Business continuity is a rising concern for many businesses and facilities today. Climate change leads to extreme weather events — turning 1-in-2,000-years events into 1-in-100-years events, and boosting major hurricane rainfall by 20% to 40%. The steady increase in frequency and severity of natural disasters means companies have more need than ever for emergency backup power in case of power outages. And facilities must also have ways to test their emergency and backup power systems and protect them from interruptions. This is where load banks come in.
How are load banks useful in commercial buildings and critical businesses? What considerations are necessary for facilities looking into using them? We’ll answer these questions in the guide below.
What Is a Load Bank?
A load bank is a device that converts electrical energy into heat. The load bank develops an electrical load by consuming electrical power. It applies the load to an electrical power source and then dissipates or converts the power output of the source.
How do load banks differ from a building’s real electrical load? A building uses the energy for its real electrical load toward a functional purpose — like powering lights or equipment. A load bank uses its electrical energy to support, protect or test the power source. It helps prevent power interruptions by simulating different electrical loads to provide data about how electrical systems will function under those loads.
Types of Load Banks
Facilities can choose from different types of load banks to get the best fit for their testing needs. The following are three main types of load banks:
- Resistive load banks:Resistive load banks are the most popular types of load banks. They can supply loading to generators and to the prime movers the generators are coupled to. In a resistive load bank, the load elements resist current flow linearly to simulate loads similar to those caused by facility lighting and heating. A resistive load works by converting electrical energy to heat, so these load banks generate heat that cooling systems — such as forced air, convection cooling or water cooling — must dissipate.
- Inductive load banks: An inductive load resists current in a way that causes the current to lag behind the voltage. An inductive load typically uses an electromagnetic field. Motors, for instance, create inductive loads. An inductive load bank replicates these loads by simulating real power, or the work done by the device, and reactive power, or the power drawn to produce the electromagnetic field.
- Capacitive load banks: Compared with an inductive load, a capacitive load works in reverse. Capacitive loads resist changes in voltage so the current leads the voltage instead of lagging behind it. Capacitive load banks are less common than other types of load banks, but they offer advantages for simulating the kinds of electrical and nonlinear loads typical of computer systems and telecommunications systems.
In terms of construction, facilities can also choose from a few different types of load banks:
- Stationary load banks
- Portable load banks
- Duct-mounted or Roof-mounted load banks
- Trailer-mounted load banks
- Server Rack Heaters
Facilities can also turn to custom options to get a load bank designed with their particular needs and specifications in mind.
Load Bank Utilization in Commercial Buildings
Load banks are useful in commercial settings to help ensure reliable backup and emergency power can protect against operational failures and data losses in a power interruption. Commercial building load banks are essential in a range of businesses, including:
- Financial institutions
- Data centers
- Educational campuses
- Government facilities
Load Bank Testing for Critical Businesses
Because of their essential nature, critical businesses will want to control many parameters of their testing and apply customizable and predictable electrical loads to test their load banks — a full load or a partial load.
They can often apply loads in specific increments to test their critical systems under varying conditions. These incremental steps mimic the actual conditions a system might experience and allow managers to see how their emergency power will perform. Load test applications in critical business facilities help make sure vital equipment will keep running no matter what adverse conditions occur. Load banks can help with providing emergency power for a business.
A load bank can often be used to verify the rated output capabilities of an emergency power source. Using load banks to verify the rated output capabilities of an emergency power source before actual use is critical. It helps ensure the emergency backup generators are capable of supplying the required power if an unexpected power interruption occurs.
Benefits Load Banks Provide to Emergency Power Systems
Regular load bank testing provides peace of mind in the following areas:
- Performance and reliability of power systems: Load banks allow facilities to know they can maintain reliable high performance even during power interruptions.
- Business continuity: Business operations can continue to run as usual through power outages.
- Analytics and monitoring: Many load banks come with analytical and monitoring systems that can provide valuable, real-time performance data and alert facility managers to issues or maintenance needs.
Emergency vs. Standby Systems: What Is the Difference?
Under the National Electric Code, “backup system” or “standby system” is a broad classification that breaks down into four categories based on the type of equipment the system powers and the potential consequences if that equipment failed. Emergency systems form one specific category under that classification:
- Emergency systems: Emergency systems, which are legally required in high-occupancy facilities like hospitals, hotels, theaters and sports arenas, are generator systems that are critical for preserving human life in an emergency. They often supply backup power to exit lighting, fire alarms, elevators and essential ventilation and communications systems. Emergency power systems will likely require rigorous load bank testing.
- Legally required standby systems: Official building codes often require these systems. Though they are not strictly necessary for critical life safety, they supply backup power to equipment that could cause hazards or impede rescue operations if it failed. These systems may power heating and refrigeration, communications, sewage disposal, lighting and industrial systems that are critical to maintain but not essential for preserving life. These backup power systems will also need extensive load bank testing.
- Optional standby systems: Optional standby systems provide backup power for equipment that would not impact life safety or create hazards if it failed. These systems often exist to protect business enterprises and technology or data-processing companies and guard against financial loss. These systems require load bank testing, though not to the same degree.
- Critical operations power systems (COPS): This is a relatively new classification. It designates systems that provide backup power for critical infrastructure facilities — such as police and fire stations, emergency communications centers and critical data repositories — whose failure would endanger national security, the economy or public safety. These backup power systems will require regular load testing as well.
Power Control Systems
Power control systems are useful for large, complex operations that require multiple generators to fulfill their backup power needs. Power control systems allow for the paralleling of separate generators. These systems help to:
- Improve the generators’ reliability in emergencies
- Provide flexibility for further growth and additional generator installations
- Reduce operating costs
Using power control systems to run generators in parallel increases redundancy. It also reduces the likelihood of incomplete coverage and interruptions in the transition to backup power.
Contact LBD for All Your Critical Emergency Power Testing Needs
To see the benefits of using load banks for testing electrical power sources and critical backup power systems, make LBD your complete solutions provider. We provide superior-quality load bank products at competitive prices, and our 20 years of experience in the manufacturing business mean you’ll get high-performance solutions you can depend on.
Contact us today to learn more.
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