A UPS battery is a bit like your car's battery - it can't run forever without proper servicing. Over time, through normal use, UPS batteries lose capacity and the ability to hold a charge. Knowing when to swap in fresh batteries is critical to ensure your UPS keeps your electrical systems protected during power disruptions – and indeed that you can remain as economical as possible without swapping batteries too early, or too late.
Being attentive and responsive to signs of battery decline will give you the best odds of avoiding an unexpected UPS system failure at the worst possible moment.
Read on and we’ll tell you everything you need to know about identifying when your UPS batteries are on the decline…
Unlike Superman, UPS batteries aren't invincible or indefinite power sources. Environmental factors, usage patterns, charge cycles, and simple age all drain batteries over time. Think of them as having an internal "lifetime charge metre" that ticks down as you use the UPS. Once depleted, backup time gradually decreases as batteries lose capacity and voltage output weakens. However, with vigilance and preventive maintenance, batteries can be replaced before total failure occurs.
Keep an eye on your UPS's remaining runtime during outages - if it drops well below the original spec, that's a red flag. For example, you might notice that UPS used to provide 45 minutes of power, but now only lasts 20 minutes. This decreased capacity likely indicates worn batteries.
Don't let short runtimes take you by surprise if the power goes out - monitor capacity regularly and stay firmly on the ball.
Most UPS systems have self-diagnostic capabilities that warn about declining battery health through alarms or notifications. Don't ignore these early warnings - they exist for a reason. Catching issues early gives you lead time to order and install replacements. Once you start getting multiple alerts about "weak battery" or "replace battery soon," it's time to take action. Allowing batteries to continue degrading to the point of failure after warnings is asking for trouble.
Occasionally peek inside your UPS and visually inspect the batteries for obvious damage. Cracked cases, corrosive leaks, odd smells, and swollen batteries are glaring indicators that replacement is required.
Leaking batteries can also be a major safety hazard if flammable electrolytes escape. Never delay replacement once the batteries physically show exterior wear and tear. It's not worth the risk of in-use failure.
In the same breath, leaving faulty batteries unattended for too long can cause irreparable damage to the UPS system itself. This means that rather than simply replacing the battery, you’ll need a whole new system as well.
Be mindful and watch out for the early warning signs!
Most UPS batteries last 3-5 years, or around 250-500 complete discharge/recharge cycles before needing replacement. If your current batteries are nearing or exceeding that age/cycle range, proactive replacement is wise even if the system seems to be operating normally. Think of it like changing the oil in your car every 3,000 miles - don't wait until something breaks to take action. Scheduling early battery replacement based on average lifespan metrics can prevent future scrambles during sudden failures.
If your UPS software or connected power management software allows voltage monitoring, utilise it to keep tabs on your battery's performance. Look for unstable, wavering voltage readings or values dipping outside the expected range under load. Much like checking your car's tire pressure, tracking voltage gives insight into battery strength. Declining voltage often precedes catastrophic battery failure.
Does it take way longer for your UPS to recharge to 100% after an outage or battery test? Extended recharge times indicate ageing batteries are having trouble bouncing back and can't hold a maximum charge for as long. If you notice significantly prolonged recharge durations, that's a reliable predictor that replacement time has arrived.
Don't ignore delays and chalk it up to being normal - investigate promptly and take the appropriate action.
If your UPS inexplicably powers down during an outage when the batteries should still have ample runtime remaining, that points to internal battery failure. You may also experience premature shutdowns during periodic self-tests.
Sudden unexplained power loss should prompt immediate battery replacement, not troubleshooting - clearly, the batteries can no longer sustain the required loads.
Routinely performing battery runtime tests exposes weakened batteries that may not yet exhibit obvious outward signs of decline. Failed tests, where the UPS can't provide expected runtimes or experiences voltage drops under controlled loads, are sure-fire indicators that it's time for a battery change.
Don't second guess bad test results - heed the red flags.
Don't get caught off guard by preventable battery failure. Pay attention to signs like reduced runtimes, charging delays, voltage dips, alarms, and failed self-tests. Schedule periodic maintenance and record battery performance data. With proactive monitoring and timely replacement, your UPS can continue providing reliable backup power for years to come.
Power protection depends on awareness and preventive care. Don't wait for the batteries to die unexpectedly - be prepared and take pre-emptive action today!
If you feel a little out of your depth or would prefer to outsource these maintenance requirements to professionals rather than handle them in-house, UPS Solutions will be delighted to accommodate your needs.