Saving $$$ On Energy Bills

Albert Tuldesley - ISI Public Rink Representative

Energy consumption, and for most in the arena business that means electricity, is one of the most costly problems facing our industry. We have no choice but to use energy. Large overhead lights are required when rinks are in use. To maintain ice at a safe and usable temperature, compressors must run. In the ice arena business we have little choice as to when our equipment runs, so in order to be cost effective, we must look for methods of conserving energy.

Deregulation of electrical rates is impacting some areas of the country. Competition is lowering, the rate per kilowatt; however, legislation may allow these large suppliers of power to charge any rate they choose in the future. It's possible that the cheaper rates offered today will disappear in a few years. With no government intervention or local control, we could see increased rates for energy, not lower rates as promised. Ice rinks should enjoy deregulation now but not count on it for long-term energy savings.

Not too many years ago, the ice skating industry was flooded with energy saving gimmicks, Salesmen with one week of training were peddling all sorts of energy saving devices "just prefect for ice rinks." Many of these purchased gimmicks are now sitting unused in dark corners of rinks. Some of those "highly trained" salespeople are now selling used cars, and many of the sales companies are out of business. If nothing else, during this period we leaned who to trust.

Vendors who specialize in selling to ice rinks cannot afford to make mistakes. They must sell products that have been rested and proven in ice rink applications. These are the same companies that have met our needs for years. They attend our trade shows, know their products, and have knowledge to back up their claims. These true experts have produced many energy saving products that have achieved a track record in our industry.

The following list of energy saving products work and are worth consideration.

Energy Saving Operation Offer Reasonable Pay Back

Desiccant Dehumidification: Humidity, a by-product of ice rinks, is possibly the single largest factor in kilowatt consumption in ice rinks, because humidity causes your compressors to run longer. Desiccant dehumidification removes humidity faster cheaper, and easier than any other system. It does not use air conditioning; it does not take away from your compressors. It leaves a dry, comfortable rink with a superior sheet of ice. You can feel and see the difference in the rink. It also reduces interior painting needs on steel beams.

Desiccant dehumidification costs less to run any other dehumidification system and it saves money since compressors are no longer required to overcome the refrigeration load caused by humidity. Many rinks recover the cost of desiccant dehumidification from energy savings within three years.

Low E Ceiling: One of the easiest and most proven methods of saving energy is with Low E (emissivity) ceiling. This special ceiling fabric traps heat between it and the roof. Heat rays are not allowed to radiate back onto the ice which reduces the load placed on the refrigeration system. In addition, the Low E ceiling improves the look of your rink and increases the brightness of your lights.

One Massachusetts rink installed both a Low E ceiling and desiccant dehumidification and saved over $ 100 a day in electrical costs. Savings amounted to $ 2,800 per month and over $33,000 a year. Individual applications may rinks comes quickly.

System Shut Down: Rinks using computers to shut down their refrigeration system from midnight to 5:00 or 6:00 a.m. have noted energy savings. Shutting down the compressors when the overhead lights are not in use and ice resurfacing is not required can be effective.

Evidence indicates that use less electricity to lower the temperature of the glycol at start-up than would have been used during the shut-down hours. Rinks, with lower ice usage and longer down-time, might find the system shut down method of energy conservation beneficial.

Ice Probes: Reading glycol or brine temperature at the compressors is far less efficient than taking the reading under the ice. Ice probes should be placed under the ice at the header trench with the information fed back to the compressors. The results are longer shut-down time and reduced running time for the compressors.

Infrared Ice Temperature
Reading: This system uses infrared radiation to detect the actual temperature of the ice. The infrared system is accurate and appears to offer significant energy savings. It 's possible that some systems work better than others. Vendors offering the infrared system should be able to offer documentation on savings.

Heat Recovery Systems: Heat is a by-product of all compressors. The hot gas from the discharge side of the compressor is diverted to a heat exchanger priot to being sent to the evaporative condenser (cooling tower) for cooling. A closed circuit water system is then recirculated through the heat exchanger to absorb and use the "waste" heat for energy saving porpoises, such as heating the snow melt pit, sub-soil heat grid, ice resurfacing water tank, or domestic water supply. With this system, it costs you nothing to preheat your water to 70-plus degrees. Since most municipal water comes into buildings at 50 degrees, the savings mount up fast on your oil, gas or electric bill.

Overhead and General
Lighting: If you're using lighting fixtures and bulb types installed more than 10 years ago, you may be wasting money. New fixtures, ballasts, reflectors, and bulbs are available that not only offer more light but do so using fewer kilowatts. Better lighting at less cost seems like a good deal, but it can be even better. In many communities the local electric company may offer rebate programs that will pay for some or all of the cost involved in replacing your lights.

One rink replaced 44 overhead light fixtures with 18 energy efficient ones. Results: Decreased energy usage, increased ellumination on the ice. And the best part of the story is that the local electric company paid for the project. Check with your local supplier of electricity for the programs they may offer.

Motion detectors that turn on lights only when a space is being used and energy efficient florescent tubes are also available.

Energy Efficient Motors: Glycol pump motors, water pump motors, and compressor motors use large amount of electricity. New energy efficient motors are available at additional costs. The price difference can be recovered through decreased energy usage. Any motor that needs replacing should be replaced with a high efficiency motor. Ask your power company about the rebate programs they may offer to help pay for the greater efficiency.

Co-Generation: In case of power outage, most rinks have some type of stand-by generator to provide emergency lighting for exiting the building. Some rinks may have generators capable of supplying sufficient energy to save the ice but not keep the building open. If your ice rink has a stand-by generation capable of running the entire facility, please notify ISI.

Co-generation utilizes large generators, in a plant on the user's property, to supply all electrical needs. In some locales, the local electric company is required by law to purchase any surplus power from the co-generatior. However, if you remain hooked up to the local electric company, in case your co-generator fails, you may be required to pay for power you're not using. Co-generator has a good track record in many industries. It's record has been spotty in ice rink applications but should be investigated as an option, as it does work.

Energy efficiency is essential to the bottom line of any ice rink. The equipment and systems listed in this article are examples of what's available to help progressive rink managers lower their power bills. There may be other equally good products available. If your refrigeration maintenance company id unaware of these energy saving methods, you may want to provide them with information or find another company that will assist you in becoming more cost effective. Persistent pursuit of information on rebates available from your local electric company for energy conservation programs are also well worth the effort.