The bills just keep on coming
Energy efficiency of new Inuvik arena put under microscope

by Ian Elliot
Northern News Services

Inuvik (Mar 20/98) - The soaring operating costs of Inuvik's new arena come about in large part because it is overlit and inefficiently heated, a GNWT energy-efficiency expert says.

Stefan Bernath of the territorial government's resources, wildlife and economic development department exclaimed while watching the 28 lights in the curling rink gradually turn the rink from well-lit to dazzling, "You guys must be crazy."

After spending a day walking through the building earlier this month, the consultant had a few ideas for how the town could cut down on the amount of tax money flowing into the building.

The most expensive headache is the bill for heating the two ice surfaces, which is why in the dead of winter, the town was filling up a 2,000-litre tank of heating oil every two days.

Most of the heat in the two arenas comes from overhead unit heaters, those boxy grey units whose main drawback is they simply warm the surrounding air rather than directing heat at spectators the way newer infrared heaters do.

While warming the arena air, the older heaters also force the machines that keep the ice cold to work much harder, causing a significant increase in energy consumption without noticeably warming up frosty hockey moms and dads in the bleachers. He says filters that would take the moisture out of the air would also ease the chill in the arena.

Bernath says the town could have also saved money by installing variable-speed electric motors in the air-handling equipment and dimmer switches for the lights, which would have allowed power consumption to be cut back when the place is not running full-out. It has neither, so equipment is either running at top speed or not at all.

Lighting is also a biggie. Inuvik's new curling ice, for example, is lit by 28 separate 400-watt fixtures only a few meters off the ice, which makes the rink bright enough for television.

"You need sunglasses in there," Bernath joked. "I am recommending taking out half the lights."

Bernath also found big discrepancies between temperatures of exterior and interior walls, suggesting insulation could be better, found contractors had installed inefficient and obsolete fluorescent light fixtures and found other flaws in the building, like baseboard heaters running underneath the bleachers, where they are not really warming anything.

His report could be delivered to the town as early as this week. Bernath also looked at the town office, the library and the street lights.