The era of flooding ice rinks with hot water is coming to an end.
Pearkes arena is one of about 12 artificial indoor rinks in B.C. that is using a new technology to resurface the ice with lukewarm water instead of hot water.
“Basically, we don’t have to run a hot water tank anymore,” said Barry Richards, building services supervisor at Pearkes. “We used to keep water between 60 and 70 degrees C and now it’s about 18 C.”
Traditionally, and still at most rinks around the world, ice resurfacing vehicles flood the rink with heated water. Heat removes most of the air bubbles from the water and it freezes with a smooth skating surface.
However, Saanich’s new machine, built by Canadian company REALice, “filters water through a high-speed patented vortex, or hydro-dynamic cavitation,” said the company’s website.
The REALice machine cost $32,880 and Saanich’s manager of sustainability Mark Boysen estimates the savings will cover the cost in two years.
Hot water is still used on Pearkes’ Green rink.
Richards pointed to where a hose ran through a small black column mounted on the wall in the ice resurfacing vehicle’s Gold rink storage area.
“That’s it, it’s not big, but it does a big job.”
It’s the latest upgrade for Pearkes’ Gold rink, which has undergone a series of changes including new lighting in 2014 and a whole new ice plant, with new compressors and condensers.
“The ice plant actually reclaims hot water which is used for the [dressing room] showers, and because of that we’ve turned the natural gas off completely for the Gold rink.”
The REALice machine has been in use on the Gold rink since last year. Staff didn’t tell the user groups, and the feedback regarding the ice quality was mostly positive (unless you skate after junior B practice, but that’s a another matter).
While Boysen would prefer to see a full year of data before making any conclusions, to this point, the results align with the estimated savings by REALice’s managing director Florian Gabriel.
“The last three months of data show that we are on track for an annual savings of 90,000 kWh and that we are currently exceeding the anticipated natural gas savings of 900GJ per year,” Boysen said. “This translates into $18,000 in annual savings and a two-year payback.
In addition, the upgrade to the ice plant system in 2015 is showing a potential energy savings of almost 500,000 kWh, or 20 per cent, in its first year of operation.
That’s in addition to another significant energy project at Pearkes, which installed LED lighting in 2014 for both rinks. It’s led to a savings of 213,000 kWh per year.
“In 2015, for example, hydro rates increased by six per cent but Saanich reduced overall consumption in our facilities by 4.5 per cent,” Boysen said. “So although our electricity costs increased, the reductions led to $112,000 savings last year in avoided costs.”
With a projected a savings of $150,000 over the next 10 years, it’s only a matter of time before Saanich purchases another REALice for the Green rink.