages, addressing voltage sag and swell.
Such devices can be based on transformers or electronic components.

Automatic Voltage Regulator (AVR)

Voltage regulators are internal components of some UPS systems, especially

line-interactive types. As stand-alone units they may also incorporate other
power conditioning capabilities such as surge protection, noise reduction and
harmonic filtering. AVRs perform many of the same functions as lineinteractive and double conversion UPSs, but do not have any backup power
capacity, leaving connected loads exposed to interruptions in power.

Isolation transformer

Transformers are commonly used to change the voltage of a power line (stepdown transformer), or in the case of an isolation transformer, to isolate loads
from power quality issues and maintain supply voltage at the correct level.
Isolation transformers are sometimes used in hospitals to isolate sensitive
loads, filtering out noise and providing proper voltage.
Isolation transformers are also used as components of some UPS systems,
normally line-interactive UPS.

Surge protector

Surge protectors are simple devices that limit the allowable voltage to a safe
threshold. Designed to protect against power spikes or transients, these
equipment will ground any spike in voltage that could damage connected
loads. Surge protectors are common pieces of electrical equipment and are
often integrated into power strips, providing basic protection for electronics.
These devices have no other power conditioning capability and are unable to
address issues of voltage sag or swell or sine-wave distortions. All UPS
systems have this basic functionality, although in in a standby UPS this is
typically the only type of protection provided.
A generator produces electricity by burning fuel in a reciprocating engine, in
much the same manner as a cars alternator generates power for on-board
electronics. A generator is a common choice for backup power supply as
they can run for long periods while fuel is available. Generator output is
controlled in such a way as to maintain a constant voltage and current, but
such controls are not perfect and power quality is generally an issue for

UPS systems are important equipment for protecting sensitive loads when
generator power is frequently used. At the initial loss of grid power,
generators can automatically start up. This start-up, however, is not
instantaneous, and this brief interruption in power may damage equipment or
lead to data loss. Additionally, such start-ups are often characterized by
voltage spikes. UPS systems are designed to ensure a smooth transition in
these situations.

Inertia Wheel

Inertia wheels are a form of mechanical energy storage, rather than chemical
energy storage as in the case of batteries. Inertial wheels are typically made
up of a rotating drum connected to a motor/generator. When power is
available, the inertia wheel is charged by speeding up the rotation of the
drum. Energy is stored in the rotational inertia of the drum itself. When
electricity is needed, an inertia wheel powers its generator, creating electricity
but slowing the speed of the drum. Such energy storage devices can be
more efficient than batteries with faster charge/discharge times and low in
maintenance. They are most often used at grid-scale or in other large UPS

Inverters are an essential to a

battery bank, and must be sized

Voltage regulators are used to

ensure power quality where
additional backup power in not

Surge protectors are commonly

intigrated into power strips, or
designed for single outlets.

UPS Terms, Specs and Features

When selecting an appropriate UPS system for health facility applications it is useful to have a basic understanding of
the common product components and features available. Table 3 presents a listing of terms, specifications and
features that may be encountered when researching UPS products.




Runtime is the amount of time the UPS can operate loads on battery power. This
depends on the size of battery included with the unit and the availability of battery
extension to increase runtime. This figure may run anywhere from a couple of
minutes to several hours and is usually reported at both full and half load. A lower
load results in longer runtime, and as a general rule of thumb, a UPS battery at half
load will run three times longer than at full load.

Automatic data network

shut down

A useful option when powering servers or computers, this function automatically

shuts down computer equipment safely through the installed operating system,
ensuring that all data is saved before the UPSs battery runtime is complete.

Battery extensions

Many UPSs allow for battery extensions, external battery packs that can be

connected to the UPS to increase the systems runtime. These battery packs are
offered by the UPS manufacturer so it is important to understand what battery pack
models are compatible with the UPS, and ensure that enough battery extensions can
be added to meet equipment runtime needs.

Data port

Bypass switch

Many UPS systems offer some way to interface, or connect, with other equipment,
such as computer or other power equipment. These connections usually come in the
form of a USB, RS-232 or other data port. This functionality can be beneficial, for
instance, in reporting UPS alarms or other operating data to a central point and for
monitoring the performance of the UPS systems.

A bypass switch provides a direct connection between the input and output lines of a
UPS, circumventing the systems internal components. This feature is important in
case the UPS fails or runs out of battery power and is unable to supply any power at
all to connected loads. No backup power or power conditioning is available when in
bypass mode.
An automatic bypass switch will move connected loads to normal grid or generator
power automatically when the UPS fails. A manual bypass switch is used for
maintenance purposes, when components need repaired or replaced.

Delta conversion

A particular form of on-line UPS that does not perform full double conversion when
connected to the grid. Rather than using a rectifier and an inverter, a delta conversion
UPS utilizes a transformer and an inverter to produce clean power for connected
loads, resulting in greater efficiency. Such systems match all of the abilities of a
traditional on-line or double conversion UPS while also being able to do power factor
corrections, all with greater efficiency.

EMI/RFI noise filtering

Electromagnetic interference (EMI)/Radio-frequency interference (RFI) noise filtering

removes uncontrolled frequency variations common in facility wiring. Noise is
generated by other loads on the same distribution system, such as an air conditioner,
or from the incoming grid power. Because noise can be damaging to sensitive
medical equipment this feature should be considered important for any health facility
UPS system. All double conversion UPSs filter noise, for standby or line-interactive
UPS systems it is important to ensure that this option is included.

Transfer time is the amount of time, in milliseconds, that it takes for the UPS to switch
from grid to battery mode, rather, the amount of time connected loads will see and
Transfer time (milliseconds) interruption in power. For off-line and line-interactive units, transfer times typically
range from 4-25 milliseconds. On-line UPS units should have a transfer time of 0
milliseconds, as their internal capacitors allow for in-line energy storage.

Cold start operation

Turning on a UPS before being plugged into the AC line is called cold starting. Under
this operation the UPS will run on battery power only. This function can be useful if a
UPS needs to be added during a power outage or to ensure that the battery is
working properly.

Hot swappable batteries

Hot swapping allows a UPS battery to be replaced without disconnecting the UPS or
its connected loads from AC power. If a battery requires replacement, it can be hot
swapped without any equipment downtime. If a UPS is not hot swappable, the
system should be disconnected before battery replacement (8).

Battery recharge rate

Battery recharge rate is typically described in the number of hours to complete

recharge. If power outages are too long or too frequent to provide adequate time for
battery recharging the life of the battery will decreased and the effectiveness of the
UPS compromised due to inadequate capacity. External battery packs and a
separate battery charger could allow for battery to be recharged more quickly if

Voltage transfer set points

In all types of UPS systems, loads are transferred to battery mode if the incoming
voltage goes above or below specific set points. In the case of standby and lineinteractive UPS systems, this acceptable voltage range is fairly narrow, as these
systems have no other mode of protecting against harmful voltage variations. Double
conversion units have an built-in capacity for voltage regulation during normal
operating mode; a double conversion unit will only transfer to battery power when the
incoming voltage is beyond its ability to correct.


Efficiency figures for UPS systems refer to the efficiency at which grid power reaches
the connected loads. The power conditioning processes inside UPS systems
inevitably lead to energy losses, even in standby systems with minimal capabilities.
UPSs typically have efficiencies between 85%-99%, with increased efficiency as the
connected load reaches the systems capacity.


Because UPS systems are so important to protecting critical loads against power
failure, it is common practice to use redundant, or extra, systems in case a UPS fails
or needs to be serviced. Redundancy is an important issue in large-scale UPS
applications, such as data servers, where UPS systems are networked together to
backup large loads. In a typical medical or laboratory setting UPSs are not

Number of outlets

In outlet-type UPS systems, equipment plug directly into the unit itself, for these units
it is important to ensure that an adequate number of outlets are available for the
number of equipment the system is intended to support. Large UPSs are hardwired
into the electrical circuit, so existing wall outlets are protected.

Sizing and Selection

Given the range of options for backup power and power quality equipment, selecting the most appropriate choice for
a health facility requires a careful examination of the facilitys loads, power supply and energy management capacity.
Important considerations to take into account during this process include: How large are the sensitive equipment
loads as compared to the total facility load?; What power supply issues does the facility face; quality, availability,
both?; What resources (money, manpower) are available to manage and maintain energy equipment?. Depending
on these considerations, the most suitable system may be a UPS unit, a battery/inverter system, a voltage regulator
or some other configuration of power conditioning and backup power equipment.

In order to address these questions, and develop a cost-effective energy system to meet facility needs, Powering
Health has laid out a six step approach, focused on
analyzing energy supply and demand, identifying
appropriate use of technology and ensuring energy
system sustainability through management and
maintenance. Powering Health also provides Energy
Audit and Power System Optimization tools to assist in
the process.

Load Characterization
With regard to UPS systems in particular, contact and
no-contact loads is an essential concept. Health facility
loads can be characterized in one of three ways: noncritical loads, contact critical loads and no-contact critical

Circuits are labeled by load type and number of outlets.

Each type of load places different requirements on the backup power system. Non-critical loads do not require
battery backup power, but should be supplied by a diesel generator when grid power is unavailable. Contact critical
loads can be directly supplied by grid and generator power, but require battery backup in the event that this primary
power is disrupted. No-contact critical loads should always be isolated from grid or diesel power due to fluctuations
or spikes in voltage that can occur. Rather, they should be supplied solely and constantly by a double conversion
UPS or other source of clean power, which acts as a buffer between the sensitive equipment and the unreliable
primary power source.
These different load categories can be characterized by their back-up power and power quality needs, which, in turn,
point to suitable power supply equipment. These considerations are outlined in the following table.


Contact loads

No-contact loads

Example equipment

Air conditioners,
low-priority area
lighting, TVs

data servers and

Priority area lighting,
computers, emergency
cold chain
lighting, blood analyzer,
refrigerators, incubator,
microscope, fire

High quality power




Transfer time to emergency power

power no

10 seconds or less

Instantaneous (0 seconds)

Automony/runtime (backup power time)

No backup

Variable, from a few

minutes to an hour

Variable, enough for the

longest power outage

System reliability





Not necessary

Non necessary


Power supply equipment options

Standby UPS, lineAutomatic voltage

interactive UPS,
regulator, surge
battery/inverter system

Double conversion UPS,

"no-contact" battery/inverter

As in Powering Healths six-step approach to energy system design, the first step in selecting an appropriate back-up
power or power quality technology is to understand the size of the current facility load, identifying contact and no
contact loads.
This process begins with an energy audit to inventory, categorize (i.e. non-critical, contact, no-contact) and quantify
all existing loads as well as their operating hours. Also, as in step two of the approach, future additions or changes in
facility loads should be considered before going ahead with system sizing.
Powering Health offers a number of resources to aid in conducting an energy audit and obtaining load estimates, see
the following tools and information:

Energy Audit Tool

A spreadsheet tool and guide designed to be an overall off-grid energy information package to
help energy experts and procurement officers collect and analyze information, plan PV and
generator systems in off-grid health centers, and develop specifications and bidding

Load Analysis and Example Calculations

A fundamental part of energy management, and the first step in improving a health facility
energy system, is an electrical load inventory. An electrical load inventory is a listing of all
electricity-consuming equipment in a facility, everything from light bulbs to expensive lab
equipment to cell phone chargers.

Power Supply Characterization

UPS systems are recommended for any sensitive electronic equipment that may be damaged in the event of power
loss, or other power anomalies; even when grid power is reliable. While UPSs are important regardless of level of
power quality a facility receives, an assessment of power quality is useful in determining the size, configuration,
runtime and additional features of the UPS system.
There are a number of power quality tests available, designed to quantify issues such harmonic distortion, power
factor, frequency variation and voltage variation. In determining UPS requirements at a health facility, the two most
important power quality indicators will be: 1) grid availability, and 2) voltage variation.
Understanding these two factors, combined with a quantification of the facilitys critical loads, is necessary to choose
the correct type and size of UPS system. The length of power outages will point to the amount of battery runtime
necessary to power equipment until the grid or generator is restored, while the frequency of outages may affect the
batterys charging, and could necessitate additional replacement batteries. Voltage variation will point to the correct
UPS system type (off-line, line-interactive, on-line) based on the level of grid isolation needed to provide good quality
An assessment of grid availability is mostly based on past experience. Interviews with facility personnel, logs of
generator runtime, or in some cases utility data, will be useful in evaluating the extent of grid availability.
Administrators and technicians should have a good idea of how frequently and for how long, power outages occur. In
some cases, power is supplied on a schedule, meaning that grid loss is frequent and predictable.
Assessing voltage variation requires on-site measurement. Grid power entering the facility should be recorded over a
period of at least a couple of hours, with longer measurement times providing greater confidence in the assessments
conclusions. A data logger is hooked up to the laboratory circuit in order to capture current, power demand and
voltage across all three phases.
Logged data can then be analyzed using computer software or spreadsheets. In this analysis, voltage within each
phase, and between phases, is compared to identify over-voltage, under-voltage or other variations. Voltage data will
yield minimum, maximum and average values for each phase; these values should not vary more than 2% for any
one phase, or between phases.

Battery Considerations
UPSs transfer to battery mode when power is lost or a voltage set point is crossed, selecting a UPS that is
appropriate to the grid power conditions at the facility therefore important. If data logging shows frequent voltage
swings a UPS should be chosen that has some form of automatic voltage regulation, such as a double conversion
unit or many line-interactive units, otherwise the UPS will frequently switch to battery power, lowering its lifespan.
Depth of discharge is difficult to control, as the UPS will operate in battery mode until grid or generator power is
restored. This too, however, can be managed by correctly sizing the UPS and selecting an appropriate runtime
capacity. Reducing the load on the UPS will increase runtime, lowering the depth of discharge on the battery over
short periods. This can also be accomplished by adding external battery packs. The required runtime should be
determined based on the typical length of grid or generator power loss.


Like a battery bank or any other energy system, the process for sizing a UPS system begins with a calculation of the
supported load. In the case of UPS systems, the supported load may be a single piece of equipment, several pieces
of related equipment or one or more electrical circuits. UPS units are usually classified by their output capacity range
in volt-amperes (VA )(e.g. 350VA 750VA, 10kVA 40kVA). Therefore, loads should be measured or calculated
based on nameplate data in kVA (Volts x Amperes).
A UPS with a capacity range that covers the supported load should be selected, with some greater capacity if
additional loads are expected in the future. It is also common to oversize a slightly oversize a UPS system just to
ensure enough capacity for all connected loads; a general rule of thumb when oversizing is to add an additional 10%
of the load to the system capacity.
Another important consideration regarding UPS system size is the effect on the facility power load. UPS systems
have power consumption beyond that of their connected loads. Due to inefficiencies in power conversion and battery
charging, UPSs will add to the overall system load. The exact efficiency of any given system will vary depending on
its type, quality and features. Double conversion systems have the lowest efficiency because of losses from the
double conversion process.
It is worth considering efficiency when comparing UPS systems, but battery charging is generally not included in
reported operating efficiencies. Charging efficiency will play a greater or lesser role depending on the frequency of
battery use. As a general rule of thumb, expect a conservative 20% increase in power load due to the UPS (10).

System Selection
In addition to the three main types of unitary UPS system (standby, line-interactive and double conversion), much of
the related equipment referenced above can be integrated into systems that are also able to address power quality
and backup power needs. Inverters, battery banks, voltage regulators and even inertia wheels may make up the
components of a cost-effective UPS solution that does not rely on a pre-packaged unit. General characteristics of
those options are outlined in the following table.


Double conversion

Battery/inverter system


Flywheel UPS

Cost (US$/VA)

0.18 - 1.10

1.40 - 2.40 (per W)

0.07 - 0.50

1.60 - 3.50

Capacity (kVA)

0.4 - 20+

1.3 - 2.2 (scalable)

1 - 2,000

10 -10,000

Normal mode

85% - 97%

90% - 93%

98% - 99%

97% - 99%

Backup time

minutes - hours (with

battery expansion)

hours - days

no backup

less than 1.5



US$ 500 per year and

battery replacement
every 5 - 10 years

US$ 300 per year and battery

replacement every 5 - 8 years


10 year

20 years with maintenance and

15 years
battery replacement

24 years

Typical power

Surges, Noise, Voltage,

Harmonics, Frequency

Surges, Noise, Voltage,

Harmonics, Frequency (in nocontact configuration)

Surges, Noise,
Voltage, Harmonics,



US$ 500 per year


These devices are all viable alternatives to addressing the power supply needs of a health facility and each has
power conditioning capabilities. Determining which solution will be most cost effective in the long term depends
largely on the backup power requirements, total system size and maintenance competencies of the facility.
Ultimately, selection of the most appropriate type of UPS system must account for all of the factors discussed above:
load characteristics, power quality issues, system size and battery runtime. If little or no backup capacity is
necessary and high quality clean power is not essential line-interactive UPS or even an automatic voltage regulator
are relatively low-cost options. These devices compliment backup generators to protect loads from voltage swells,
sags or transients.
In the case of sensitive laboratory, medical or computer equipment, a double conversion system is essential. While
these systems are more expensive and less efficient than standby or line-interactive systems, their ability to protect
sensitive equipment from damage is unmatched. For large loads, flywheels may be available as an alternative to
battery backup in a double conversion UPS. Flywheels are generally more reliable and easier to maintain than
batteries, but with less backup time.
Packaged UPS systems, however, are not a true backup power solution; they provide power for brief gaps in grid or
generator power supply, typically no more than 30 minutes. If primary power supply is infrequent or unreliable, a
battery bank may be a practical option to supply backup power for long periods. Packaged UPS systems can often
be coupled with expansion battery packs to increase system runtime, but a battery banks have greater scalability and
can provide equal protection.
Further consideration needs to be given to the size and number of UPS systems used. A single, hardwired UPS is
able to provide clean power to any number of laboratory devices; the same results, however, could be accomplished
by several smaller, outlet-connected units. While a single, large UPS provides simplicity, it is also likely to be more
costly to procure and install and will leave loads unprotected if out of service. Multiple, smaller systems provide
redundancy and scalability but can clutter laboratory space and may complicate monitoring and maintenance.


UPS systems often have internal, sealed batteries that must be replaced over time. (Photo: Hundehalter, available
under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license.)
The maintenance required for UPS systems is generally low. Battery health is the greatest concern in ensuring the
overall effectiveness of a UPS system. Confidence in the UPSs ability to provide necessary runtime therefore
depends on good battery maintenance. Maintaining UPS batteries entails periodic cleaning and testing as well as
proper replacement at the batterys end of life.
Most UPS systems use low maintenance, sealed lead-acid batteries. These batteries require simple types of
preventative maintenance such as confirming that terminal connections are tight and removing corrosion.
It is also important to check battery health from time to time to ensure that sufficient capacity is available to backup
loads. UPS systems connected to monitoring software continuously track information on the state of charge and
other parameters indicating battery health and performance. Smaller UPS systems typically provide a test button,
that when pressed will perform a deep-discharge/recharge of the battery as a matter of routine maintenance.
UPS batteries, like most lead-acid batteries, have a life of about 3-5 years. Actual battery life depends greatly on
operating and environmental conditions like the frequency and depth of discharge and the ambient temperature.
These factors can be managed through proper sizing and UPS selection, which is discussed in greater detail under
UPS selection.

UPS Standards
International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC)




IEC 62040-1: Uninterruptible power systems (UPS) - Part 1: General and safety requirements for UPS Uninterruptible
Power Supplies


IEC 62040-2: Uninterruptible power systems (UPS) - Part 2: Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) requirements
Uninterruptible Power Supplies


IEC 62040-3: Uninterruptible power systems (UPS) - Part 3: Method of specifying the performance and test
requirements Uninterruptible Power Supplies

Underwriters Laboratory (UL)




UL 60601-1: Medical Electrical Equipment, Part 1: General Requirements for Safety Medical Equipment


UL 1778: Uninterruptible power systems (UPS) Uninterruptible Power Supplies