Take 'Control' Of Your Energy Bill

Derek Hawes - CIMCO Dartmouth, (902)-469-0023

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.

Energy Savings
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.

Safeguard against liability.
By now, most rink personnel are familiar with the increasing risk of legal liability associated with operating a recreation facility. Ofcourse we all hope that no one in our area will ever be faced with this situation, but we also realize that it is inevitable. By having a computer printout of the conditions at your facility at the precise time of the incident (e.g. compressor running, ice surface temperature, brine temperature, ambient temperature, etc.), you can easily justify in a court of law that your refrigeration system was operating properly and your "due diligence" was fulfilled.

What should we look in an Ice Surface Temperature Controller?
Because this technology is relatively new, there are a number of considerations that could be easily overlooked. Here are a few tips on features you should expect in an ice surface temperature controller.

Any controller system should be customizable specifically to your facility. This would include the computer graphics, the refrigeration equipment, and the options required for your particular needs.

The unit should also be expandable to include other options in the future which may not currently be required. Also, if your facility has (or plans to have) an additional ice surface for hockey or curling, the one control system should be able to accommodate this as well.

Operating Platform
An important feature to watch for is an industry standard computer for the system, such as DOS or Windows. Specialized operating system can often lead to technological limitations, such as incompatibility with existing computers. Also, availability of components and local services should not be overlooked.

Remote Dial-up & Alarm Capability
Reduce cost downtime by reporting alarms immediately to a remote monitoring site, pager or your home computer.

Extensive programming than can accommodate your facilities schedule and future requirements is essential. Other scheduling features should include setbacks for nights and holidays. This should be "user-friendly" and not require lengthy training.

Ease of Installation.
Any retrofit item should be able to adapt to your existing refrigeration system. You should not have to purchase new equipment that is compatible with the control system.

A programmable ice surface temperature controller would prove to be a valuable asset to any arena. This represents fairly substantial investment, but probably the one worth the shortest payback time. Rink commissions, boards town councils, etc. will be impressed with how this technology can help the bottom line ($) at the end of each operating season, freeing up resources for often overlooked items such as maintenance, renovations, or other energy saving investments.

Data Retrieval
We all know how important it is to maintain records, not only for general maintenance, but also to detect warning signs of potentially dangerous problems and for liability reasons. This controller has the ability to generate a computer printout of your refrigeration system's daily operation or save the records to a computer file. Data retrieval and programming can be done either on-site at the rink, or from any remote personal computer (home or office) with a modem and remote monitoring software.

Derek Hawes is the Recreation Representative for CIMCO Refrigeration.
Derek can be reached at (902)-469-0023.