The first in a three-part series.

Think an uninterruptible power system (UPS) is needed only to keep operations up and running during a blackout? Think again. While it’s true that UPSs are vital to ensure continuous uptime when the lights go out, they also safeguard systems and data against a wide variety of additional — and often unseen — threats.

In fact, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has identified nine common power problems that can wreak havoc with sensitive electronic equipment such as medical instrumentation. Unless this equipment is shielded by a high-quality UPS that includes a built-in isolation transformer for power conditioning, your organization will remain susceptible to the 3 D’s: degradation, disruption and destruction. In this three-part blog series, we will examine the nine most prevalent power issues, beginning with the following trio of nuisances:

1. Power failure — Also referred to as a blackout or an outage, a power failure is characterized as a total loss of utility power. Power failures can result from wide array of sources, including wild weather, curious critters, vehicle accidents, aging infrastructure, human error, wildfires and grid overdemand conditions. The prevalence of outages is alarming; in 2017 alone, the Blackout Tracker registered 3,526 outages nationwide, affecting 36.7 million people for a collective 197 days!

When a power failure strikes a business, the recovery time is significant and the costs are high. In a medical facility, for example, consider the hours lost recalibrating instrumentation; delays in receiving patient results; and often days attempting to recover lost or corrupt data. Price Waterhouse research determined that after a blackout disrupts systems, more than 33 percent of companies take more than a day to recover, and 10 percent require more than a week. Meanwhile, a recent ITIC study calculated the price tag for one hour of unplanned downtime at $100,000.

2. Power sag — This sudden drop in the normal voltage level is often triggered by the startup of large loads, utility switching, faults on the transmission or distribution network, or the connection of heavy loads. In addition to causing serious equipment malfunctions and crashes, sags can significantly damage hardware.

3. Power surge — Defined as a short-term high voltage above 110% of nominal, these very fast voltage variations are most often sparked by lightning, line or capacitor switching, or the disconnection of heavy loads. Surges destroy electronic components and lead to data processing errors, data loss, equipment damage and electromagnetic interference. Before your curse the utility company, know that up to 80 percent of power surges occur on the customer side of the electric meter. When high-powered electrical devices within your own facility — such as elevators, air conditioners, refrigerators, pumps, medical instruments, compressors and motors — are switched on and off, or operate in cycles, they can generate internal surges.

Beware the 3 D’s

Even though many sags and surges are slight, and much of today’s equipment supports a wide voltage range, high-quality UPS protection remains essential. That’s because these anomalies are frequently accompanied by yet another power demon: high frequency line noise. Unless equipment is shielded by a UPS that includes a built-in isolation transformer, your organization will remain susceptible to an ongoing threat of degradation, disruption and destruction.

In our next blog, we will assess the problem of line noise in greater detail, as well as cover two additional power culprits, undervoltage and overvoltage.

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