All retailers hope never to be faced with having to operate their business without electricity but acts of nature, mechanical problems and other emergency situations could result in power failure. The first step in providing power protection is to understand the leading causes of power-related problems. A myth to dispel is that power is perfect. Research carried out on power supply disturbances, conducted throughout Europe shows great differences from place to place and between different types of installations. 

Standby Power Systems (SPS)

Many retailers still have a picture in their mind of generators being noisy, dirty machines that frequently breakdown. However, this is far from the truth. The development of generators over the past few years has been immense. Now, it is possible to obtain small units that can power up a single appliance or large systems that are suitable for all major standby power applications within the retail industry including the server, emergency lighting, lifts, security and POS systems.

Combined with an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS)

Standby generators provide additional backup to a conventional UPS. When a power cut occurs, cash registers and POS systems, together with other essential equipment, can either continue to work or be shutdown without loosing essential data. Installed as part of a SPS (standby power system) the generator takes over before the batteries of the UPS run out, smoothly transferring essential equipment over as part of the SPS. When mains power returns, the software monitoring will automatically switch back to the normal mains supply after it has ensured that the power is stable. An inclusion of a SPS into a power protection plan significantly increases the uptime and reduces the headaches associated with complete loss of power.

Now your standby power system is up and running what other points need to be considered:

Automatic Testing and Remote Monitoring

All UPS and standby generator system should be regularly inspected and tested and the test results recorded for future inspection. Any automatic test and reporting system that can help in reducing this workload and improve efficiency can only be of benefit.
Systems such as shentongroup’s Hawkeye can be fitted to any current generator and will automatically start the set at a pre-set time, run it for 10 minutes and check the essential operating parameters before switching the set off. The results are then sent automatically to a central control room for analysis. Should the set fail any of the tests or require the specialist attention of an engineer, immediate action can be taken to either inform the appropriate person or send an engineer to rectify the problem if the facility has a service contract.

All the end user provides is a dedicated telephone line; Hawkeye is fully automatic and will continually monitor the complete installation without the need for human intervention.

Regular Service and Maintenance

Regular service and maintenance of all standby power systems is essential to ensure consistent and reliable operation in the event of a mains power failure.
When selecting a supplier it is important to ascertain the depth and variety of service and maintenance contracts covering their systems.

By far the most popular is shentongroup’s annual PowerCare24 contract. This provides 365/24/7 emergency cover with guaranteed responses and in addition two preventative services visits a year. On a contract covering a generator, one is the standard and includes a detailed visual inspection of the installation including the cooling system, fuel storage system, fuel pipework, fuel transfer system and control panel as well as running the set to check correct starting and stopping procedures. The second visit (approx 6 months later) is the ‘major’ service which as well the standard visit checks also include the changing of the oil, fuel filters, air filters, the operation and calibration of the control panel together with an on load test using a portable load bank or site load.

A PowerCare24 contract is also available that covers Central Battery systems and UPS systems. Again two preventative service visits a year are part of the contract. One is a visual inspection of the system together with a partial on-load discharge test of the battery. The second visit includes all the elements of the first plus a full battery discharge test and a full inspection of all the systems.

Another Option

If the costs of installing your own standby system are prohibitive, there is an alternative option. An Emergency Call-Out Company, such as Powercall UK, offers savings on both capital outlay and ongoing maintenance costs. The 24/7 UK service offers a solution to prolonged powercuts by ensuring that a standby generator is in situ and connected up within a 1-hour target time and guaranteed maximum of 3 hours.

Consequences

The loss of power to retail premises can be catastrophic. Power cuts are also no longer a seasonal phenomenon. Every year adverse weather conditions result in power cuts across the country as local power lines are hit by trees or fail due to lightening strikes, short circuits, human error etc. resulting in disruption to domestic users and businesses alike. Businesses with critical processes or essential facilities should ensure they have an appropriate SPS installed. They should also have entered into a 365/24/7 maintenance agreement. They can then rest assured that their business is protected at all times from all eventualities.