A nonprofit community ice rink, Centre Sportif Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines in Quebec, Canada, is saving CA$3,500 per month in operational expenses with a new Eco Chill CO2 refrigeration system from Canadian contractor Cimco Refrigeration.  

“Our goal [was] to save CA$50,000 a year,” said Roberto Marandola, Director at Centre Sportif Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines. “A lot of people told me I was dreaming.”

However, as of earlier this year, the facility is close to that goal, averaging a monthly savings of CA$3,500 in electricity and hydro power, with the help of other energy-efficient measures such as transitioning to LED lighting in 2019. One of the energy-saving measures is the heat recovery installed with the refrigeration system.

Centre Sportif Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines was opened in 1994, and had been running on an old R22 refrigeration system until now. Environmental concerns were considered when the arena’s management decided on how to retrofit the system, but the “main goal was to save money with a system that would reduce energy costs,” according to Cimco Refrigeration.

“This was the first time I worked with Cimco, and it was the best decision I’ve made,” said Marandola. “I find the system so flexible,” he added.

“Cimco’s automation group technology allows the facility to adjust temperatures remotely, something that has come in especially handy during the pandemic when working from home has been necessary,” he continued. “The facility has also been routinely closed because of lockdowns and curfews, which has required temperature monitoring multiple times during the day.”

The center includes a 27,500ft2 (2,555m2) ice rink with room for 300 spectators, serving a community of 15,000 people. The arena hosts a variety of activities, including minor-league hockey games and public skating. It also lends its ice rink to the physical education program of a nearby high school. Construction for the new installation began in May 2020, and the center reopened in September.

The refurbishment was financed by a provincial grant, and was given an additional subsidy from Hydro Quebec.

“This was the first time I worked with Cimco, and it was the best decision I’ve made”

Roberto Marandala

Why CO2?

On the choice of CO2 for the ice rink, Cimco said, “It capitalizes on the science of thermal dynamics to maximize building efficiency, and features heat recovery technology that keeps costs low, without compromising ice quality.”

The fact that the arena is located in a residential neighborhood was important, and a feasibility report recommended CO2 as the “optimal and safest choice” for its minimal toxicity and zero flammability.

Some of Marandola’s peers challenged him on his choice of CO2 for the new refrigeration system, but he held firm, recognizing that the opinions were based on anecdotal evidence, and came from experiences that occurred close to a decade ago, when CO2 technology was in its infancy.

“I went to visit all kinds of CO2 systems beforehand to see the technology in action, but this system is totally different,” Marandola explained. “In terms of ice quality and maintenance, the ice freezes incredibly quickly, something the Zamboni driver noticed immediately.”

“By the time they do their full turn, it’s frozen—there’s no waiting,” said Marandola. “The ice is also harder, and nicer to skate on.”

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