Evaluating emergency power supply options

Paul Kirvan

What should I consider when evaluating emergency power supply options? For example, how do I choose between a gas-powered generator versus a battery-powered emergency power supply?

Before evaluating emergency power systems, first determine your power requirements in a disaster situation. Assuming normal power requirements are known and quantified, the next step is to determine the emergency power requirements.

Identify the minimum configuration of systems and office equipment in a disaster mode. Next, work with the facilities department to determine power requirements for HVAC, office lighting, laptops, security systems, network equipment and other office devices. Once your emergency power supply needs are quantified, begin researching emergency power options. Two primary selection criteria are the amount of power needed and the maximum amount of time that emergency power will be needed.

A larger, free-standing generator (e.g., diesel, propane or natural gas) will provide sufficient power for extended periods of time but will need external fuel supplies, frequent testing and proper connections into the existing power infrastructure.

Batteries and motor generators provide higher levels of power but for a limited amount of time. Lower-cost uninterruptible power systems include a rechargeable battery and provide power to a variety of loads. These are popular with servers, network equipment and even laptops, based on power requirements. The availability of emergency power is limited compared with larger fuel-based systems, but may be sufficient to protect critical systems by supporting a graceful power-down activity.

Make your selection based on cost, power requirement and the length of time that backup power will be needed. The greater the amount of power and the time power will be needed, the greater the likelihood that free-standing, fuel-based systems will be used.

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