Indoor ice arenas and curling clubs in Europe are feeling the impact of increased energy costs. With prices so high, many are opting to keep the doors closed this season. The ones who are open are scrambling to find energy- and resource-efficient solutions. Here are three methods that should be considered: reusable rink liners instead of ice paint, cold floodwater technology instead of hot, and recycling the shavings from the snow pit in a two-pronged approach which may surprise you.

Unlike North American rinks, most European rinks use electricity for all their energy needs, from water heating to the ice resurfacing machine. The cost per kWh, due, in large part, to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, has hit levels that were previously unimaginable. Kevin Grumetza, from Hack-to-Hack/Goal-to-Goal Solution Inc., a company that produces custom, digitally-printed rink liners, was recently in Norway doing a first-time install at the Haugesund Curlingklubb. He learned that the cost/kWh they’re now paying is the equivalent of CAD $1.06. In Canada, the average cost per kWh is 12¢. That means the cost of electricity is nearly 10 times more expensive in Norway.

To put that into perspective: if electricity cost $5,000/month last year, this year it will cost $50,000.00/month.

Reusable Liners instead of Ice Paint

Which is one of the reasons why the Hedmarken Curlingklubb (see video on the right) opted to install the reusable Hack-to-Hack sheets back in 2018. According to Grumetza, when you consider the cost of the ice paint, the time it takes to build the ice (for curling clubs that’s mostly volunteer work), the time it takes to take out the ice and properly dispose of the ice paint residue (volunteers again), and the equipment costs that can occur due to improper disposal techniques, the return on investment on the patented, reusable mesh sheets is fast – around two years.

Hack-to-Hack’s rink liners are durable and don’t tend to wrinkle and stretch like other copycat liners. Last week, the curling club in DeBolt, Alberta posted pictures on their Facebook page of their rink liners, laid out flat on the concrete, waiting for the ice-building to begin. The sheets were purchased back in 2006 and have been used ever since. It’s not just the recurring cost and inconvenience of ice paint either that’s attractive, although for many clubs, the concept of “just add water” is a welcomed relief. Most clubs find they’re able to keep their ice thinner using the sheets than they did with ice paint, and they’ve been able to raise their brine temperatures higher. Thinner, warmer ice results in lower refrigeration demand, which means energy savings.

The REALice ice at the 100.5 Arena in Aachen, Germany

Eliminate Hot Water Floods

For hockey rinks, energy costs are also exploding.

Kai Michael Festerling, an Icemeister at 100.5 Arena, an indoor ice rink in Aachen, Germany, finished putting the ice in earlier this month. He says the electricity costs for the upcoming season are expected to be 14 times as much as they were last year. That’s why he and other operators and owners are looking for ways to cut costs. Festerling works at two different arenas: both of them have been using the REALice floodwater treatment system for several years. REALice lets them use cold floodwater instead of hot. The 3D-printed, maintenance free REALice saves on water heating and refrigeration costs, with the colder water necessitating warmer ice temperatures to prevent brittle ice. The lower run time hours that come with lower refrigeration demand can impact overhaul intervals, and extend the lifecycle of the plant.

Festerling is now turning to more complex systems to reduce costs. He’s got his eyes on the ice shavings from the snow melt pit. Recycling the floodwater would reduce the water and sewage costs, and practically remove a relatively large line item from their annual budget.

The Circular Economie$ of Recycled Snow Shavings

Which takes us to a two-pronged system to recycle snow shavings in Roseville, California.

Back in 1996, when Scott Slavensky was finalizing the plans for Skatetown, snow melt pits were still being optionally integrated into arena designs.

But not for Slavensky.

The hockey dad with a commercial HVAC and energy management background not only opted for a snow melt pit, he looked for ways to make it energy-efficient and reduce the water and sewage demand, too.

The first method transforms melted ice shavings from the snow melt pit into hot water via the refrigeration plant’s condenser. The resulting hot water is used, once again, in the pit, to melt the ice shavings. Completely circular!

A second system pulls the melted water out of the pit, filters it with a series of filters and heats it up to put back in the ice resurfacers’ floodwater tanks.

Which uses the recycled floodwater to maintain the ice.

Slavensky writes:

The Zam hot water and desuperheater drawings are the original drawings.  We have made quite a few modifications but don’t have current graphics.  The modifications are that we use a trash pump in the pit to push water through filters rather than have the pump pull water out.  The old system created lots of priming issues.

The filters are an FSI X100 housing with 200 micron filter as the first stage; a Harmsco HUR170 filter with 20 micron cartridge as the second stage and a Harmsco filter with Hytrex II 5 micron filter elements.

Scott Slavensky

GM, Skatetown

The original plans, which have been modified as per above, can be seen below.

Plumbing schematic
Skateland snow melt recycling system for hot floodwater

By harvesting the water from the snow melt pit, the water and sewage savings for Skatetown are significant. It’s easy to see why. It’s a large year-round facility averaging 7 floods per pad each day, with eight dressing rooms all equipped with bathroom and showers , café, situated on 5 acres of landscaped property. The amount of water used and sewage disposed of would be high if the shavings weren’t recycled.

They still have water and sewage costs, but they are minimal compared to many indoor ice arenas.

“We use about 1,500,000 gallons of water annually which costs about $5,000.00,” says Slavensky. “Our annual sewer bill, adjusted for the metered water we use in our condenser, costs about $10,000 annually.”

The Last Word

With the skyrocketing cost of electricity, European curling clubs and hockey rinks have little choice but to cut costs, or close their doors. These are three great solutions that should be considered by arenas and curling clubs everywhere. They will make your facility more energy- and resource-efficient.