[Another] New Year, new UPS batteries…

Four years ago, I wrote about replacing the batteries in each of the UPS systems I had here. After nearly 4 years, the batteries were near the end of their useful life, and the week-long power outage after Hurricane Sandy (and the follow-on outages once the power finally came back on) finished them off.

I contacted Batteryspec / Tempest (who I’d used for the last big order, as well as for some smaller orders since then) to get current pricing and shipping info. They were back-ordered on the battery type that the Symmetra uses, and shipping costs (which they have no control over) had increased quite a bit since my last big order.

While I’ve been very pleased with Tempest’s product and service, I figured it couldn’t hurt to shop around, particularly as I was looking at a several-week delay before Tempest had their units back in stock. One of the replies to my original post was from Ken Kostecki, whose company carries the Enersys line of batteries. I decided to send him an email message with the list of batteries I was looking for, asking for pricing and shipping costs. He responded right away and gave me good pricing on the batteries and a much lower freight cost – understandable, since the batteries would be coming from less than 1000 miles away, instead of 3000 miles away. At this weight (1500+ pounds), UPS is out of the question – this type of shipment is normally done with a “Less than truckload” (LTL) shipper. He also confirmed that the date codes on the batteries were recent, and even offered to unpack and charge them for me if I wanted. I said that it wasn’t important as long as the batteries were fresh.

After explaining to Ken that I lived on a narrow side street, didn’t have a loading dock and needed a day’s notice so I’d be home, he confirmed that the shipping quote was still good. [In the past, I’ve had experiences where the shipping company didn’t call first and showed up when nobody was home, then charged a $200 “re-delivery fee” – that can clobber any cost savings that the order started out with. I’ve also had 53′ trailers pull up on the next major street over and tell me to come unload their truck, which didn’t have a lift gate. Carrying 1500 lbs of batteries a block and a half is not my idea of fun. Hence wanting to make sure that everything was all set for curbside delivery.]

Within a few days, the batteries arrived in perfect condition, boxed and wrapped on a pair of pallets. I loaded them into the house and began the process of installing them in the various UPS systems – quite a task, as there were around 160 batteries of various sizes, ranging from the small ones used in the Symmetra to car-battery-sized ones used in the Matrix 5000.

As I replaced the batteries in each UPS, I checked the battery float voltage. Incorrect voltage is the thing that will kill batteries the fastest – if the UPS thinks the batteries need to be “topped up”, it will continuously pump power into the batteries, causing them to overheat and eventually swell and burst. APC units (particularly the smaller ones) seem to drift out of adjustment over time, almost invariably in the direction of overcharging the batteries. The Symmetra and Matrix units were fine. The smaller Smart-UPS units I have (700VA to 3000VA) were all out-of-spec by varying amounts. I had to disassemble a pair of SU1000 units in order to get the batteries out, as they had swelled up so much that they couldn’t be removed without disassembling the battery compartment. I don’t consider this to be a problem with the previous Tempest batteries – it is definitely because the UPS’s cooked them.

I followed the unofficial procedure described here to adjust the float voltage on each UPS to the low side of the acceptable range, since I figure that any future aging will continue to shift toward the high side. After bench-testing each UPS for a few days, I placed them back into service. One of the SU1000’s decided it didn’t want to work properly when hooked up to its load (a Dell mini-tower system). After studying it for some time, I decided I’d be better off simply replacing it, rather than trying to find out what was wrong. Fortunately, there are usually a large number of similar units on eBay, often with a “needs batteries” or “does not include batteries” disclaimer – which was perfect as I had a set of brand new batteries. I located a nice SUA1000 (without batteries) for $85 with free shipping. It had a late 2008 date code, which was perfect – units older than that tend to start developing problems, while newer ones have better charging circuitry but are designed to keep manufacturing costs down. After it arrived, I put the new batteries in it, checked the float voltage, and placed it into service. I now had 8 good UPS systems with new batteries.

One of the things I did was to add 2 more “XR” battery packs to my “life support” UPS. This is the unit that provides power to a pair of electric space heaters (for emergency use only), my stereo / TV, cell phone and other battery chargers, and so forth. It will now power all of that stuff for a little over 2 days (vs. 1 day previously), or even longer if I shut down some of the devices it powers. In the past, I’d never had a power failure lasting more than 24 hours, but the electric utility has proven that they’re woefully unprepared for major disasters.

Back on the subject of the batteries – I’ve been very pleased with the service I received from Ken at Engineered Power Systems – give him a call / email if you’re looking for batteries at a good price with great service:

Ken Kostecki
Engineered Power Systems
St. Louis, MO

[I’m not posting his email address, in order to keep address-harvesting spambots away – visit his web site for email contact info.]

One Response to “[Another] New Year, new UPS batteries…

  • 1
    June 3rd, 2013 19:03

    reposting here as I just found the newer entry regarding batteries:

    Terri you might like to know these days you can take these dead batteries to any metal recycler and get about $0.25-$0.30 cents a pound for them. Your haul of 571 pounds of batteries could net about 130 dollars. Most recyclers will take any sealed battery with the recycle logo on it. They may pay much less for cordless drill batteries and batteries like that with a lot of plastic housing, or individual rechargeable AA batteries. With the pile you have I’d call around and ever try and dicker a little, tell them what the competition is offering and how many you have to get top dollar. If they offer a penny a pound more it’s worth $5.71 to you.

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