Water utility solves GC/MS throughput issues with power protection from Falcon Electric

May 5, 2010
IRWINDALE, CA, May 5, 2010 -- Falcon Electric has helped a major user of gas chromatography/mass spectrometer (GC/MS) instruments, El Paso Water Utilities, solve production problems by upgrading their power protection...

IRWINDALE, CA, May 5, 2010 -- Falcon Electric Inc., (www.FalconUPS.com) an award-winning manufacturer of Uninterruptible Power Systems (UPS), power conversion and AC voltage line regulators, today announced that a major user of gas chromatography/mass spectrometer (GC/MS) instruments, El Paso Water Utilities, saved critical test results with Falcon Electric's SG Series™ UPS Plus ® 3kVA UPS. El Paso Water Utilities' (EPWU) International Water Quality Laboratory was plagued with throughput (production) problems which were eliminated after upgrading their power protection from a computer-grade line-interactive "switching" UPS to Falcon's true double conversion on-line SG Series UPS.

The new El Paso Water Utilities International Water Quality Laboratory is built to withstand environmental disasters and emergencies. The building and infrastructure, including electrical and plumbing systems, comply with EPA standards, as well as the more stringent federal and Department of Homeland Security-implemented criteria. Laboratory Services Manager Paul Rivas is responsible for the lab's equipment, which ranges from sophisticated GC/MS to high-end microscopy instruments, as well as sensitive measuring devices. Collectively, this equipment serves a vital function and ensuring test and equipment accuracy is paramount to the laboratory's success. Any malfunction or downtime creates a bottleneck for the entire facility.

Senior Chemist Miguel Venegas and his team found that the laboratory instruments were being adversely affected by power problems. "In spite of the investment and detailed plans that were implemented in constructing the new facility, there is one area that, until recently, had us confused -- the frequent dips and overall unpredictable AC power," Venegas explains. "We knew that power outages were a reality and that is why we installed Smart-UPS units for a few instruments. Also, the site-prep guide made it clear that we needed regulated and uninterrupted power for the GC/MS and other sensitive instruments to operate with accuracy and reliability."

"What we didn't know was we needed a true on-line Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) for these devices. Even though the Smart-UPS turns on instantly, it actually takes about a fraction of a second to come online, and that is where we thought the Smart-UPS units we previously bought would do the job. This again was a hit-and-miss proposition. At times it seemed like the UPS protected the electrical load and at others we were still seeing aborted tests."

Case in point: During a recent review of their fresh water tests, Venegas' team noticed that the CG/MS equipment was not performing accurately. The equipment was suffering from poor power, a conclusion reached after several incidents of mysterious aborted tests with "no-fault" errors. Like most lab users, the team did some preliminary research and discovered that their equipment site-prep documents clearly stated they needed a power conditioner or Uninterruptible Power Supply to address the issue of unstable power. They installed several commercial-grade "Smart-UPS" units and plugged in their GC/MS equipment, hoping this would solve the problem. They knew very little about power problems or the solutions, so they went with the "off-the-shelf" brand. What they didn't know was the units they were relying on were actually "offline" UPS units, which cannot give the level of protection needed for sensitive laboratory equipment.

While this type of inexpensive UPS is better than no UPS at all, using these devices gave the staff a first-hand lesson in "caveat emptor." Calling a unit a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) does not ensure that instruments will be protected. Only a small percentage of them provide true uninterrupted power.

"We contacted a number of UPS companies and it became clear that most of the large manufacturers focus on IT and communications. Also, it was almost impossible to get technical help at these large companies. Their salespeople had never heard of a mass-spectrometer or, even worse, when I tried to speak with a technical sales person, I was told they would get back with me. As we continued our search on the Internet, we found Falcon Electric's website, www.falconups.com. Falcon Electric had specialized information about laboratory applications. I found a case study on a GC/MS user suffering the same problems we were having with the commercial-grade Smart-UPS. When I called Falcon, the salesperson was very knowledgeable and guided me through sizing the SG 3K-1T, a 3000VA laboratory-grade, on-line UPS. We installed the UPS on our most critical GC/MS system and waited."

"The true test occurred a few months later. We had a power outage during the evening and I saw flashing consoles on most of the GC/MS equipment when I came into the lab the next morning. It was clear that another power event had taken place. When we looked closer, the only GC/MS completely unaffected by the power event was the instrument plugged into the Falcon SG3K-1T UPS. The other instruments suffered damage due to the tremendous surge that occurred when the power returned. Of course, the instruments that were plugged into the Smart-UPS failed the test run; however, they didn't suffer physical damage from the surges, which was a relief. The instruments that were plugged directly into the wall outlets took the worst beating. At least a few needed expensive repairs that also required costly downtime. This experience showed us that the extra money we spent on the Falcon SG Series was and continues to be an outstanding investment." EPWU has since purchased several more SG3K-1T UPSes and the new systems feature upgraded batteries rated to last 10 years.

For more information on Falcon Electric's line of UPS, power line regulators and high-temperature rated UPSes, call 800-842-6940, visit our website at www.FalconUPS.com or email [email protected]. For more information on El Paso Water Utilities, call 915-594-5692 or visit their website at www.EPWU.org.

About Falcon Electric
Headquartered in Irwindale, Calif., Falcon Electric Inc. is a leading manufacturer of award-winning power protection and conversion solutions. For over 20 years, Falcon has been dedicated to offering the latest in technology, superior engineering standards, and unmatched technical support and customized solutions. Falcon manufactures power systems that meet the exacting standards of the military/aerospace, scientific/labs, industrial automation, computer, telecommunications and other industries that demand the highest product reliability to meet their critical power needs. For more information about Falcon Electric and its innovative products, visit www.FalconUPS.com.

About El Paso Water Utilities
El Paso Water Utilities provides water and wastewater service to 750,000 people in the city of El Paso and El Paso County. The utility also provides reclaimed water and stormwater management service within the El Paso city limits.


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