September 2011

Health Provider’s Paperless Initiative

Health Provider’s Paperless Initiative Demands 24/7 Power Quality “Care”

By: John H Carroll, Dranetz Technologies

Increasingly, data centers and other mission-critical facilities are deploying power quality and/or demand and energy monitoring systems to obtain critical load data on a 24/7 basis. Equally important, these measurements also allow facilities personnel to check for power quality anomalies that can affect the uptime and efficiencies of the building’s critical systems.

Having recently embarked on an ambitious energy saving and efficiency optimization program in data centers around the U.S., one of the country’s leading healthcare organizations deemed a particular 120,000 square-foot location in Southern California to be especially critical to the reliable operation of the company’s entire healthcare network serving hundreds of medical facilities and millions of members around the nation.

Going Paperless
A by-product of going paperless resulted in the provider also becoming a more environmentally conscious healthcare supplier. In operation, the organization’s paperless mandate requires critical power management of many elements, including patient records, patient insurance documentation, medical records, MRI scans, laboratory test results and access to any of this information on a 24/7 basis by surgeons, doctors, other health-care staff and even patients.

Hardening and Redundancy Measures
To protect this highly mission-critical facility, a number of facility hardening and redundancy measures were implemented, including:

  • A fully base-isolated building foundation system capable of riding through an 8.0 magnitude earthquake;
  • Five 2,520 hp diesel generators providing a total of seven Megawatts of emergency back-up power;
  • 960 battery jars made up of 1920 x 2V cells to provide 3.6 Megawatts of back-up power to the data center’s four uninterruptible power systems (UPS).


[A data center facilities engineer uses an infrared camera to verify temperature variations within the computer room’s hot and cold aisles. Facilities engineers are tasked with maintaining proper cooling and continuous power to 6,000 devices in 1,500 server racks supporting the provider’s paperless healthcare initiative. Water chilled to 45°F picks up only 10°F while circulating through the data center’s extensive cooling loops covering 68,000 square feet on two floors.]


Mission Criticality Demands Quality Power
Knowing what’s at stake adds a much greater sense of individual and collective accountability to what the facility manager and his team are responsible for. “Since there are so many components and variables that factor into maintaining continuous availability, it is essential to have the right building automation and management tools in place for the data center facilities engineering staff to utilize,” he said.

Without question, the job requires constant vigilance. For this reason, facilities engineers routinely perform power quality troubleshooting using portable three-phase power monitors to determine where, when and why a power incident may have occurred.

Power Quality Solution for the Data Center
The facility manager notes that “it’s just as important to have equipment and systems in place that enable us to be proactive, and even predictive, in our ability to effectively and efficiently manage and maintain the

[480V/3-Phase switchgear panel displays the incoming utility power. The Dranetz Encore 61SG DataNode system at bottom monitors all phases of the utility load (note clean 3-phase AC waveforms on display) and reports the data back to the building management system via the Modbus and Intranet system addresses labeled just below the unit display.]

environment. Monitoring power quality is essential to ensure that environmental changes are performed properly, and also to help diagnose identified anomalies.”
In high-availability applications, evaluating the quality of the power supplied by the utility is key to ensuring that it is delivering a reasonable level of service without an excessive number of disturbances. Many users are under the erroneous impression that the quality of the utility supply is less important if there is a UPS standing guard between the utility service entrance and the sensitive load.

However, every utility disturbance puts a stress on the UPS system every time it temporarily switches to battery power to ride through the event until it is over. This not only reduces the life of the battery, but often unnecessarily stresses transfer switches and other electromechanical elements. Identifying such problems and having the utility correct them can dramatically improve system and facility uptime.

PQ instrumentation is also used to evaluate the quality of power supplied from the UPS itself, which can only indicate when it is on or off line, on bypass or when some other serious problem has occurred. It cannot indicate the quality of the voltage being supplied to the critical load. In one real-world scenario at another institution, for example, a UPS experienced an overvoltage condition at the end of a utility sag. The UPS never reported the event but the power quality monitoring instrument did, which allowed the user to service the UPS for a potentially serious problem that would have otherwise gone undetected and possibly caused an outage at the data center.

Power quality instruments provide another benefit as well—accountability.
“When we make a change or improvement, we have to back it up with data,” notes the chief engineer. “The energy monitoring instruments give us the solid data we need to prove to management that the change we made

[More than a dozen Dranetz Encore systems are located throughout the data center to provide a permanently installed platform for monitoring power quality, energy (kWh), demand (kW) and other parameters. This particular Encore 61STD Data-Node is monitoring the output of one of the data center’s four uninterruptible power systems (UPS).]

to the system was effective, by showing the data before the improvement and the after-results that prove the change was warranted.”

“Occasionally,” added an operations analyst with facilities engineering, “there are down-stream problems, and generally the first assumption is that it was caused by the UPS or power system. The power quality instruments help us to characterize the nature of the problem, which eliminates finger-pointing and helps us to more quickly identify and solve the problem.”

To that end, in December 2008 the facilities operations staff installed and commissioned 18 Dranetz Encore 61SG switch-gear-mounted three-phase permanent power-monitoring systems at key locations around the facility, including:

  • Main data center raised floor;
  • Computer services;
  • UPS back-up power systems;
  • Main incoming utility service entrance;
  • Emergency back-up generators.

All monitoring instruments are available to the main control room through a secure Intranet communications system and their existing Modbus building management system. One of the most important recorded parameters is the real-time kilowatts demanded through their four UPS systems, which provide a proactive approach to managing the electrical power needs of the data center. Should engineering need to distribute or shed some load across different circuits, the live feed of peak and average power demand allows them to perform vital and important energy decisions in near real-time.

Looking Forward
The manager of this high-uptime facility sees the challenge this way: “My team and I are naturally focused on maintaining continuous availability. However, one major differentiating factor between our data center and most others is that ours supports the many healthcare applications that our physicians, nurses and professional healthcare providers utilize to care for our patients and members.”

The facility manager went on to say that “the data center facilities staff takes great ownership of this accountability, and we are always looking at means and methods, including available technology, to further enhance our ability to complete the mission.”

About the Author
John Carroll is Central Regional Sales Manager for Dranetz, the leading manufacturer of portable and permanently installed power quality analysis and energy monitoring instrumentation. For further information, he may be contacted at