What is our primary use case?
We use them for network backup or lab backup. These are critical environments for us, environments that we want to keep up in case of loss of power. They have high business impact. We have about 100 Eaton UPSs deployed.
The versions we are currently using that are the new standard are the 93PMs. But we have used all the other ones, the 9390s, the 95s, the 9350s, the 9355s - almost their whole product line.
How has it helped my organization?
They provide us reliable battery backup. They also provide energy savings that other units may not provide.
We have instances all the time where we are glad that we have UPSs. There are usually utility problems here or there. We're a pretty large campus and we're pretty spread out throughout the Puget Sound area. Whenever there's a utility event, we're glad we have battery backup through Eaton's units. In the last two months, we've had three utility power events where we had to go to battery. All 100 of the Eaton UPSs did their job and kept the equipment online that we want online. If the UPSs weren't in place, we would've lost power to revenue-generating spaces or to critical environments that need to stay up. That would impact the business and impact our ability to do our jobs.
The savings, by not being down, in terms of impact on revenue, is probably in the millions of dollars a year. It's a tough number to pin down for us. There are some places where it's a network location and there isn't much of an impact on anybody; just the network goes down and there's an issue of productivity for an entire building. But then you have a lab that is being backed up, a lab that generates $1,000,000 every five minutes and that's kind of hard to equate. So the actual savings could go back and forth. I would feel comfortable saying millions a year in savings or in business-impact avoidance.
What is most valuable?
We like the ESS, the Energy Saver System. It saves us on our electrical bill. That's a good feature. There's are two parts to that. By using the ESS, we get a rebate from the local utility of about half-a-million dollars. The actual savings over the year are probably only about $4,000, but I don't know if that is per unit or for the room where we did the study. It provides us a moderate amount of electrical savings throughout the lifetime of the unit.
We also like the modular system and the easy-to-read display.
The touch-screen functionality is easy to read. There are tabs at the top and there are statuses at the top, graphics that give you a quick glance. We use the touch-screen for metering, to make sure the input and output meters are good. We also check alarm events and system history. Those are the things we usually check the most.
In addition to the display, there's a color methodology to the front display on the front cabinet. There are green, red, or amber. They provide quick graphics to understand if we have a real problem or a minor problem. The Eaton UPSs are user-friendly.
What needs improvement?
From a functional standpoint, I don't have any issues. From a communication standpoint, I don't have any issues. Outside of a full-service contract, my only concern is technician availability for repairs. Where we don't have a full-service contract with them, which unfortunately is the larger portion of our equipment from them, we're just like anybody else, waiting for a slot for a technician to arrive.
It is a risk, but when you're a big client like we are, they move other people around to get us serviced. If I was a smaller client, I would be at the bottom of the barrel and that would probably be annoying.
For how long have I used the solution?
I've been using Eaton UPSs for 20 years.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
The stability has been perfect. I don't have any real issues with them except that they recently put out a service bulletin. They're here fixing that issue. That's kind of like a recall on a car. I almost don't want to mention that because it's not that big of a deal, but it's one of the more recent issues that has become something of a problem.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
The scalability is great. You usually just swap in another power module. If we put in a 50 kVA unit and we want to upsize, or the customer wants to upsize, typically we can either just throw in one more power module to bring them up to double, or we just add another power module cabinet and then we add more capacity.
How are customer service and technical support?
Tech support is good. I don't have any issues. I usually reach out to someone via email. Usually, when I call, I get forwarded to an engineer or I have to wait until somebody to call me back. Normally, what I end up doing is that if I have a problem that I think impacts us or our customer, I'll just send an email to one of their service managers or one of their sales managers. The response time is usually good. I get a pretty immediate response, definitely within the day.
We use a T&M contract with them in general, but for one of our offsite locations we do have a full-service contract with them. The latter, in terms of battery/parts replacement, remote monitoring, and prevention of UPS failures is fine. I don't have any issues with it. Once they're under full contract, they're pretty responsive and able to dispatch somebody immediately. I believe we have parts coverage with that full-service contract and they usually have the parts fairly quickly.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
The other UPSs we're using are from Eaton's direct competitors, which is Vertiv or Liebert.
How was the initial setup?
I do not do the setups, but I have spoken to the electrical vendors who do them and they don't have any real issues with them. It's pretty straightforward. They've probably installed 50 of them over the last couple of years. It takes about a day for them to get one all set up and then we bring Eaton in for the factory start-up. It's usually done over the course of a weekend.
We just did an install and we had two to three electricians from our staff involved because we have to run conduit and new pipe and bending. It's usually two to three of our electricians and one to two of the Eaton technicians who show up for start-up.
What about the implementation team?
We use a third-party electrician, Valley or Cochran. Our technicians are more on the maintenance side. They don't do installs.
Our experience with both third-parties has been good. They're direct competitors and they each get about 50/50 of the work here. We're fine with either one.
What was our ROI?
The ROI is mostly in saving us from losing money, which would be in the millions of dollars. The return on investment would also be captured through the ESS program. However, even if that is $4,000 a year, it's going to be quite a while before we get to ROI. To get to ROI, we have to have the machine set in place for its full life cycle, which is 20 years.
That means a lot of the new ones are still 20 years out, but we've got some machines that are 20 years old and still in service. Over their lifetimes we've probably gotten back our money.
What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?
I usually get the pricing of the overall project when it's complete. I want to say they are around $50,000 to $70,000 depending on the options and the modules that we get.
With Eaton - and this is something of a detractor - I have to give them a PO with a minimum dollar amount. With Vertiv, I just have to call them out. I don't have to give them a PO upfront. They know we're going to pay so they don't need that. It gets them on campus quicker. With Eaton, I have to go through the entire payment process and I don't understand that, given that we're as large as we are as a company and do so much business with them. That's something to flag as our biggest gripe.
As for services costs, I don't know what they are. Their full-service contract is pretty expensive, but we normally don't buy that, so I don't know if they're competitive within the market itself. We only have a service contract like that with Eaton at one site. That site with the full-service has 50 UPSs and it's more expensive than the site where I have 100 UPSs which are only on a T&M contract. For us, the full-service is on the expensive end, but I don't have any comparison. I don't know what Vertiv's price would be on that.
Which other solutions did I evaluate?
We try to be fair to both of our vendors that are competitors. We do a 50/50 split. If we do Eaton on one job, maybe we'll do Vertiv on the next job. I don't really have a preference. If I can keep it to those two, we're pretty good. I don't have any issues that would make one worse or better than the other.
What other advice do I have?
We're fairly happy with using Eaton products. I'm confident that if someone says they're going to install Eaton, they're getting a good product, that it's reliable and they won't have too many issues with it. And if they don't know anything about UPSs, they should get the service plan. If they're moderately knowledgeable about the UPSs they should just stick with a T&M.
The footprint is good. It's definitely in line with their competitors. They've all gone to a modular system across the entire industry. So instead of having one big cabinet for the IO and then one big cabinet for all the power modules, DC caps, etc., they've modularized them. They're in separate modules which lets them reduce the footprint. The footprint is fine for both IT and lab applications.
We have one installation on campus with their lithium-ion batteries. We are piloting them. We will play with them for about a year before we move forward with them in a bigger footprint on campus. The lithium-ion batteries were not a factor in our decision to go with this solution. We already use Eaton no matter what.
The Eaton UPSs do require maintenance. They have an OEM suggested maintenance, which we perform. We have to touch them four times a year. On my staff I've got three technicians. We also bring in one technician from a third-party vendor, MC Dean, for the annual services. In total, within one year, we're talking a team of four. For normal, run-through-the-year maintenance, when we to have to do this or that with a unit, there are five people on staff, including me. Three of them are PM techs. They do the battery PMs and the semi-annual services, and then we have the one technician from MC Dean who does the annual services. I've also got one technician who does all the communications side of the UPSs, who makes sure they are up and running, that they stay connected to our monitoring system, and he reviews and accepts alarms.
I would give Eaton products a ten out of ten, but overall, including service and everything, I'd give them an eight out of ten.