Under the subheading of “it’s always been done that way“, I’m going to dispel some myths about ice arenas. Today I’m starting with the heart of the rink, the refrigeration/mechanical room.

Myth: refrigeration/mechanical rooms must be noisy

NOT so. There are many more I can tell you about, but two great are the Keene Community Ice Arena in Keene, NH, and Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn, ME. Their refrigeration/mechanical rooms are quiet — so quiet you can have a normal conversation in them. That’s contrary to what you’ll find in most arenas, where they’re so noisy that anyone entering them should be forced to wear ear protectors.

Norway Savings Bank Arena

Jason Paquin – Norway Savings Bank Arena

“I often bring people back there for behind-the-scenes tours,” says Norway Savings Bank Arena’s Jason Paquin. “The plant will be running — but it’s quiet! The visitors don’t need to wear ear protection, that’s a fantastic thing. And there’s no compressor noise in the arena. All you hear is the puck on the ice, the game as it’s played. It’s pure hockey!”

These rinks are so quiet because of the choice of equipment they made when the arenas were built. Although these two are new builds, the equipment they installed is perfect for retrofits too – which we’ll get to a little later in this post. With help from New England refrigeration specialists Preferred Mechanical Services, the rinks were fitted with Ice3 low temperature water source heat pumps from Emerald Environmental Technologies (EmeraldET) out of Wentworth, NH.

When I asked George Simonds, the managing director of EmeraldET about removing all that noise from the arenas, he laughs.

“That’s 1940’s technology running compressors that are loud,” Simonds tells me. “We can’t do that anymore. We have to do better than that.”

Ice Cubes from Emerald Environmental Technologies

Emerald Environmental Technologies Ice3

Use It or Lose It

Emerald ET has a sustainability mission at its core – “Use It or Lose It” – and their patented Ice3 (pronounced “Ice Cube”) offering not only reduces the amount of noise, they cut down on the energy needed to do with a distributed refrigeration system what used to take a variety of systems to do. In addition, the Cubes have a small footprint, pack 21 tons of capacity — and come with an extremely sexy name. And when it comes to noise, these little beauties won’t be bending your ear. The specs on their website say:

A concrete mechanical room with ten Cubes running registered only 57 decibels.

So, how loud is 57 decibels?

That’s pretty quiet. According to the California Department of Transportation, between 50-60 decibels is like the sound of a dishwasher running in the next room. Check it out here.

Those 10 Cubes could well have been measured after the retrofit at the Silvio O. Conte Forum – the home for Boston College‘s NCAA hockey teams. The facility was opened in 1988 but 22 years later, it had an ammonia leak where the local fire department and the US Environmental Protection Agency were called in to help manage. The college subsequently retrofit their rink — which meant replacing the entire refrigeration system, and that’s where EmeraldET came in. There’s no more ammonia used at the Silvio O. Conte Forum, just the environmentally friendly glycol and R401A – an antifreeze.

Space: A Premium

Refrigeration/mechanical room at Keene ICE

Keene Ice’s refrigeration/mechanical room

One of the big challenges of ice making equipment is they often take up a lot of space. Cubes, unlike many of their competitors’ offerings, are small enough to fit through a standard 36″ door and take up a small footprint — so small that the University of New England were able to eliminate their Class T machinery room, recuperating some valuable space for programming, when their arena was fitted with Cubes. And, one of the amazing things about that build is their conference room is ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THEIR REFRIGERATION ROOM and no one would ever know that — it’s that quiet!

It’s not just the small amount of noise and the footprint they take up, but the technology behind the Cubes that make the difference. These low temperature water source heat pumps are designed to produce refrigeration and heat simultaneously. They excel at total heat reclaim, which is how most of their facilities are able to use radiant heat throughout their facility — for heating the floors of its locker rooms, the outside sidewalk leading to the front entrance, the front lobby, conference rooms, bathrooms, etc.