Whether it’s down to the near Arctic conditions or just Dancing on Ice, the number of pop-up ice rinks in towns and cities this year has been hard to ignore.
But who’s behind these temporary community focal points? One company that’s been particularly busy in creating the ‘ice is fun’ vibe is temperature rental specialist Cool Energy, part of ICS Temperature Control.
The company has just completed its 120th ice rink project, having worked on an increasing number of rinks throughout the UK and mainland Europe in recent years.
Russ Baker, UK sales director at Cool Energy, says: “We work with event companies as well as managing complete ice rink projects, and it’s our rental fleet which provides the cooling which creates the ice. In most instances, we provide the complete cooling package including interconnecting hoses, pumps and buffer vessels and where required, generators.
“We have a team of dedicated engineers who provide complete project management and 24/7 support for every project.”
An ice rink installation begins with the foundations; a mat or aluminium pipe system is laid which distributes the chilled water/glycol mix at temperatures as low as -12 deg C. Once the matting is in place, chiller header pipework is laid, connecting the ice rink mat to the chillers – the latter are usually located in an external chiller compound up to 30 m from the rink.
Mr Baker says: “Once the system is fully connected, a thin layer of water is gradually added on top of the matting. The cooling circuit runs through the matting and cools the water to form ice. Once frozen, further layers are added until the ice reaches 4 inches in depth.
“For the cooling to take effect, the water/glycol mix is circulated under the floor of the ice rink which provides the cooling to create the ice. Return water from the ice rink is fed to a buffer vessel; from here water is drawn out using a high flow pump and delivered through a manifold to a chiller series. Once cooled, the water is fed back to the ice rink to maintain the sub-zero temperature required.”
For the sake of the speed needed in setting up a temporary site, buffer tanks are used not only as a means of filling the systems, but also for venting the air from the mat. A permanent system would have a header system and an auto-air bleed valve. Venting the air is absolutely critical. If air is caught in the mat, this leads to unfrozen patches on the ice rink where the glycol hasn’t reached.
On all Cool Energy’s ice rink installations, between the temporary chiller installation and the header system of the ice rink there is a flow and return pipework. Isolation valves and temperature and pressure gauges are always used, which allow viewing in in real time exactly what is being given to the mat.
Mr Baker says: “Although the temperature might be set at -12 deg C, if the chiller compound is a long way from the rink, by the time you have got to the mat itself, the temperature may have risen. There may also have been a pressure drop, so we put secondary gauges on the rink. The rink manager can see the temperature and pressure they are getting, so it can be adjusted with the valve at the mat.
“When we are installing the rink, we will always put a bleed valve at the lowest point in the system, so when we come to drain the glycol out at the end of the job, it’s easier to pump the liquid out of the system.
“When we hand the chiller package over we show the staff at the ice rink how to manage it to ensure they save energy. Most indoor ice rinks are in an air conditioned arena set at around -7 or -8 deg C and the conditions don’t change. However, the conditions at an outside rink can differ greatly. If there’s a 10 deg C degree day and it’s raining, -12 deg C is required, but if the ambient temperature is -2 deg C you can run the chillers at -3 deg C or -4 deg C so it’s more efficient.
“The length of time it takes to install a temporary rink varies depending on the people managing it. In good instances where we’re working with professionals, the rink mat turns up at the same time as the chiller and we can usually get set up and the ice rink working within eight hours.