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Battery Design Life vs. Battery Service Life

Gregory Ratcliff •

A common misunderstanding of data center managers is the distinction between battery design life and battery service life,a confusion that can cause costly mistakes. It is imperative that data center managers understand the difference in order to avoid unplanned downtime.

Battery design life is determined by the manufacturer and takes into account cell design and battery aging under controlled conditions in the manufacturer’s lab. Only considering battery design life or the manufacturer’s warranty often results in batteries being set up and then ignored for years without preventive maintenance or testing throughout their life cycle. Such neglect can result in battery failure because in reality, when supporting the UPS, batteries fail in less than half the time stipulated by the manufacturer design life. The failure occurs due to a variety of issues including incoming power faults resulting in uninterruptible power supply (UPS) engagement, manufacturing defects, high or improper room temperatures, excessive charge current, overcharging and over cycling, loose connections, and strained battery terminals. 

Battery service life considers how application, installation, real-world operating conditions and maintenance practices impact battery aging. Failure to understand the difference between design life and service life can lead to improper battery maintenance and less than optimal battery performance. Other likely scenarios when not implementing proper UPS battery maintenance include unplanned downtime, extended business interruption, and failure of the backup system in the event of an outage. Vertiv's research on critical infrastructure reveals that battery failure has a direct correlation to almost 37 percent of down UPS units. Failure of the UPS is the third most expensive cost at an average of $678,000 per downtime event. In order to protect critical infrastructure, data center managers need to fully understand the link between battery life expectancy and system failure. The investment to properly maintain the UPS and its batteries is worth the peace of mind sought by many managers and is almost always less costly than what an organization would incur during lengthy, unplanned downtime.

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