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A Brighter, Greener Ice Centre

YORBA LINDA, Calif. – One morning in June of 2011, Bob Bebber flipped a switch and the electricity meter at a skating facility in Westminster, Colorado began to spin much slower.

Bob is the general manager for the Ice Centre at the Promenade, a three-rink facility that is, by any measure, one of Colorado's most impressive skating facilities. That morning in June, the Ice Centre had just completed an energy efficient lighting retrofit that will save the Ice Centre nearly $30,000 a year in energy costs.

The inspiration for upgrading the Centre’s lighting occurred years earlier when Chris Frank brought his son to hockey practice at the Ice Centre. Chris is more than just a dedicated hockey dad, he's the vice president of energy efficient lighting contractor Colorado Lighting.

"The first time I walked into the Ice Centre," said Chris, "I saw a state of the art skating facility being lit by inefficient metal halide lamps."

The lamps Chris saw mounted above the Ice Centre's three rinks each used more than 1,000 watts of electricity. With over 100 of these lamps being used, they accounted fora big chunk of the facility's energy bill every month.

Chris knew that if he was allowed to retrofit the facility with fixtures from lighting manufacturer Precision-Paragon [P2], he could cut the energy consumption of each fixture by 35 to 45 percent.

However, convincing the Ice Centre to take on the retrofit wasn't an easy process. "Bob's facility is top notch, and he doesn't let just anybody get in there and do work."

In early 2011, Bob began exploring options for a lighting retrofit at the Ice Centre. He knew about the energy saving potential of a retrofit, but had seen other facilities poorly retrofitted and end up with inadequate lighting.

When he began soliciting bids, Bob was put off by some contractors who recommended lowering the overall amount of light in his facility.

"NHL quality lighting is generally 100 foot candles or more, and that’s what we had with our metal halide system."

Since the Ice Centre is regularly used as a practice facility by visiting NHL teams in town to play the Colorado Avalanche, maintaining that quality of light was a critical factor in the retrofit.

In order to design a lighting system that would both reduce energy consumption and improve the quality of light at the facility, Chris and his team at Colorado Lighting digitally modeled the entire facility.

Precision-Paragon [P2] provided Colorado Lighting with photometric files for the fixtures they chose for the retrofit, which allowed the digital model of the Ice Centre to accurately depict the lighting levels that would be provided by the retrofit.

Colorado Lighting designed a lighting system that used a combination of 10 lamp and 12 lamp T5HO fixtures.

That detailed digital modeling was key in convincing Bob to let Colorado Lighting perform the retrofit.

"With a kid that plays hockey here, Chris understood the quality of light we need. Plus, I knew he'd be around after the retrofit if I needed anything."

Another significant factor for Bob and the Ice Centre was that Colorado Lighting managed the entire rebate process for the retrofit. The project was eligible for more than $21,000 in energy efficiency rebates from the Ice Centre's utility provider, Xcel Energy.

"Other vendors wanted us to manage the rebate process on our own, but with that significant of a rebate, I was happy to have Chris and his team take the lead on that part of the project.”

Chris chose to use [P2] fixtures in the retrofit because of the company’s reputation for what he calls, "outstanding customer service." That customer service goes hand in hand with [P2]'s customization abilities. Each fixture in the Ice Centre retrofit was manufactured with custom optics, spacing and reflector design at [P2]'s West Coast facility in Yorba Linda, Calif.

This customization allowed Colorado Lighting's engineers to specify the ideal fixtures for the retrofit, maximizing both energy savings and lighting quality in the retrofit.

"I feel that [P2] makes the best fixtures out there for this application,” explained Chris. “Their product has an energy efficient design that is manufactured with quality by a company I trust."

The Ice Centre is a busy facility, with all three of its rinks booked solid many days from 5 a.m. until 10 p.m. In order to maintain normal operating hours, it was critical to minimize the interruption caused by the retrofit. With that goal in mind, Chris and his team planned every detail of the retrofit ahead of time.

"When we actually began the on-site retrofit, all of the necessary planning and preparation had been done ahead of time," said Chris.

All that planning paid off, allowing all 102 fixtures at the Ice Centre to be replaced in just three weeks of on-site work.  This feat brings us back to that morning in June when Bob flipped the switch, or more accurately, flipped the switches, on the Ice Centre's brand new lighting system.

Colorado Lighting designed the system with bi-level switching.   This allows each 10 lamp fixture to operate at 30, 60 or 100 percent of its available light output, and each 12 lamp fixture to operate at 33, 66 or 100 percent of its available light output. This setup allows the Ice Centre to match the light output of each fixture to the activity on the rink below.

For recreational skating, 30 percent of the fixtures' output is more than adequate. For league hockey play, 60 percent is generally ideal. And when visiting NHL teams are using the rink for practices, the full capacity of each fixture is used to make sure that there's enough light to see a puck moving at more than 90 miles an hour.

This feature alone is expected to save the Ice Centre more than $10,000 a year in energy costs.

With the Ice Centre's previous metal halide system, the only way to adjust lighting levels was to turn off, say, every other fixture over a rink, creating uneven light levels and blind spots. With the new system, light levels can be adjusted uniformly across the entire surface of the ice.

The new system has other advantages as well. Unlike the old metal halides, the Ice Centre's new lighting system doesn't take 10 minutes to warm up to full brightness.  This feature allows it to be turned on immediately before a skating session begins.

The new fixtures also operate without producing excess noise, which was easily noticeable to Bob.

"It seems like every rink used to have one or two lamps making a loud buzzing all the time. Now that ballast noise is gone."

The new lamps also have much longer maintenance intervals. Before the upgrade, Bob figures his staff was replacing six to eight lamps a month. Since the retrofit was completed in June, they have yet to replace any of the new fluorescent lamps.
Then, there's the quality of light.

"It's hard to think of the right word. It's better, cleaner and more consistent than our old system."

Chris has also witnessed a positive reaction.

"There has been lots of positive feedback. Players, skaters and spectators all see that the lighting is crisper, distributed better and with better foot-candles."

If you should stop in at the Ice Centre today, you'll still be in one of the country’s finest skating facilities with three great sheets of ice for you to glide over. Only now, things will look a bit better than they did earlier this year; cleaner, crisper, and perhaps most impressively, the electric meter will be spinning much slower.

Contact FacilitiesNet Editorial Staff »   posted on: 4/24/2012

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