One of the most energy efficient arenas in Canada is the Oilfields Regional Arena in Black Diamond, Alberta with an Energy Star rating of 95/100. I’ve written many stories about the energy efficiencies that Arena Manager Les Quinton and his crew have implemented into that 30-year old barn (and ice-maintenance practices that save them a lot of time). But one of their most surprising energy efficiency retrofits is right above the rink’s surface and it’s surprising because of the low number and great result. After all, there are just 18 LED lights above their rink.
You read that right. They have only 18! Not 28 or 32 or 48, just 18.
Six rows of three (or three rows of six, depending on how you look at them!).
I’ve been in arenas where they’ve retrofitted their old metal halide lights and put in more than double that amount. And the end result wasn’t all satisfactory. I’ve seen, and you probably have too, arenas with lights that cast three-way shadows around the skaters — or hand-sized dark spots bird-dogging the puck. It’s sometimes hard to grab a pass when you can’t see exactly what’s coming for you.
But it’s different at the Oilfields Regional Arena. They have NO shadows whatsoever — and that’s because, like most of the things that Les Quinton has done at their arena, their LED installation has been done differently.
Hit the Lights!
Switch Advanced Lighting Solutions was awarded the contract and Project Manager James Walls says what was originally expected differed from what was delivered.
“They expected that 150 watts would be enough, but it wasn’t,” Walls explains. Walls and his team made three or four separate visits out to Black Diamond to demonstrate the beams of different lights to Quinton.
“We started with a light meter reading of the existing lights. And then we disconnected an existing one and plugged our in so we could see the difference in the spread. The throw of the spread was critical.”Switch Lighting supplied Black Diamond with 18x200 watt lights with an output of 110 lumens per watt. That was four years ago — and the LED world has changed considerably since then.
“If they were installing today, Black Diamond could probably get away with 150 watt lights instead of the 200 watt lights they bought,” Walls says. That’s because, in addition to lower prices, LEDs deliver better light now than they used to.
“Today, that 200 watt light has an output of 155 lumens per watt — so you get much more light per watt now — and they’re less expensive too!” Walls says.
Brian Thompson, Switch Lighting’s President and Co-Founder, says they’re very selective of where they source their products and only supply their customers with high quality lighting.
“We aim to deliver the Mercedes of LED lighting — but at the cost of a Toyota,” says Thompson.
You Can’t Always Take the Lowest Bid
That made me perk up my ears: with most municipalities taking the lowest bids (with a minimum of three respondents to any RFP), how did the Municipality of Black Diamond end up awarding the contract to Switch Lighting?“That’s because I do my homework,” says Les Quinton. “We try to take a business approach to running the rink. That means that for the good of the rink, you can’t always take the lowest bid.”
Quinton explains that you need to know what you have, first and foremost, before you can understand what you want.
“Take life expectancy!”, Quinton exclaims, “Each of these lights have a 50,000 hour life expectancy. We had other bids from other vendors with what you might consider ‘similar products’, but the life expectancy of those LEDs was just 20,000 hours. Why would you want to get less than half the time? We sure didn’t. So on my rating grid, they got an ‘X’!”
Quinton collects the bids, puts the specifics of each into a rating grid and makes his recommendation to the Town Council. But before any recommendation is made, Quinton researches the bidder.
“I need to know if we can trust them (the vendors), so I start with their website, if they have one. If they don’t, that’s already not a good indicator, but if they do, I try to find out more. How long have they been in business — the longer, the better. Do they have a Better Business Bureau rating and, if so, what is it? Talk to their customers and see what they have to say. And, another really important point is DO THEY STAND BEHIND THEIR PRODUCTS? The folks at Switch Lighting do, and they will come out here and replace a failed light themselves if that would ever happen.”
“You can’t always take the lowest bid,” Quinton reaffirms. “If we can trust them, it’s not always cheap but it will be a reasonable price, by people who stand behind their work. That’s what works best for us.”
Make Vendors Fit Your Schedule
Quinton also demands his suppliers manage to fit into his schedule, not the other way around.
“Les had a window that started at 6:00 a.m. and was over four and a half hours later. Because of this, we needed two scissor lifts, three electricians, and all the prepping was done by me,” Walls recalls. “It took about seven minutes to prep each fixture — take the lights out of the box, attach the hood and then bare the wires to make the electricians’ job easier to feed them into the junction box. We met the deadline!” he says, proudly.
“Black Diamond definitely holds the record: 18 is the smallest installation we’ve ever done above ice in an indoor arena,” Walls says. “It’s a beautiful installation.”