Lower the rink’s carbon footprint

Lower the rink’s carbon footprint

Ice rinks consume vast amounts of energy and therefore contribute to global warming. There are many ways to lower the carbon footprint (CO2) in the ice rink and lower your natural gas expense on the pathway to net zero for ice rinks.

For many indoor arenas using natural gas as a fuel source for water heating, the escalating costs and the carbon emissions and taxes — even over the next 10 years — may limit their ability to provide affordable ice time. In terms of CO2 emissions depending on the source of electricity, natural gas presents the highest emissions.

So, what is the best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and get your ice rink to net zero?

In this article, we are exploring 5 strategies on the pathway to net zero to dramatically lower CO2 emissions and therefore the carbon footprint of the arena.

5 strategies to reduce CO2 emissions and cut natural gas costs in the ice rink:


  1. Install a rink de-aerator to remove micro air bubbles from resurfacing water
  2. Switch to on-demand water heaters
  3. Insulate hot water pipes
  4. Raise the efficiency of water heaters
  5. Reclaim waste heat from the rink


1. Install a rink de-aerator to remove micro air bubbles from resurfacing water

A rink de-aerator will eliminate big parts of your water heating costs for your flood water. The FortisBC ice rink resurfacing efficiency pilot showed a natural gas reduction of 79% or on average 330GJ among the 10 pilot rinks. Instead of using extremely hot temperatures for the resurfacing water, air bubbles can passively be removed and the temperature on the resurfacing water lowered. A recent study from Enerife Consulting and the Mayors Megawatt Challenge showed that 13% of the rinks carbon emissions can be eliminated by using cold water resurfacing technology.

This treatment of the resurfacing water results in harder, smoother ice that requires less maintenance. Using extremely hot water not only requires energy to heat but also increases the refrigeration load because warm water is being applied directly to the ice. This means using a rink de-aerator will also save 10%-12% of energy from the ice rink refrigeration system because the de-aerated water has fewer impurities than boiled water and can therefore be frozen at a higher temperature. Depending on the source of electricity, a rink de-aerator can reduce CO2 emission by 18-50 tonnes per rink per year per sheet of ice.

2. Invest in on-demand water heaters

On-demand water heaters can be 24% – 34% more energy-efficient than conventional storage-tank water heaters and therefore reduce natural gas consumption and lower CO2 emissions. They are compact in size and take up less space than traditional tank-type water heaters. Tankless hot water heaters only produce heat when it is being used and therefore don’t waste energy when hot water cools down in long pipe runs or while water is sitting in the storage tank.  When the water is no longer needed, the units are shut off and stop producing hot water. Tankless water heaters become a viable option in the ice rink in combination with using a rink de-aerator. The need for stored hot water will be dramatically decreased. Warmer water will mostly only be needed for maintenance tasks in and around the ice resurfacer station.

3. Insulate hot water pipes

By insulating the hot water pipes in ice arenas, the water temperature will be raised by 2°F–4°F compared to uninsulated pipes. This reduces heat loss – up to 33% -, saves CO2, and natural gas, and allows for reducing the water temperature setting at the boiler. In addition, hot water in the faucets and showers will be available faster when turned on, helping to preserve water.

4. Increase the efficiency of water heaters

Upgrading to high-efficiency water heaters will save on natural gas or electricity and reduce CO2 in the ice rink. Accessing hot water fast and efficiently – especially in the showers is important, especially when the showers are sensor-driven to eliminate water waste from the dressing rooms.

5. Use waste heat from the rink refrigeration system

Heat reclaim systems can capture heat as free energy from the ice rink’s chiller. This recovered heat can be used for space heating, domestic water heating, pre-heating of the resurfacing water, subfloor heating, slab heating, ice melting, etc… and will reduce natural gas costs and lower CO2 emissions. The majority of reclaimed heat derives from the refrigeration condenser and some heat can be captured from the building’s exhaust air.


More strategies to lower the carbon footprint in the arena


Install automatic water fill shut off

When the ice resurfacing machine is being filled, there is a risk of water overflow. Often, the ice resurfacing machines when left unattended will overflow with hot or cold water, because the water was not shut off when the machine was full. This wastes water and natural gas if the water was hot. Installing an automatic water filling system will prevent the ice resurfacing machine from overflowing.

Operate bleacher heaters with coins

Heating units above the bleachers are still present in many ice arenas and in often they run all the time. Taking them out might not be an option but considering operating them on coin-operated timers or at least on timers might be a good idea. This will prevent them to be turned on first thing in the morning, running all day, and potentially not even being shut off overnight. This will make a big difference to the natural gas usage and again reduce CO2 emissions from the ice rink.


Check out: 20 ways to reduce cost in the ice rink   and the Roadmap to Net Zero ice arenas