Comparing Refrigeration Systems

Comparing Refrigeration Systems

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

If that’s your first thought when comparing refrigeration systems, we don’t blame you. Now add the variety of statistics you’ll find with a single google search, information on legacy systems, word of mouth, and new technology. Simply put, comparing apples to apples is nearly impossible. The question then becomes: “Which system is the most cost efficient refrigeration system for my rink?” The key, of course, is finding a commercial refrigeration system that meets your budget needs, long-term department objectives, and facility goals. But how to weed through all the varying and sometimes contradictory information? Let’s break it down by costs.


The commercial refrigeration system industry has legacy equipment systems with distinct production, energy, and safety limits. Emerald Environmental Technologies uses R410-A in their ice3 Cube System– but why?

The “industry’s response to lack of pure substances which can serve as non-toxic, non-flammable, zero-ozone depleting refrigerants has been to blend the few available substances, sometimes with the addition of hydrocarbons.” [1] R-410A is a Hydrofluorocarbon, (HFC), made up of hydrogen, fluorine, and carbon atoms. It lacks the chlorine, believed to be harmful to the environment. R-410A has zero ozone depletion potential. ASHRAE gave R410a a rating of A1 for safety, the lowest classification for both toxicity and flammability. It has an ozone depletion rating of zero, and its global warming potential is 2100.

To get the most out of R-410A as a refrigerant Emerald Environmental Technologies produces the ice3 Cube System as individual Cubes, each with only 20 pounds of refrigerant!

In a large facility, such as Boston College which has ten ice3 Cubes, there is a total of only 200 lbs of R410a in the mechanical room. To put that into perspective, a similar ammonia system would require roughly 900 pounds of anhydrous ammonia refrigerant– all in one circuit to achieve the same output. Of course, 900 pounds of ammonia in one spot requires specialized exhaust, alarming, personal protective equipment and emergency response training. Read more about Boston College’s ice3 Cube System upgrade here.

It is common to just compare the refrigerant’s basic SEER ratings but that isn’t the whole story is it?

Comparing R-22 to R410A, “Since R-410A allows for higher SEER ratings than an R-22 system, by reducing power consumption, the overall impact on global warming of R-410A systems will be substantially lower than that of R-22 systems due to reduced greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.” [4]

In short, Emerald Environmental Technologies uses R410-A because it is extremely safe, especially in the ice3 Cube’s 20lb increments. R410A is efficient, non-toxic, has zero-ozone depleting properties, and does not destroy the equipment meant to keep it contained.

Co-Efficient of Performance

Comparing Ammonia to R-410A, it’s hard to say what the exact difference will be but not impossible that the o-efficient of performance for an ammonia plant can be close to double that for a Freon equivalent. In other words, per month, for the life of the store, you could be paying almost twice as much for running a Freon plant as opposed to an ammonia plant. Even when the stats are complimentary, in general, there are many more effective ways to gain energy efficiency in a refrigeration plant than found simply by comparing the selection of a particular refrigerant. Let’s talk about maintenance costs, operational costs, repair costs, safety preparedness costs – all suitable information to compare. But there is one aspect of a refrigeration plant that is habitually ignored. Waste heat. What happens to a co-efficient of performance when we compare the energy equivalents of capturing free energy that is typically ignored and wasted?

Now, let’s consider cost. But not just capital cost. You also have to look at the system’s co-efficient of performance. These numbers are plain and consistent, and we won’t bore you with regurgitating numbers you can find in any basic search. What we do want you to consider is the side benefits not often spoken about. A benefit that will actually combat your active operational cost. Daily. The self-generating benefit of capturing waste heat.

When Waste Heat is Utilized…

When we consider Energy that is produced simply from the average usage of the ice3 Cubes – what happens when waste heat is utilized? What happens to your o-efficient of performance when that free energy is captured, simply by reclaiming the heat through the typical operation of the refrigeration ice3 Cube System? I’ll tell you what, the o-efficient of performance is drastically changed.

Heat Recovery

The greatest source for lower energy consumption in ice rinks is in the utilization of a heat recovery system. Emerald Environmental Technologies incorporates a heat reclaim system in every ice3 Cube build or upgrade plan. Heat reclaim has been used to warm swimming pools as was demonstrated at Jay Peak’s ice rink and Jay Peak Water Park, warm outdoor sidewalks as seen at Stowe Arena, melt ice in the Zamboni melting pit at Plymouth State University, and warm locker rooms and customer viewing areas through radiant heat which is a very popular use and can be found at Stowe, Plymouth State University, University of New England, and many more. Some projects use all of these sources (and more) and STILL have extra heat. In some situations, it is often suggested to redirect the extra heat to nearby buildings such was the case at Phillips Academy and Jay Peak’s Water Park. Suddenly, the ice rink itself becomes self-sufficient by simply capturing, what would have been, wasted heat.

Apples to Apples

When your facility is considering an upgrade to your ice rink refrigeration system, remember to consider the whole system’s safety and cost analysis – why not get the most ice and heat out of your system?

Request a Consultation

The expert team at Emerald Environmental Technologies can help define and customize which ice3 Cube combinations are ideal for your community/municipal/outdoor, upgrade project, or collegiate rink. Emerald Environmental Technologies is based in New England and services the entire east coast up through Canada. Please contact us today to request a free consultation or Email or call 603-238-9249 with questions.


[3] Wiki: