Tremendous energy savings. That’s what happened when LED lighting replaced metal halide and quartz halogen lights at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa. The CTC is, of course, the Canadian capital’s largest arena, home to the Ottawa Sentors of the NHL. That made me wonder, what about all of Ottawa’s other arenas? Have they been retrofitted too — and if so, how?

Mike Fletcher, Project Manager for the City of Ottawa‘s Building Engineering & Energy Management Section says, “Yes!” and goes on to tell me that the lighting retrofits, in fact, were done by the start of the 2013-14 season, and saw 33 of that city’s rinks updated to T5HO (High-Output) lighting.

Now before you scrunch up your forehead when you read that T5s are fluorescent, you should know that fluorescent lighting has changed by leaps and bounds since GE showed off the first fluorescent ballast – at the 1939 World Fair in New York City. The T5 is kind of the Ironman of fluorescent lighting: it’s simply better in every aspect you can imagine, from how brightly it lights to how long it lasts — and how much it costs to operate.

Mike says the T5HO installations really amount to a double savings when it comes to energy.

“The more efficient lighting in an arena reduces waste heat that ultimately needs to be removed from the building by the ice plant,” he says.

Richard Thorne, Conservation Supervisor at Hydro Ottawa, says the quality of light with a T5 system is far superior to what you got with the metal halide system the City used to be using.

“In the lifecycle of a T5, the bulb retains 95% of its lumen energy,” Richard tells me by phone. “That means that even when the bulb is near its end of life, it’s still shining brightly.”

“And T5s have twice the life cycle compared to the metal halide. They have a rating of 30,000 hours, and with some of the arenas running 18 hours a day, that means a long stretch without replacement – more than 5 years. And the quality of the light is far superior.”

Those weren’t the only changes, either

Back to Mike Fletcher at the City of Ottawa.

Me: So, was that the only thing you did?

“No, we did some other things,” he tells me over the phone. “We installed some stand heating controls. To get the heaters to work, you need to push a button to turn them on, and they heat the stands below for an hour and then they’ll shut off.”

“We also changed the cooling tower at one of the rinks from forced draft to an induced draft system, which saves energy, especially when it’s cold, as the cooling tower may not need air to help cool it down when the temperature outdoors is freezing.”

“And we bought six electric ice resurfacers, as a part of our green electrical FLEET program,” he continues. “By all accounts, our people love them.”

Lights Connected to Motion Detectors

“Oh!” and he laughs. “Your team had better skate, because we have motion detectors above all the ice rink surfaces. If you keep still for too long, the lights will go out!”

The retrofits were made to 33 indoor ice facilities, but account for 50 individual ice pads.


Ottawa City Hall’s underground parking saw their lights replaced, going from T8 directly to LED, with a payback of just over 2 years.

The City of Ottawa is on a mission to reduce their hydro electric bill and Fletcher, who joined the City in 2013, is on a team pumping out a whopping 60 energy-saving projects a year.

“We’re seeing a huge reduction in the City’s energy bill,” Fletcher says, “which is down between 12 to 15 GWh a year over the past three years.” A gigawatt hour equals 1 million kilowatt hours — and 1 kilowatt is how much energy is used to run a 100 watt incandescent bulb for 10 hours — so those savings are incredible.

Green City

Ottawa sees itself as a “Green City” and its plans for the future will expand on the work they’ve already done. In the 2016 budget, $500,000 has been earmarked for the Municipal Green Fleet to reduce the amount of fuel being consumed by city vehicles. And street lighting will change over the next five years to LED – a savings estimated to chop in half the 2014 expense of $7.2 million dollars. To see more of what Ottawa is doing to be a Green City, click here.

Congratulations, Ottawa. The retrofits to your ice rinks are a model for other municipalities to follow who care about their environmental footprint and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.