A "Greener" Ice Hockey Rink Goes Online
New system to remove humidity will save more than
$100,000 per year
July 09, 2007
—Phillips Academy’s multi-million dollar ice hockey facility, completed just four years ago, incorporated state-of-the-art technology. But just a few years later, new technology came along that offered such cost savings and environmental advantages that Carlos Montanez, associate director of maintenance and utilities, just had to check it out.
This week Montanez flips the switch to fire up Harrison Rink’s new dehumidification system. Humidity is the bane of ice rinks everywhere—which is why dehumidification is a vital (and expensive) function in the ice business. Without it, water condenses in the rink, causing dripping and fog. To remove the excess moisture from the air, the new system “recycles” waste heat generated by the huge compressor that keeps ice at its regulated temperature. The old system burned natural gas to remove the moisture—to the tune of 6,700 therms a month. The new system’s natural gas usage? Zero.
The price tag to replace the system is close to $400,000, says Montanez, but in three to four years, it will pay for itself in natural gas savings alone. He is equally enthusiastic about the environmental impact. The new technology greatly reduces greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. “Legitimate investment in energy savings makes ‘c-e-n-t-s,’” Montanez says with a smile, “and everybody wins.”
The old technology, hardly antiquated, is called the desiccant wheel system. Its development was a major factor in allowing rinks to remain open in the summers. It employs a desiccant wheel, initially applied in industry and supermarkets, coated with a membrane that attracts and absorbs moisture. Heat is then applied to remove moisture and exhaust the treated air outdoors. The heat source for the Andover system has been natural gas, the price of which keeps rising. It worked, but it cost more than $8,000 a month last year, and Montanez says, it was considerably less efficient.
When a letter from an alumnus in the supermarket industry arrived on the desk of Phillips Academy’s Head of School Barbara Landis Chase a year and a half ago, she turned to Montanez. He called its author, Philip Akel ’93, who connected him with the inventor of the new technology. Over the next year, Montanez did his research, visited other facilities installing the technology, and even added innovations of his own—direct digital controls and a variable frequency drive on the supply fan. Montanez, who is an engineer with many years of experience in the energy business, says the innovations allow finer control and add more savings. The new system—one of a kind with Montanez’s additions—goes on line July 9.
Richard Van Hook, general manager of BRR Technologies of Morehead City, N.C., the company who makes the new system, says Phillips Academy is the first school in New England to install it. He said the dehumidification technology is also catching on with big box stores and supermarkets, and that 72 projects have either been completed or are in process.
Phillips Academy has been a leader in implementing energy-saving and sustainability technology and practices. Montanez says the US Department of Energy (DOE) has singled out the Academy as a role model for energy monitoring initiatives and has asked him to serve as a webinar panelist.
Always scouting for environmental and economic efficiencies, Montanez also revealed that all of the rink’s metal halogen lights are coming down before the fall, to be replaced with fluorescent technology. The new lights will last 15 years, Montanez says, and will return the cost in four. They also will reduce the heat on the ice, and be more appealing to the popular rinks’ wide variety of clients—hockey players, community skaters, and fans alike.