Upon diagnosis of a medical condition, it’s not unusual for a patient to be presented with multiple treatment options. The same approach applies to deploying uninterruptible power systems (UPSs) within today’s health care applications. Whether safeguarding equipment in a clinical laboratory, imaging room or other medical facility, one of the most critical factors is choosing between a centralized or decentralized UPS solution.

First and foremost, take into consideration the recommendation of the manufacturer of the medical instrument being protected. Similarly, if the medical devices being protected have a designation of patient-vicinity or patient-connected, make sure the attached UPS includes appropriate approvals for medical systems (UL 60601-1). Beyond this prerequisite, consider these guidelines to help determine the best Rx for protecting your health care environment:

Centralized UPS vs decentralized UPS: What’s the difference?

With a centralized UPS, one large unit is capable of protecting various loads. Conversely, in a decentralized installation — also referred to as a distributed system — individual UPSs deliver backup to specific devices locally. Advantages of a centralized UPS include being able to isolate all maintenance, repair, replacement and security to a single point, as well as higher efficiency, bolstered reliability, and improved visibility and security.  Decentralized solutions offer their own range of benefits, including lower initial costs, simpler maintenance, and more flexibility for moves, adds and changes.

Putting the two UPS options under the microscope

When determining the optimal power protection for your health care environment, it’s important to weigh the following considerations:

Cost — Decentralized UPSs require lower capital outlay and installation costs than their centralized counterparts. While centralized UPSs generally yield a better return on investment due to their higher efficiency rating, they may also require approval as a capital expense.

Reliability — Centralized units are typically more reliable than their decentralized counterparts, with many offering N+1 parallel redundancy. However, not all centralized UPSs provide immunization against single point-of-failure.

Flexibility — As power requirements increase within medical environments, it’s beneficial to have a UPS solution capable of accommodating these changes. Many centralized UPSs offer simple, cost-effective scalability through additional power modules. Decentralized systems require purchasing additional UPSs to support additional capacity or reliability demands; however, they can be easily moved or relocated to new facilities. If you have no idea how much your company will grow and don’t want to get locked into a particular UPS, decentralized UPSs provide more flexibility.

Space — Space can be either an advantage or disadvantage for both types of UPS, depending on the environment. A centralized set-up might require a separate room or location to house the larger UPS and its batteries, while decentralized systems need some amount of space beside the equipment or within the rack where each UPS will be placed.

Wiring — Decentralized UPS generally don’t need any rewiring since they afford easy plug and play installation using existing wall sockets. These UPSs can also be redeployed easily if IT systems are moved. For a centralized UPS, an electrician is required.

Service — If you don’t want to monitor, manage and service multiple units, a centralized solution may work best for you. However, another consideration is to engage with a third-party service provider, who has access to specialized software and can oversee all maintenance tasks for you. A decentralized design tends to require more time and focus to keep up with replacing batteries and maintaining multiple UPSs, which can also increase costs.

It’s important to keep in mind that the two UPS strategies aren’t mutually exclusive. Many medical facilities rely on a combination of UPSs to properly safeguard the environment. For example, an overall hospital might be protected by a large, centralized UPS, while an imaging area, lab or other specific department within the facility may rely on decentralized UPSs to provide redundant protection or extended runtime for specific equipment.

If your uninterruptible power supply is in need of a check up, the team at Intelligent Power Solutions are ready to help!

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