What is a Canadian winter without ice hockey, figure skating or curling? While outdoor skating opportunities are a delight only Mother Nature can provide, community recreational facilities with ice arenas are plentiful and well attended. But there could be dangers present in this place of cheers, whistles and shots on net.

The equipment used in an arena such as an ice re-surfacer, ice edger, floor sweepers, lift trucks and other special equipment are more often powered by fuel than electricity. The exhaust produced by the gas, propane or diesel fuel powered machines emits, into the air, carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulates. Ammonia (NH3) is commonly used in the ice chiller mechanical room and if a leak were to occur, it releases a corrosive, toxic gas. If the ventilation system is inadequately designed to handle the air exchange or it is not functioning properly, these toxic pollutants remain in the air to be recirculated and inhaled by spectators, players and employees. Arena operators can improve the air quality inside the arena and provide a safe, environment by ensuring the ventilation system is working properly and installing a gas detection system to continuously monitor for leaks and unhealthy concentrations of toxic gases.

Because several different types of gas hazards are present in various locations throughout the facility, multiple gas detectors are required to provide adequate monitoring coverage.


A Typical Ice Arena Monitoring System

  • There should be a detector in the ice chiller room, mounted on or near the ceiling to monitor for ammonia leaks. Ammonia is lighter than air and will typically collect within 12 inches of the ceiling. Outside the chiller room door, should be a controller with a display to allow a visual check of the gas level prior to entering the room. In addition, an audible and visual alarm should be mounted inside and outside the room.
  • An appropriate location to monitor carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide levels is above the penalty box or score keepers box. Dual channel gas detectors are available and offer two sensors (in this case, CO and NO2) inside the same unit. This detector may have an audible alarm and be configured to communicate with a controller located outside the ice chiller room.
  • The ice resurfacing equipment parking area is a prime area for potential propane or methane leaks depending on the type of fuel powering the machine. An explosion proof gas detector is highly recommended for monitoring either of these gases because it is possible for a non-explosion proof transmitter to cause an arc and ignite explosive concentrations of the leaking gas. If propane is the gas being monitored, the explosion proof transmitter should be mounted 6 inches from the floor, preferably near the drain channel, as propane is heavier than air and will accumulate in low lying areas. If methane is being monitored, the detector should be mounted on or near the ceiling.

Strategic placement of the detectors provide continuous monitoring for potential leaks. Each gas detector should be configured to communicate with a multi-channel controller, which will provide a single point of access to view gas level readings, configure each detector’s settings and trigger alarms and ventilation fans. The multi-channel controller should be mounted outside the door to the ice chiller room, allowing for a visual check of the ammonia gas level inside the room prior to entry. The controller should have three levels of alarm and the sequence of operation begins with the low alarm which activates the ventilation fans to start evacuating the polluted air. At high alarm, the panel mounted audible as well as the remote alarm devices that are controlled by the high alarm relay will be activated.

Additional gas detectors may be necessary depending on your facility’s operational procedures or layout. Consult with your CETCI experts to find the best system to ensure your facility is well equipped to detect and deal with any hazardous gas leaks so the fans can continue cheering and the athletes performing.