Power to the camera

May 2012 CCTV, Surveillance & Remote Monitoring

Power management is a surveillance skill.

While many companies and individuals are aware of the need to protect their IT system with UPS and clean power, security installations do not often take the same care to keep their systems running when Eskom fails yet again. It is not only Eskom’s blackouts installers should be worried about, but also the irregular supply, known as spikes and brownouts, that can play havoc with any electronic equipment.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions spoke to two people in the power supply industry to find out more about what the power status in the industry is and what can (or should) be done to protect a security installation. Our answers come from Shane Griggs of PSS Distributors and Clearline’s Brian Mostert.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: Do you find the security market is aware of the need for power management?

Shane Griggs: The awareness is definitely in the market. The days where consumers had to be sold an uninterruptable power supply (UPS) is a thing of the past. You simply cannot accept downtime on your surveillance system.

The initial layout for backup power is nothing compare to what companies may lose when they do not have backup power. This is not only true for power failures due to Eskom load shedding or maintenance, but also for thieves who know there is a security system. The first thing these days is to cut the power to the building, leave it to run down the battery, then return to rob the company. We are installing more security systems where cameras, alarms, access control and other devices are backed-up for more than 24 hours.

Brian Mostert, Clearline: I do not believe the security industry takes much notice of the need for power management or any other solutions or systems to enhance their ability to minimise downtime. From our experience, when an incident occurs and video footage is scrutinised, many of the cameras at the site are not working as a result of lightning or electrical surge activities. This can be prevented by installing surge protection devices that have been specifically developed to prevent equipment damage.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: Do companies include surveillance hardware in their power management system as a rule?

Shane Griggs: Yes, it does seem to be becoming the norm. Security in South Africa is the number one priority. When you purchase or rent a building, the first thing you do is secure it. Part of securing a business today is having a failsafe security system that runs on clean UPS power.

Brian Mostert: Generally the answer to the above question is no. The contractors and installers do not add any additional equipment to the system as this would increase the overall cost which will result in losing the contract. This is a typical scenario.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: What advice would you give security installers?

Shane Griggs: One of the major flaws in any business is to save money. This is not always the best solution. PSS Distributors believes that when you do something, you should not opt for the cheapest nor the most expensive, but for something in the middle that you can afford. I see many inverter backup systems being installed for backup power. I do not agree with these installations. Yes, the initial layout is cheap, but in the end, the cost is high.

UPSs are more expensive than inverters, but what you pay is what you get. Most failures of electronic equipment are due to the inconsistency of power supplied by Eskom. UPS power is clean and protects your equipment against high/low voltages, spikes, surges, brownouts and dips. They are the ultimate protection for your expensive equipment. Also ensure that if you opt for backup time, rather than just clean power, make sure your UPS supplies sine wave when running off your batteries.

Brian Mostert: It is absolutely essential to assess the requirements for each site and configure the correct solution. This means looking at lightning and surge protection devices, voltage stabilisers, backup power and cable to fibre signal systems.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: Should we expect a tough winter?

Shane Griggs: Yes, 2012 has been predicted as the worst year regarding power. It was interesting to watch Carte Blanch earlier this year where Eskom staff were biting their nails regarding the supply of power to South Africa, it says it all.

They are running to their maximum capacity. This means any failure at any of their plants will cause a major catastrophe.

Brian Mostert: Generally speaking, the electrical generating capacity from Eskom is going to be under severe pressure and we could well have a tougher time than we have experienced in the past.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: What advice would you give concerning how to manage power, including how to be ‘greener’?

Shane Griggs: The one thing that has made a huge difference in the market has been the phasing out of CRT monitors. LCD monitors draw a lot less power and even in the UPS market, we can see the difference.

Being greener these days is not only about global warming, but also about saving costs. The installation of LED lights is still expensive in this country, but pricing is coming down. The monthly savings are huge and this can make a difference in South Africa’s power shortage.

Brian Mostert: Call in the companies that have expertise in equipment protection and backup power and put their services to good use. Look at minimising dependence on Eskom and look at alterative energy producing technologies.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions: Are South African companies more power conscious today and more inclined to save electricity where they can?

Shane Griggs: Most definitely. We have always enjoyed the advantage of low cost electricity, but this is changing and yearly we are now paying more and more for electricity. In my eyes, we are being penalised for bad decisions made by Eskom 10 years ago.

On a daily basis PSS Distributors receives calls from clients wanting to go green. The only problem with going green is the cost, at this stage it is still expensive. I recommend clients do it gradually. Taking baby steps is definitely the key for not only homeowners, but also companies. You will be amazed after five years how much greener your company or house will be if you start small today.

Brian Mostert: I think companies are more aware environmentally and some are being proactive in changing their traditional methods regarding power and how they use it. However, the response to look at alternative is minuscule.


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