The jury has been out for a while on the exponential benefits of having your own self-made rink in your backyard, and now not only do you have more options, but actually building one is easier and more cost effective than ever. Furthermore, there are several resources you can turn to for assistance, testimony and step-by-step procedure, to make what was once a painful process seamless and pain free.
In the northern states and Canada, during the winter, anyone can build a perimeter; line it with plastic and fire on the hose to flood the area only to wake up to a relatively smooth sheet of ice in the morning. The ice may thaw, and the sheet will need some maintenance, but the goal is achieved and you’ll be skating on it in no time. Naturally there are multiple variables, so you would need to find what works for you.
Whether you live in the bone chilling cold of the north, or the mid-west, or anywhere with more moderate temperatures, there is an amazing solution for you as well. Refrigerated Ice Rinks have been around for a while, but have become more commercialized recently, and due to the increased costs of acquiring ice time from an indoor rink, the demand is at an all-time high and the science behind it is quite simple.
Ice rink refrigeration systems use ice rink chillers, a refrigerant (usually salt water) and pipes under your ice rink surface to keep your ice frozen. This seamless operation, which is built to last for years, maintains a solid ice surface that you can skate on in temperatures of approx. 60 degrees Fahrenheit or about 18 degrees Celsius. You are reading this correctly – and if you are thinking about skating on a rink while also wearing shorts and a t-shirt, your thoughts are not far off from a reality where this already happens.
The end result will vary depending on need, but at the end of the day, that’s an extra 2-3 months of ice time, in the comfort of your own back yard. Of course the 2-3 months is a benchmark that works about to be an average depending on geographical location. If all of the variables line up (namely climate) an ice rink refrigeration system could essentially go year-round lasting 12 months. The science can be broken down in more detail with some simple research, but for some added context imagine the piping system in your refrigerator underneath your rink. Pipes carry an ultra-chilled salt-water solution to the ice surface keeping it below freezing constantly. At the other end of the system a compressor receives refrigerant, which is warmer than the ice but still extremely cold. By collecting the evaporated refrigerant, pressurizing it in a container, which dissipates the excess heat, and then releasing the re-chilled refrigerant back into the ice rink refrigeration system, you can repeat the cycle over and over, reusing the coolant and refrigerating the ice rink.
For hockey or skating enthusiasts, a simple cost analysis will show savings hitting in less than two years, but as discussed earlier there’s so much more to this decision. Regardless of what route you decide to go, take comfort in the fact that you have options and you are moments away from making an outdoor rink a reality.