Making the Ice Safer While Cutting Costs at the Rink

Making the Ice Safer While Cutting Costs at the Rink


The Lorette Community Complex in the Rural Municipality of Taché started using the REALice water treatment system at the start of this season. Just 30 minutes outside of Winnipeg, MB, the arena’s 59-year old ice plant is on its last legs. That’s one reason facility manager Heiko Zinn recommended REALice to the RM to begin with. By using REALice-treated cold floodwater to maintain the ice, instead of the hot water floods they used to do, the run time hours on the compressors have fallen by more than 725 hours compared to similar operations last season. That lower compressor and pump wear-and-tear has helped the ice plant keep running — and kept the rink open all season.

Water Quality

An even bigger reason why Zinn wanted REALice is because of water quality due to the old building they have. Zinn recalls an issue over the blue lines the season before they installed REALice, after a one-week shutdown over Christmas.

“When we got back from the Christmas break, there were air pockets forming just under the ice, right above the blue lines. It was dangerous: I was sure the skates would break through those pockets and might cause injuries. The ice was no longer safe for the skaters.” Zinn explains.

Zinn got the season back on track by taking a hammer to those spots to break them out and clean them. Then he borrowed some demineralized water from the curling club next door and spread it on top to repair the damage.

Without regular resurfacing taking place during the Christmas shutdown, Zinn figures the Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) and the trapped air in the ice started making their way to the surface.

Ice made with REALice at the Lorette Community Complex – with one week left in the season. No more issues with substandard ice.


Reverse Osmosis or REALice?

That’s when he started looking for a way to avoid an incident like this in the future. His research gave him two choices: a reverse-osmosis system to treat and eliminate most of the TDS from the water, or REALice.

He knew from other rinks that although R/O systems work well to provide clear ice, the resulting water is caustic, deteriorating pipes and even attacking the ice resurfacing machine, causing rust that contaminates the ice. That wasn’t the only barrier: the capital expense needed to modify the facility to accommodate the large system and storage tanks were too much for an arena the RM was hoping to replace.

Zinn read that REALice removes the microbubbles in the water and without them, the TDS have nothing to cling to. Instead, they are pushed to the surface of the ice, resulting in clear ice. When REALice offered the option of a rental system with a portion of the fees going towards an eventual purchase (if one was made), Zinn decided to move forward with a September 2022 installation.

By mid-November, Zinn had seen all he needed to see. Their ice was clear, the lines were bright, the compressor run time was down and they’d stopped heating the floodwater altogether. On January 1, 2023, the RM of Taché sent a cheque to purchase the REALice system outright. And, as a bonus, they were even lowering personnel costs because of it.

Which is kind of a crazy story in itself.

Less Compressor Run Time and Cold Water = Savings

The lower run time on the compressors and pumps means electric savings. With the REALice-treated floodwater freezing faster than hot water, the brine settings that control the ice temperature need to be reset higher to prevent it from flash freezing. If the ice was kept at the typical temperatures needed for hot water floods, the ice would be brittle and would create a lot of snow. And no one wants that. Warming the REALice ice up 3-5°F warmer results in faster ice that creates little snow.

This season, with the ice coming out this week, Zinn says REALice has saved the RM over $2,800.00 in energy costs. Not bad for a seasonal single pad in a province with the second lowest electricity rate in Canada — especially considering the equipment’s useful life of the REALice system is expected to be 25 years or more.

Faster Puck Mark Removal from Glass: Lower Personnel Costs

The energy savings is normally the headline story with REALice, but not in Lorette. The biggest REALice savings, a whopping $7,000 less in personnel costs, came from a completely different application. In December, Lorette’s operations team started using just REALice-treated water and a rag to remove the nasty puck marks on the tempered glass surrounding the rink. Zinn explains the most puck-marked intensive area, the glass behind the goal, would typically take two operators six hours to clean every month – using a heavy duty glass cleaner. Now, using nothing but REALice-treated water in a spray bottle, and a cloth to wipe it off, it takes one person around an hour to remove the puck marks from ALL that glass.

Cleaning Off Puck Marks – and the Coffee Maker, too

Romuald Dufour, Technical Director at the UCPA Arena in Meudon, France, uses REALice-treated water in the facility’s coffee maker to avoid scaling and says it is unbelievably fast at removing puck marks from the glass.

Zinn, originally from the Kaiserslautern area in Germany, borrowed the REALice puck-mark removal trick from French ice technician Romuald Beraud Dufour from the Patinoire De Meudon UCPA. The Olympic-sized indoor ice rink has been a REALice customer for four years; Dufour has been an enthusiastic ambassador of the Swedish-made technology because of the energy savings and great ice quality. Last year, in a “what if” moment, he tried cleaning the puck marks off the glass using REALice-treated water — and, “voilà”! Dufour couldn’t believe how fast and easy it was. In December, he posted about his discovery in the REALice forum on Facebook and word spread quickly to ice technicians around the world.

Dufour didn’t stop with the glass, either. He’s now using REALice-treated water in their heavy duty hot beverage machine. The big benefit there is they no longer get alerts that a descaling treatment is due because the REALice-treated water prevents scale buildup, too.

Häkan Grönlund, the CEO of H2Ovortex S.A.R.L., the worldwide distributor of REALice and other applications based on the patented VPT – Vortex Process Technology, is thrilled the REALice users keep trying new things with the treated water.

“It’s (the REALice-treated floodwater) great for ice because it acts like it’s been heated to high temperatures — but it hasn’t. And that saves energy, and money!” Grönlund explains. “The 3D-printed system creates a vortex that treats the water to remove the air bubbles. It delivers denser water at a lower viscosity that’s great for ice — and it dissolves puck marks on tempered glass effortlessly, too.”

Häkan Grönlund looking at a REALice installation in Ontario


REALice’s Descaling Properties

Grönlund says the shear forces inside the vortex impact minerals in the water that normally contribute to scaling.

“Those shear forces crystallize the calcium carbonate in the water, changing their shape. They can’t cling to each other anymore, so there’s no more scale buildup on the heating elements in the machine. That’s why Romuald’s coffee maker stays so clean, and partly why our customers’ ice is so clear, too!”

Grönlund says the REALice-treated water is, still, water, with nothing filtered out of it, but the resulting floodwater is different compared to what it was before entering the REALice system.

“The REALice uses water pressure to treat the water,” Grönlund explains. “That makes it a truly sustainable product. The precise tornado-like vortex is produced with a static pressure of 45 PSI or more, and needs nothing else – no filters, no membranes, no maintenance and, in most cases, no additional energy source. It’s easier to work with compared to hot water, saves money and has other benefits too. Like cleaning puck marks easily off the glass!”

New Facility Coming Soon

In the meantime, Zinn is busy. There are meetings to attend and a large grocery list of “must haves” for the new building he’s compiling. That includes new dasherboards and, perhaps, seamless glass he hopes to source from a Canadian manufacturer. As to the puck-mark-removing qualities of REALice, Zinn’s amazed and he’s not alone. He’s already given a sample to ICE Marketing sales rep Mark Ritchot so the Manitoba-based sport supplier could try it out.

“I’ve never seen any glass cleaner work so well on the puck marks,” says Ritchot, who’s worked for ICE Marketing for three years. “We’re excited. And it’s another reason why all indoor ice rinks need REALice.”

In January, the Canada and Manitoba Governments announced grant approvals for a new community facility in the RM of Taché. The Taché Multiplex will be built next to the old arena and will include a library, a space for seniors and an indoor ice rink. The ice plant will be using CO2 for the refrigerant, a first for Manitoba. And they’ll redeploy the REALice system to the new facility.

Finally, Efficiency Manitoba, a provincial body dedicated to energy efficiency, advice and financial support also supported the REALice measure with energy incentives. This was also a first for Manitoba, but with over 240 indoor rinks in the province, it won’t be the last.