In the past few issues of Facility Focus, we have been looking at various items for ice rinks that should be considered as investments. These items can actually pay for themselves over a relatively short period of time. The retrofit item that will probably yield the greatest payback through energy savings is the Ice Surface Temperature Controller.
The traditional method of controlling your refrigeration system is by using the temperature of the brine. By adjusting the brine temperature, an operator is in fact making his/her best "guess" at which brine temperature will provide the hardness of ice required for the particular activity. Considering the other factors that affect the ice surface temperature, such as the insulating properties (R-value) of the floor components, the ice thickness and heat loads from spectators and lighting, a guess is all that can be expected. Factoring all these with the ambient air temperature, relative humidity, etc., it is easy to understand why most rinks do not operate as efficiently as they could...until now!
About Ice Surface, Temperature and Controllers
An Ice Surface Temperature Controller does just as its name implies-it will control your refrigeration system based on the precise temperature of the ice surface. This is done by using an infra-red camera mounted above the ice surface which continually monitors the temperature and relays this information to a computer. The computer, in turn, can control the refrigeration system based on the current ice surface temperature and preset target temperatures that suit your specific programming schedule.
Infra-red cameras have been used for years in a variety of industries to measure temperatures and control equipment accordingly. Recently this technology has been successfully applied to the recreational ice industry. Micro Monitoring Systems has developed the 3000E specifically for ice rink applications.
The base unit consists of a panel mounted computer, an infra-red camera, sensors for brine temperatures, and the software. A variety of options can then be added to suit the particular needs of your facility as required.
These can include additional sensors for discharge pressure control, subfloor heating, lighting control, relative humidity, ammonia leak detector, a modem for remote programming/data retrieval, and an option to control additional ice surface (up to four in total) with the same unit.
Why should we invest in this technology?
There are a variety of benefits that your facility could realize from having one of these units installed.
One of the key features is automatic scheduling of ice temperature. Ice Temperature can be automatically set based on time of day, weekdays, holidays etc. Energy savings are achieved by raising the ice temperature during unoccupied hours, and running maximum refrigeration only when needed.
Because the refrigeration plant only operates as required to maintain the preset temperature(s), substantial energy savings can be realized by almost any rink. This contributes to short payback periods which in some cases have been reported to be less than two years. Obviously, the current energy efficiency of the plant will determine the potential savings and in turn the payback of two to three years can be achieved.
Most community rinks serve a variety of clients, including various levels of hockey, figure skating, speed skating, public skating and sometimes even curling. As you are well aware, each of these has a different optimum ice surface temperature. with this technology, the ideal target temperature can be easily programmed to suit your schedule, resulting in a better sheet of ice and satisfied customer.