Keeping the Lights on During Power Outages

September 22, 2020
Richard Theron

When the power goes out in large commercial buildings, multi-building corporate campuses, institutional facilities, convention centers and retail complexes, the first objective is always the safety of employees and guests as they leave.  Their safety requires the automatic activation of emergency power, lighting and security monitoring systems by today’s sophisticated building management systems, which log and track power event status over advanced networks.

The Challenges

Building owners and management companies are required by various electrical and safety codes to maintain large gas powered generators or large battery uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems to provide emergency back-up power.  These systems also include industrial grade inverters with circuitry that converts AC power from the grid to operate electrical devices such as lighting systems.

Over time all building power and emergency power systems require maintenance, repair and replacement as either they age or new technology and changes in electrical and other safety codes make them obsolete.  Emergency lighting systems are no different. For example, emergency lighting systems are required by the 2017 edition of the National Electric Code to conform with Underwriters Laboratory UL Standard 924.

Various local and national building safety codes and UL 924 require lit emergency exit signs, emergency egress lighting, and power equipment. The equipment under this code automatically illuminates and/or powers critical areas and equipment in the event of electrical failure.

Upgrades or replacement of normal and emergency power and lighting systems always require the consideration of the inverter for power conversion purposes and how it will interface with today’s automated BACnet building management systems. For these reasons building management, engineering and construction firms frequently consult Go2Power and its solution partner MSA because of Go2Power’s expertise in power inverter products and MSA’s line of FieldServer network gateway integration products that support automated building management systems operating over cloud networks.

Meeting the Challenges

Go2Power and MSA FieldServer have teamed up to help meet the challenges of normal and emergency power and emergency lighting in large building systems. The latest generation of inverters from Go2Power not only assures a seamless smooth transition to emergency power, but it also allows building managers to consider replacing their old legacy battery-pack flashlight type emergency lights with area selectable already-in place building architectural lighting.

These bulky, cumbersome wall-mounted battery-pack systems are typically placed just below the ceiling near exit points and stairways to guide employees and guests in often very dim light as they leave the building after a power event. Battery-pack systems have a life of 90 to 120 minutes, which means if the power outage lasts longer and the UPS is still functional then the building could be in the dark.

Battery-pack emergency systems also must be inspected manually and require extra maintenance to replace the batteries. Over time, the cost of inspection and maintenance labor along with the batteries can be considerable.

Go2Power’s highly intelligent inverters solve this problem. They allow field selectable emergency operation of in-place architectural lighting. This means that building managers can choose to operate only egress lighting on an emergency basis near interior doors, mechanical rooms, hallways, stairs and exit points. The addition to the Go2Power inverter with the MSA FieldServer ProtoNode provides convenient system access via BACnet tor the operation of the normal and emergency lighting.

Go2Power Inverters

The highly intelligent 1KW/18KW Central Inverter System from Go2Power is ideal for large building power systems. Delivering powerful functionality and ease-of-use, this fast transfer central lighting inverter system contains features previously available only in much larger, more expensive central lighting inverter systems.

Its sleek, compact housing allows installation in virtually any location. Optional wall-mounting bracket provides increased versatility. Rated up to 18KW, it produces a high quality, utility grade sine wave which ensures that the fixtures on emergency circuits will operate flicker free and with no loss of light. With very high overload and 2 millisecond transfer time, it ensures that any type of illumination technology can be used in the lighting design. The product is listed to UL924 and available with optional Canadian Listing to C22.2 No. 141-10.

This inverter includes sophisticated self-diagnostics and event log tracking. These features not only track power outage events, but provide critical normal operation usage data that building managers can use to manage energy loads more efficiently to lower operating costs. Such data when stored in the cloud also be used to support routine online off-premise or in person inspections by Fire Marshalls via portable devices such as phones or tablets—all without the inconvenience of maintaining paper log books and binders.

MSA FieldServer ProtoNode Network Gateway

These normal operation diagnostics and event log tracking data are easily uploaded from Go2Power’s 1KW/18KW Central Inverter to BACnet building management systems thanks to the MSA ProtoNode’s advanced communications capabilities with a BACnet network. In addition to supporting power management, the versatile MSA ProtoNode supports multiple building systems including security, HVAC climate control and more.

The MSA ProtoNode is a fully configurable building and industrial automation IIoT gateway, which also easily connects to the cloud and interfaces devices to networks in buildings, campuses, and industrial plants. The ProtoNode supports up to 1,000 data points, larger point counts are available and can connect to Serial, Ethernet, and/or LonWorks Free Topology (FT) links. Users can remotely and securely access its FS-GUI application, which is available locally on the ProtoNode.

MSA’s FieldServer protocol gateway products and MSA cloud solutions support facility automation systems around the globe and are used by OEMs and system integrators to enable local and remote monitoring and control. With more than 300,000 products, supporting over 140 protocols, installed in commercial and industrial facilities, FieldServer is the industry’s leading multi-protocol gateway.

Conclusions

Go2Power and MSA FieldServer are providing advanced automation solutions to meet the needs of building owners and managers for building power and lighting—during normal daily operations and in emergencies.  Through reliable, dependable power and network connectivity, they are enhancing productivity while lowering costs.

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Richard Theron
Richard Theron is the product Line manager for Fieldserver and cloud at Sierra Monitor, where he works intimately with companies in the building automation, industrial automation, energy management and life safety markets to help them cloud-enable their equipment.

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