Slowly but surely, change is coming to an indoor arena near you, changes that are saving money, making the ice brighter and doing something we all should be concerned about: reducing the carbon footprint of our indoor rinks.

For indoor rink retrofits, changing your lighting to LED (Light Emitting Diode) has many benefits. A great example of the gained benefits can be gleaned from the recent LED installation at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, Ontario.

With a capacity of 19,153 spectators, the Canadian Tire Centre is a multi-purpose venue, but hockey fans know it for being the home of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators. Before the 2014-15 hockey season began, the lighting hanging from the catwalks above the arena was changed from metal halide and quartz halogen to LED.

“We evaluated what was out there for LED,” says Ed Healy, Director of Engineering and Operations, Canadian Tire Centre. “So we looked at the colour of the light, the throw of the light, the quality of the fixture and the quality of the operating system.” At the end, they settled on a system from Syracuse, NY-based Ephesus Lighting. In addition to ticking all the boxes on Healy’s checklist, this system gives the Canadian Tire Centre something it never had before: instant strike – and those benefits are amazing.

Instant Strike

The LED lighting at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, ON.

Canadian Tire Centre Lighting – courtesy of Ephesus Lighting

“Instant Strike” means no more waiting: the lights come on immediately.

“Before, with our outdated technology, it would take us 10 to 15 to 18 minutes to get those to full capacity brightness,” Healy says. With the LED system in place, you flip the switch and the lights come on. “It’s a major cost-savings for the building.”

Another positive side-effect of LED lighting is it’s a cool-light technology, emitting a minimal amount of heat — especially compared to the amount of heat the lights the Canadian Tire Centre used to have. This means the cooling plant doesn’t need to work as hard – and it becomes a more comfortable environment for the spectators.

Less is More

There were 344 lights in the Canadian Tire Centre’s old system: now there are just 146. Reducing the number of fixtures doesn’t mean the brightness of the ice has been compromised, either. In fact, it’s brighter than ever, more than a 50% improvement in what it used to be. Which proves that when it comes to LED lighting, less, indeed, can be more.

Cost Savings

For municipalities and arena owners alike, indoor ice rinks are expensive and finding ways to reduce those expenses are usually welcome. For the Canadian Tire Centre LED retrofit, they were helped by local utility, Hydro Ottawa and was part of the Ontario government’s Save On Energy incentives which offers rebates of up to 50% on energy efficient retrofit costs.

Hydro Ottawa estimated that the lighting switch would save the facility more than 1 million kilowatt hours a year. To get an idea of what that means, try to imagine ONE THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED AND FORTY-FIVE  60-watt light bulbs running 24-hours a day, seven day a week for an entire year. That savings was backed up in a press release by the Ottawa Senators four months after the switch was made, saying the retrofit had “yielded a projected energy savings of more than 70%“.

Doug Drotman, a spokesman for Ephesus Lighting, says the return on investment depends on how much the rink is being used.

“The typical ROI for an installation is 24-36 months – all based upon the usage,” Drotman tells me in an email. “A municipal rink which has a lot more usage than an NHL rink would probably ROI on the faster end.”

The Canadian Tire Centre was the first NHL venue to be retrofitted with a lighting solution from Ephesus; a second, Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena was retrofitted, replacing 247 metal halide lights with 120 LED – and an energy savings of 85%. The links in this paragraphs on the arena names will take you to more information about the solutions this company provided.

What Can You Do?

If you’re a facility manager considering a lighting retrofit to your indoor arena, Shane LaBrash, an energy coach at Hydro Ottawa has these helpful suggestions for arenas (big or small):

  1. Remove all old fluorescent(T12)/halogen/incandescent technology and upgrade to high-efficiency fluorescent (T8/T5) or LED
  2. Upgrade the exterior lighting (parking lot/building perimeter) from traditional sources to LED
  3. Make use of sensors in the washrooms/dressing rooms/mechanical areas to ensure lights are off during times of no occupancy

If you’re a hockey parent, it’s time to get vocal. Talk to members of your town council, your alderman or mayor and find out what’s on their agenda to help cut down the carbon footprint of your local arena. Energy savings like lighting is already a big step forward, and with the money saved on energy costs, other changes can be made that can benefit players and visitors alike.

Learn More

Here are three interesting reads to give you ideas on how your rink could be reducing its carbon footprint soon: