Start 'Em' Up! - Early Season Maintenance Tips For Arena

Derek Hawes - Recreation Representative for CIMCO Refrigeration in the Maritime Provinces

Where did the summer go? All across the province rinks have started their refrigeration systems and have put their ice in for another season. From now until spring, the last thing anyone wants is for their system to be down for any reason. In this article, we will review a few early season tips that can help ensure a trouble free operation.

Record Keeping
Many rinks have renovations done to the refrigeration equipment over the summer months, and in the rush to get the ice in on schedule, forget to make a record of these changes. In the event of an equipment failure, it can save a lot of time if this information is readily available. Any drawing of the system should also be updated to reflect these changes. Ideally, a flow schematic (or piping and instrumentation diagram) should be posted in the equipment room as a quick reference.

Another important matter is to do a complete record of operating conditions. Besides the usual pressures and temperatures, have the amperage taken for each motor. Your refrigeration system is designed for making ice, and therefore, the beginning of the season is the best time to record this information. This can be compared to design conditions to identify p9otential problems, or can be used as a benchmark if there are any changes throughout the year.


Most rinks have an analysis done of their brine every year. This gives an accurate reading of the strength of the brine, rust inhibitor, pH, and other items such as levels of iron and suspended solids. It will also detect any presence of ammonia which can serve as an advance warning of a serious chiller failure. It is one thing to have the analysis done and 'know' what action should be taken, but it is another to actually correct any problems that may have been identified. Brine samples are often taken during the end of season shut-down and analysis results are usually reported over the summer. It is easy to put these on the back burner until the fall, or until the new budget year begins, but it is important that recommendations are implemented.

For rinks that have brine filtration systems, start-up is a good time to change your filter cartridge. These can be cleaned throughout the season, but with the amount of impurities that are removed over the course of the year, a new cartridge is usually recommended to ensure the brine is properly contained.


There are a number of items that every facility should have on hand to get them through the season. Most rinks keep an adequate supply of consumable items on hand, such as calcium chloride and oil, but there are other items that are seldom used which can be easily overlooked.

For example, during the start of a weekend tournament a Friday night is not the best time to discover that you do not have a space fuse for a motor. While these can usually be located and delivered within a day, your plant could be possibly be down for the entire time until th new fuse is installed. Some rinks argue that with their tight budgets they cannot afford to keep an inventory; others see this inventory as inexpensive insurance against lost revenue. Sooner or later, you will need these components. It is better to have them on hand, than to be losing ice rentals while you wait for a priority delivery. Take the time to go through your plant and take note of miscellaneous items that may have to be replaced before the end of the season.

Some rinks are aware of possible deficiencies in their system, and are 'keeping their fingers crossed" that they get through just on more season. This is where budget decisions do impact the level of dependability, but that dies not prevent you from developing a contingency plan. For example, a brine pump that is on its ' last legs' should not be expected to perform reliably until the spring. Some rinks have an alternate brine pump piped into their system as an immediate back-up which is ideal. Others have a space pump (or pump components) on hand, which minimize down time in the event of a failure. If your budget does not allow for this, make arrangements with a neighboring rink that does have a spare pump on hand that is compatible with yours. Knowing where to call in emergency will save a lot of anxiety and a lot of time.

Get Ready for Inspection!
The Nova Scotia Department of Labour has been particularly diligent over the past few years with arena inspections. One of the key items they look for is adequate safety controls on equipment. These are safeguards designed to keep a slight mechanical failure from becoming a devastating (possibly fatal) disaster. These should be verified energy year, which involves a certified refrigeration technician simulating conditions that should activate the control. If the safety control does not function, then it should be adjusted, repaired or replaces immediately. This does not guarantee that the controls will function properly throughout the season, but it is a reasonable measure you should take to protect your patrons and staff, as well as the equipment. Having safety controls inspected is not mandated in all provinces, but it is highly recommended as a safety and liability issue.

There are a number of other start-up items that you may have to consider for your particular facility. It is a good idea to make a check list so you remember these on an annual basis. This will help ensure you have a safe and trouble-free operating season.

    Derek Hawes is the Recreation Representative for CIMCO Refrigeration in the Maritime Provinces and can be contamted at (902) 469-0023; e-mail