Facility Manager Dave Kimel is incredibly proud of his facility in St. Albans, VT. Kimel managed the ice arena’s retrofit eight years ago and although eight years seems like a long time, and there have been great advancements made — and price reductions — in energy-saving features for ice rinks since then, his story is important to tell. That’s because they took an energy use approach to how they retrofitted their arena. Today, the entire facility — much more than just the rink — never runs on more than 165 kW. I think that’s extremely impressive for such a large facility. 

St. Albans, VT

Aerial view of Collins Perley Sports and Fitness Center in St. Albans, VT.

Owned by the local high school, the Collins Perley Sports & Fitness Center, or “CP” for short – is a magnet not just for the students at Bellows Free Academy but for the entire community of St. Albans. Retired right-winger John LeClair, who had a 16-year career in the NHL, played high school hockey here, and although the facility’s programming is booked for the needs of the high school first, it’s a true community venue that welcomes more than 500,000  user visits a year. That’s an average of around 100 each for every person living in St. Albans.

This facility is immense, offering 45 acres of lit fields, four indoor tennis courts, exercise rooms, a fitness gym, racquetball, conference rooms and, of course, an NHL-sized ice rink – 70,000 square feet of indoor space. The website bills it as “probably the nicest facility of its type in any community in the country of a comparable size,” and facility manager, Dave Kimel, echoes those sentiments.

Energy Use is Key

“Budget is always a consideration,” Kimel tells me. “And because of our affiliation with the high school, it’s good to be able to show to the students as well as the rest of the community the energy-saving opportunities we’ve embraced, opportunities to be green.”

Kimel says the energy use for dual purpose ice pad and exhibition space the six-month ice pad was critical and that’s because of how energy is charged in Vermont.

“The highest amount of electricity used in any 15-minute period in a year is the rate we’re charged for the next 12 months. That’s critical. Not only do I want to reduce my kilowatt hours, but I also want to reduce my peak.”

Kimel says the complex already had the most energy efficient system available at the time but there were some issues with it.

“It was a direct recirculation system which means the refrigerant itself goes through the floor instead of having the coolant cooled by the compressor. Those systems have a number of problems including the refrigerant is very expensive and corrosion in pipes is something we had a lot of trouble with.”

So they began looking at options. The first step was deciding what type of refrigeration plant they wanted.

Least Amount of Refrigeration Chemicals Possible

“We decided we wanted an indirect system that would require the least amount of refrigeration chemicals possible. We wanted to stay away from ammonia if we could, and then the next step was to determine what kind of compressor system we should use,” Kimel says.

Kimel explains that there are three types of compressor systems and he describes them as follows:

  1. Industrial compressors – which are high powered and very noisy
  2. Commercial compressors – one step down from the industrial compressors – not quite as big or noisy, cost less but don’t last as long
  3. Grocery store compressors – “If a grocery store has a lot of coolers, they may use a compressor that’s similar to what I’m talking about,” Kimel says. “The advantage to these kinds of compressors is they’re familiar to many more companies than industrial or commercial compressors, so you can buy off-the-shelf replacement parts for them from local plumbing and heating retailers – which is a great advantage.

With those three different types of compressors in mind, Kimel started looking at the energy needed to run each.

  1. An industrial compressor has a 150 hp motor. Any time I need to turn it on for refrigeration, that would use approximately 140 KW.
  2. A commercial compressor has a 75 hp motor and would take approximately 70 KW every time I started it up.
  3. The grocery store model, which is what I selected. takes just 47 KW. CP ended up with 4 compressors all tolled, “but they go on one at a time, when they’re needed.”

Of course, that’s not the only energy pull.

“I’m also turning on pumps, so my actual load is higher than that. After I’ve got one on, I can add another one — but most of the time it’s just one,” he says.

Kimel sent out a Request For Proposal to a number of places and the Ice3 installation put into CP came through bid winner Preferred Mechanical with the components sourced through Emerald Environmental Technologies, the manufacturer.

“I looked at some arenas that had this kind of system installed before making the decision. I went to Minnesota, and to rinks across the border in Canada and talked to a lot of people before making the decision.”


Modular with the capability to produce heat and cold at the same time: Ice3s from Emerald Environmental

Simple Concept of Ice3

“The concept is SO simple,” he insists, “I don’t understand why a lot of other rinks aren’t doing it. By having a larger number of small units, you have the option of deciding to turn on what you really need. It’s like a three-way light fixture in your house. You can put on just 1, 2 or all 3 of them on depending on how bright you want it. But if you use just one, that’s a third of the cost from turning all 3 of them on. That’s the same concept here. With the Ice3 system, if we ever turn all four of them on, it’s when we’re putting in the ice. Once the season’s underway, we should never have more than two of them going.”

Kimel tells that taking their ice out is quick. Just three days after their 6-month ice season ends, they hold a big Home Show. And that slab isn’t freezing cold for the exhibitors and visitors as you might expect.

“The same brine that’s refrigerating in the ice season heats the floor off-season. That’s a very efficient way of heating the room.”

165 kW

“We ended up with an indrect system that’s safer and doesn’t use as many bad refrigerants as a direct system does, one that operates slightly more efficiently and at a lower cost than the old system did,” Kimel says. ” Because our rink isn’t metered separately, it’s hard to tell what the exact difference in costs have been, but I can tell you that we have an Automated Logic System (a building automation system) that monitors our electricity use and other things and we run our entire building without going over 165 kW. I know of single sheets of ice that don’t have stadium fields of lights like we do that can’t run on 165 kW.”

Kimel tells me his background accounts a lot for the choices they make for this arena.

“I came to this job from the business world. I’m very bottom-line driven and I do have a personal preference to doing things efficiently and being environmentally friendly,” he says. “I’m not a treehugger first, I’m a businessman first. The numbers have got to work. I can’t throw money away and end up having to charge people more money just being environmentally friendly. It has to make good business sense. And this did.”