Backup Power: Don’t Be Left in the Dark

No matter what part of the country you live in, the possibility exists of being faced with a natural disaster. This winter saw a large number of ice storms in the northern United States; the Midwest contends with tornadoes and floods; the South is plagued by hurricanes; and wildfires and earthquakes are routine in the West. Along with natural disasters come long periods of power outages and the increased burden of extended alarm performance.

Ironically, the likelihood of increased criminal activity is greater during natural disasters as well. The question to professional security providers is: “Have you offered and provided your customer the best protection possible, even during periods of extended power outages?”

This month we are going to look at some of the new and old backup power obstacles facing today’s alarm contractors, integrators and end users.

Estimating Backup Power

The good news is, as in the past, the method to calculate the amount of backup DC power is pretty straightforward. There are two ways to do this.

Upfront, you can take an inventory of all the electrical loads (amps) in an alarm circuit in both the standby and alarm state. Then estimate how long you want the power to support the system during a power outage. You would then typically add 20-50 percent to the amp-hour capacity of the battery.

Yes, up to 50-percent extra capacity may be needed. Remember, the “battery-end-of-life” of a sealed lead acid (SLA) power cell may be between 50-80 percent of capacity at the end of its life (typically three to five years).

As an afterthought and/or a way to confirm the above, you can also place an amp meter inline with your backup battery, turn off the AC power, and read the load on the battery in both the standby and alarm mode. This provides a way to confirm the predicted backup power status.

There are many online resources and documentation to help with these power backup predictions for your customers. Alarm power supply manufacturers such as Honeywell Power Products, Altronix and AlarmSaf have some pretty nifty calculator programs that will help create and document a power profile of the alarm system for your customer (see diagram).

Power of Upselling Extra Power

To make my next point, I would like to tell you about my recent new car purchase. While I got it at a good price, it was the upsell sales tactics of the auto dealer that really caught my attention.

Given these tough and competitive times, it was very obvious that extra emphasis was placed on getting me to spend more money by enticing me with various options. A few of them actually matched my needs. The bottom line here is that the dealer politely made me aware of these extras and I benefited from a few selections.

This got me to thinking of how often security dealers have similar sales opportunities but are not prepared to take advantage of them. They fail to present extra offerings to their customers and miss out on an easy way to boost their bottom line. One of these upsell offerings is extended backup power coverage. This could also include annual maintenance, which would include a battery checkup.

Keeping IP Devices Powered Up

A security technology trend that catches my attention on a daily basis is the industry movement, or reaction, to IP communications. The security industry is doing its best to catch up and provide alarm communications via VoIP, TCP/IP and cellular connectivity. Truth is devices such as routers, VoIP converters and cell phones are now part of the alarm system and need to be considered in the battery backup power scheme.

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