Maintaining Security When Power Fails

With security systems now running on enterprise network backbones, power protection is becoming critical for both integrators and end users. Helping clients develop solid power backup and disaster preparedness plans deepens the customer relationship and brings additional revenue opportunities.

OBJECTION: My building is backed up by a generator.

RESPONSE: Generators produce dirty power, especially during start-up, and can prevent systems that require a clean signal from operating properly. Another consideration is that many building generators only support emergency lighting and fire alarm systems. In addition, a generator can be a single point of failure. A better solution is to use a generator along with a UPS, so the single point of failure is eliminated.

OBJECTION: I currently use surge strips, so I’m protected.

RESPONSE: Surges and spikes represent only 7 percent of power problems and they provide NO protection during brownouts and blackouts. On the other hand, a UPS provides total protection from all power anomalies and is recommended for all critical devices.

OBJECTION: It’ll never happen to me.

RESPONSE: According to J.D. Power, the average business has 28 potentially damaging power issues per year. Everyone has experienced blackouts and brownouts, and history tells us they will happen again. No business is immune from power problems.

OBJECTION: We have not budgeted for it.

RESPONSE: The need for power protection must be addressed as a key part of any installation and the dealer should make power protection standard in any quote. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, when a power failure happens 33 percent of companies lose $20,000-$500,000; 20 percent lose $500,000 to $2 million; and 15 percent lose more than $2 million. Simply put, the cost of power protection is far less than one damaging power event.

What Type of Protection Is Best?

Surge suppressors are a must for all noncritical peripheral equipment since frequent surges and spikes are a problem for much of the U.S. Even small up-ticks in voltage can tremendously shorten the life of electronic equipment, and larger events can lead to catastrophic failure without proper protection.

The important points to consider when purchasing surge products are straightforward. Look for a trusted name, UL certification, the highest joule rating for the budget and a solid connected equipment warranty.

For more critical security system components, the backup power of a UPS is the most cost-effective answer, and there are three types to choose from:

Standby, or offline, UPSs — These devices represent the lowest cost option. They feature surge protection and backup power by way of fairly simple circuitry, and simply pass utility power through until a power problem occurs. When a problem does occur, they switch to the battery to supply clean power.

Line interactive UPSs — These represent the ‘better’ option. The most notable difference of these models is automatic voltage regulation (AVR), which will boost power when voltage dips (brownout), and ‘buck’ power when a surge occurs. This type of UPS also conditions the power, removing electronic ‘noise’ that can shorten the life of equipment and c
ause application errors, and even loss of data. AVR-equipped units also offer longer battery life as the batteries are only accessed when power loss occurs.

True online UPSs — This final and ‘best’ solution provides the highest quality power protection through double-conversion of utility power. Incoming AC utility power is converted to DC power, and simultaneously conditioned to eliminate noise and other problems. It is then converted back to AC power before exiting the UPS, and provides true uninterrupted power with no battery transfer time when an outage occurs.

Selecting the Right Solution

Just like anything else in this world, you get what you pay for in terms of power protection. Determining the proper UPS solution depends mostly on how mission critical the attached devices are to the overall security system.

Getting the right solution is vital. While selecting the proper UPS type is important, proper sizing of the unit is also essential. Sizes are given in both volt amps and watts, which measure the unit’s capacity and determine the amount of runtime the system will provide for a given amount of electrical load.

Most manufacturers provide guides on their Web sites to make the selection process simple for dealers. One such site is www.sizemyups.com where a wide variety of security equipment is listed for easy sizing and system configuration.

An interesting trend for businesses is the need for longer battery backup times. A Frost and Sullivan survey of SMB IT managers shows 75 percent say they would like at least one hour of battery backup time for their security system. A total of 55 percent want at least two hours; 44 percent four hours.

Extended runtime UPSs offer the option of adding additional battery packs to get much longer backup time. These external battery packs can be daisy-chained to obtain several hours of runtime if this is a customer requirement. There is a definite trend in the security market for dealers to offer this long runtime option, and perhaps surprisingly long runtimes can be achieved at a cost-effective price. 

This is another option dealers should consider when putting together a protection plan.

Bill Allen is Director of Marketing for Carrollton, Texas-based Para Systems Inc../Minuteman Power Technologies.

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