ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The first United States ice rink to use CO2 refrigeration is benefiting from lower operational costs and reduced environmental impact just two months after opening.

“We are already seeing savings, and we’re anticipating energy savings of 25 percent to 40 percent when all the results are in,” said John Rodda, parks and recreation director for Anchorage, Alaska. The city operates the Harry J. McDonald Recreational Center, which reopened its ice rink to skaters and hockey teams in January, following a nine-month renovation and installation of a carbon dioxide-based ice rink refrigeration system from Hillphoenix.

The energy-efficient CO2 system has lowered the ice rink’s electric bills, and it also has greatly reduced spending on refrigerant. CO2 refrigerant costs significantly less than synthetic refrigerant.

Rodda sees the McDonald Center ice rink as a proving ground for CO2 as U.S. ice rinks start to comply with federal requirements to phase out R-22. “We’ve got ice rinks calling us from all over the country to see how it’s going,” he said.

Anchorage’s early adoption of CO2 was a well-studied decision. The Parks & Recreation Department spent a year considering options. Rodda said the department looked at all potential refrigerant solutions. “We decided CO2 had the most benefits.”

The Parks & Recreation Department then considered vendors and settled on Hillphoenix because of its experience with CO2; its reputation for stability and strong customer support; and the technological capabilities of its CO2 refrigeration system, such as remote monitoring. Hillphoenix has installed CO2 ice rinks in Canada and has worked with CO2 refrigeration systems since 2005.

“We are pleased to be partners with the Anchorage Parks & Recreation Department in its pioneering efforts to build more efficient and environmentally sustainable ice rinks using CO2,” said Tim Henderson, industrial programs manager for Hillphoenix. “We anticipate public and private ice rinks around the country will follow Anchorage’s lead.”

The city has plans to upgrade three more ice rinks to CO2 over the next few months, and Rodda expects those projects to yield similar results. “Trying something new was smart, environmentally friendly, and efficient,” Rodda said. “From what I’ve seen in a short period of time, we made the right decision in choosing CO2.”

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Publication date: 3/30/2015

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