There are many reasons to upgrade an existing uninterruptible power supply to a new system. As well as financial incentives like the Carbon Trust’s Enhanced Capital Allowances (ECA) scheme, new uninterruptible power supplies offer improved operating efficiencies, more compact footprints, improved remote monitoring capabilities, new batteries and off course a new UPS manufacturer’s warranty.
The approach to UPS removals (or UPS relocations) is very similar to the site survey for a new installation. We generally operate a generic Risk Assessment and Method Statement (RAMS) for UPS removals and recycling with site specific Health & Safety and Environmental assessments generated as required. When asked to carry out a site survey for a UPS removal the first thing to consider is the existing critical power path to mission critical loads and how safely the existing uninterruptible power supply can be removed from the circuit. If there is an existing external maintenance bypass in situ then we can guarantee safe removal of the uninterruptible power supply without disruption to the load. If there is no bypass or the bypass is internal to the existing device then downtime is inevitable and permits may have to be applied from IT for a power down. Even if there is an existing maintenance bypass, depending on its age it may still be worth replacing the maintenance bypass as well depending on its age and the environment.
The next issue to consider is safe isolation of the UPS and any associated battery packs. The battery packs themselves may be internal to the system or housed externally in cabinets, racks or battery stands. The capacitors inside the UPS will discharge quickly once the main AC power source is disconnected and the uninterruptible power system will therefore now store energy. This is not the case with batteries. When disconnected from the main uninterruptible power supply, the battery pack may still contain a DC charge. This stored energy could be discharged unless the batteries have a DC isolator to protect anyone working on the battery set. The isolator is important whether we are removing the battery pack as a complete package or need to break down the battery set into its individual block components.
Logistics is the final point to consider in the UPS removals process. Here we are looking at the weight and size of the uninterruptible power supply. It is a reverse of the original delivery. Can we remove the system from site as a package or do we need to break it down into its individual assemblies – UPS, battery cabinets etc. Whilst battery packs can be broken down, this approach may not be possible with an uninterruptible power supply. In addition, many clients are upgrading from traditional transformer-based UPS to more energy efficient and eco-friendly transformerless systems. The heavier the existing UPS module itself, the more the need for logistics planning with consideration given to trolleys, stair walkers, fork-lift and other lifting arrangements such as a Hiab to get the entire system onto a wagon for removal.
The weight and size of the UPS system governs whether we opt to have the UPS and batteries collected from site by our UPS recycling team as individual components or transport the entire system to our recycling centre. For very large systems we may have battery bins delivered to site which are collected by our battery recycling company.
Once we receive a system back at our facilities, it is inspected by our UPS recycling team. They will already have access to the site survey and removal project notes and will take into account any specific Health & Safety issues. Once inspected the entire uninterruptible power supply is broken down into its individual assemblies. Any components including metals, wires and batteries that can be safely recycled are sent to our recycling partners. Others are safely disposed off again through a fully documented system.
A UPS system can typically be 80% recycled with the appropriate planning and recycling systems in place. Some aspects can be particularly challenging including the recycling of batteries that can contain corrosive electrolytes (hydro-chloric acid which can be dilute or strong) and lead plates. Valve Regulated Lead Acid (VRLA) batteries are the most commonly used in UPS Systems. When recycling these batteries the following practices are most commonly adopted.
- The plastic cases and covers are cleaned and crushed to form plastic pellets. The pellets can then be turned into new battery plastic cases and covers.
- The lead plates and electrodes are extracted, cleaned and melted into new lead ingots. These can be turned into new lead plates and grids. Lead oxide recovered can also be used in new batteries.
- There are two options for the electrolyte. Sodium sulfate crystals can be separated from the electrolytic solution (dilute sulfuric acid) and is recycled for use in textiles, glass and detergent manufacturing. Alternatively the electrolyte can be reclaimed and reused in manufacturing new batteries or it is neutralized and disposed of according the government guidelines.
What we assure our clients its that all UPS and battery recycling is carried out under our accredited management systems for Quality, Environment and Health & Safety in addition to the WEEE/ROHS guidelines and relevant legislation. We provide a fully documented system including Waste Transfer notes, transparent procedures and even a rebate based on the scrap materials recovered. Our UPS and battery recycling centre is used everyday and as well as recovering systems from site, clients can return their existing uninterruptible power supplies and batteries to us for recycling free of charge.