An unexpected power breakdown can prove to be a great hassle. It can disturb your routine activities and can create a stressful situation.
Our lives have become such that even the most basic of household tasks like cooking, cleaning, washing etc... require electricity to complete in an efficient manner.
Work is not the only aspect which is hampered by an electricity breakdown. Many of our entertainment sources like TVs, gaming consoles, music system etc. are also dependent on electric power.
Moreover, in places where frequent power outages have become a norm, similar problems are encountered as well. As a result, standby or backup power becomes a necessity.
In the context of South Africa, the power situation has been challenging for a while. Households often face unexpected power failures which can create disruptions in the daily routine.
Many household tasks and activities are disturbed as highlighted above. People can face psychological issues as well due to the stress created by power failures. Late night power outages can cause interruptions in sleep.
As a result, the person wakes up in an irritable mood and is not in the mental condition to work at their optimal level.
This also increases the likelihood of rash driving and road rage. In more recent times, with work from home becoming more common due to COVID-19, the inability to charge laptops or loss of power for Wi-Fi routers adds to the challenges created by load shedding.
It is therefore fair to say that there are severe adverse effects on the society as a whole. Just like the general population, the industrial sector is not impervious to the effects of power outages. Without power from the grid, industries need to rely on generators to keep their operations running.
This increases the cost of production and lowers their profits. In some cases, supporting production facilities on generator power is not sustainable for longer durations. As a result, there are halts in work which ultimately makes it difficult to meet production targets.
This can lead to financial losses and strained business ties if the orders are not delivered on time. On a national scale, the exports of the country take a downward turn as well since it becomes harder to stay competitive in the international market.
Therefore, the entire economy of South Africa suffers due to this power crisis. Eskom, the main power supplier in South Africa, has been batting hard to deal with the shortfall. They were able to provide some relief to the users during lockdowns.
Now, with normal activities gradually resuming, the power generation capacity is under stress once again and loadshedding has resumed. One reason for Eskom’s struggle is their aging coal power generation units. A sizable investment is needed to renovate or replace them.
Given the circumstances, Battery Power Zone, being a professional supplier of batteries in South Africa, recognises the significance of backup and standup power. In this situation, battery powered UPS systems are the best option for household use.
To highlight this point further, different backup/alternate power options would be explored along with understanding the role of batteries within the UPS power system. After establishing the UPS power system as the preferred choice, different types of UPS systems would be explained as well.
Options for Backup Power
There are different options to choose from when it comes to setting up a backup power system. Some possibilities are listed below:
This is a popular option for places which are in far-flung areas away from urban centers. A generator makes use of a fuel like petrol, diesel, and natural gas to produce electricity. They are available in different sizes and power ratings.
There are smaller generators which are portable in nature and can be taken around to different locations with relative ease. On the other hand, there are larger fixed generators. They are commonly used for commercial purposes due to their larger power generation capacity.
Since they are fixed, there is no risk of theft either which is common with portable generators. Given their larger size, fixed generators are normally more expensive when compared to portable generators.
While generators have their benefits, they are not without their drawbacks. Generator’s are noisy, which creates noise pollution which may prove to be a nuisance for the people nearby.
Fuel can be expensive and, in some cases, difficult to arrange especially if there is no fuel station nearby regular servicing is a prerequisite in maintaining the performance and life of a generator and is an inherent cost often not included in the total cost of ownership.
Because of these reasons, while a generator is a viable and rugged option, it is not always the most convenient one.
More of an alternate solution than a backup solution, solar power is becoming an increasingly popular option. It is being pitched as a green and eco-friendly option for our power needs.
A basic solar power system involves solar panels, a battery, and an inverter. The inverter is responsible for making the switch from the mains power supply to the battery power. It also facilitates in the charging of battery via the solar panels possibly through a charge controller circuit.
If a larger investment for creation of a battery bank and installation of a large array of solar panels is possible then solar could serve as an off-grid solution as well. The solar solution has its benefits and is fast becoming a very viable option in electricity generation.
Solar panels have become a lot less expensive and may be used in both grid tied and off grid applications. There is some degree of maintenance required in cleaning the panels.
Housing of the panels whether by roof mount of ground array is a consideration with regards to available space. Moreover, weather conditions and sunlight availability are considerations dependent on the geographical locations.
Many feel that the UPS is the most convenient option for users when it comes to standby power. It involves a charging circuit, an inverter, and a battery. In times of regular power supply from the mains, it charges the battery. In the event of a power outage, it shifts to the battery and provides backup power.
There are different kinds of UPS available. Their details would be covered in the upcoming sections along with the types of the batteries which can be used within them. The usage of UPS can vary in different conditions.
They can be used to provide a backup of few minutes for a computer so that it can be shutdown properly without the risk of any data loss.
Generally, the more common use of UPS is in a residential environment where it provides a few hours of backup for some essential electrical appliances like cellphones and lights.
The UPS is a scalable solution which means you can find one which fits your requirements and budget constraints.
That is why BPZ suggests that the use of a battery in a UPS system in a time where South Africa is still experiencing unpredictable power outages is still the most cost-effective option.
There are different batteries available for each price range. With proper care and maintenance, they can perform their role of a backup power storage effectively for an extended amount of time.
Options for Batteries for a UPS system
There are different battery types available in the market which offer their own benefits and drawbacks. One key thing to consider is the fact that the battery needs to fall in the deep cycle classification.
This is because the role of a battery in a UPS system is to store the power and then deliver it in stable form to the connected loads during a power outage.
The key defining trait of deep cycle battery is that it can provide a stable current for longer durations, and it also has deeper depth of discharge which means it can withstand frequent charge/discharge cycles without any permanent damage to the battery itself. Some popular options are listed below:
- Wet Lead acid battery – It is the most popular option in terms of battery types because it is the cheapest and is available readily across the market. The trade-off for its lower price is the need for regular maintenance and shorter lifespan. That being said, it can get the job done for most household users.
- VRLA Lead Acid AGM battery – VRLA battery is also known as sealed or maintenance-free battery. It has less maintenance requirements as its cells are sealed and do not require top-up of electrolyte fluid. Once the battery reaches the end of its life, it can simply be replaced with a different battery. The price is higher than the conventional lead acid battery due to the added convenience it offers for the consumers.
- GEL Lead Acid battery – is a very wise choice in inverter backup systems, especially in the cheaper plug and play systems. Most of the cheaper plug and play type of systems out of China are generally set up to recharge GEL batteries.
- Lithium-ion battery – They are considered as the most viable among the more modern types of batteries. They are still quite expensive because of its manufacturing costs but offer various benefits against the investment. They are lightweight and portable while having a much larger energy density and longer lifespan. It may not fall under everyone’s budget, but they are certainly a great option.
Types of UPS systems
After looking at the types of batteries, it is also important to understand the different types of UPS systems available in the market. If one wishes to make an informed decision as a consumer then BPZ should be the first option for purchasing a UPS system.
The dedicated and friendly team at BPZ can guide the buyer and ensure that they get a UPS system which meets their requirements.
As a result, using the information provided by the BPZ team, one can purchase the ideal backup or standby power solution for their home or office. For the sake of providing an overview, here are some of the common UPS power systems that you would find in the market:
The standby UPS is the more common type of UPS in terms of residential use. It is called a standby UPS because it does not supply current continuously which means that it remains in off-state when power from the mains is available.
In the event of power outage, it shifts to the backup power through a switching mechanism. There is a slight delay of around 5 milliseconds during the switching process. While most household electronics are not affected by this fluctuation, it can damage more sensitive electronics.
The benefit for this trade-off is that the UPS remains cool since there is no current flowing through it continuously. As a result, lesser heat sinks are required to maintain the temperature of the system.
Online Double Conversion UPS
As opposed to standby UPS, the online double conversion UPS supplies current regularly and it has no switching delay. As a result, it is suitable for more sensitive electronics as well due to a seamless transition from main to backup power.
The fluctuations are minimised further through double conversion. Sometimes the AC power coming from mains experiences variations which can again prove to be harmful for some components.
The effect of those fluctuations is negated by converting the mains AC power into DC and then back to AC so that the electrical loads are isolated from the adverse effects. Since current flows continuously through the UPS system, it tends to heat up, so it needs more heat sinks.
Generally, the online double conversion UPS is more expensive when compared to its standby counterpart.
It is very important when choosing a UPS / Inverter System that the onboard battery charger has the correct charging algorithms to properly recharge the battery technology in use.
There is a significant difference in charging wet acid, AGM, GEL, and Lithium Batteries. Incorrect charging will definitely lead to the early demise of a battery.