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RCC avoids major expenses with R-22

These tanks at the RCC hold R-22, which is currently used to keep the ice frozen during hockey season. (Blaze Fugina/Echo Press)

Many ice rinks around the country may soon need upwards of $1 million to replace ice cooling systems in wake of an international agreement to protect the Earth’s ozone.

Fortunately for Alexandria, the Runestone Community Center is not one of those rinks. RCC Manager Vinnie Hennen said the Alexandria arena installed an indirect-type cooling system in 2009 that has a much lower price tag when the decision is made to convert away from the use of R-22, also known as Freon.

Indirect-type systems can simply replace the R-22 refrigerant with one that is more environmentally-friendly for less than $100,000. Direct-type systems require some extra equipment replacement that costs significantly more.

“We’re talking about $50,000 versus $2 million,” Hennen said.

The reasoning behind the R-22 legislation is that studies have shown it has a detrimental effect on the ozone layer resulting in excessive UV levels. This ban on R-22 gas began when an international treaty was ratified to help protect ozone in the Earth’s atmosphere. As part of this agreement, called the Montreal Protocol, production of R-22 gas is slowly being phased out in the United States. Production and importation of all R-22 must stop by 2020.

R-22 is used as a coolant in many air-conditioning units, refrigerators and hockey arenas. As long as there is still R-22 available for purchase in the area, the RCC would rather purchase it instead of spending the conversion cost.

“As long as there is R-22 available, you can buy it,” Hennen said. “Eventually it can’t be produced or brought into the United States.”

The changes in R-22 usage will be more significant for arenas that have direct-type systems. These systems need around 6,000 pounds of R-22 to keep ice frozen compared to indirect-type systems that only use about 800 pounds.

There are more than 44 Minnesota ice arenas that use a direct-type refrigeration system, and the equipment replacement will be necessary at costs ranging from $900,000 to more than $1 million.

“If you have one of those rinks, it’s going to be a big expense,” Hennen said

Blaze Fugina

Blaze Fugina is the sports editor of the Woodbury and South Washington County Bulletin newspapers. Previously, Blaze worked as a sports editor for the Pierce County Herald and a sports reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in May of 2011. You can follow Blaze on Twitter at @BlazeFugina.

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