The 10 Key Factors Impacting Ice Quality

Every rink, in essence, is a business and your main source of revenue is from ice rental.

You are selling your ice sheet – so you want the highest quality possible, for safety & appearance, while minimizing costs (mainly energy bills and staff wages).

This can be achieved with an effective daily maintenance plan which will minimize both energy costs and labour required.

The key to your success is to find the balance between the key factors affecting the ice surface and costs without sacrificing your primary asset – ice quality!

Since no two rinks are the same, there is no single combination of factors that will work in every facility.  Some of these variables include the length of the operating season, programming schedule, geographic location, age and condition of the building, water quality, refrigeration capacity, dehumidification, operations staff, management, etc.

The following represents an overview of the eight key factors for consideration that affect the ice quality at any arena, including a brief explanation as to why it is important and how each one may relate to the other.  Each of these factors is essential, but not one can be considered in isolation.

Once controlled, these factors will help you produce a world-class sheet of clean, clear, and dense ice that is able to withstand constant use with minimal maintenance.

The Driver

The quality of the ice sheet is ultimately in the hands of the ice resurfacer driver, or drivers.  From the start of their day to the end of their shift, the ice resurfacer driver must constantly consider conditions affecting the ice sheet.

Air & Ice

A sheet of ice that is loaded with air is not as dense or hard as it could be and will be more prone to cutting and snow build-up.  Water used for making ice and resurfacing will contain dissolved air, which is a concern for all ice makers.

Ice Making Building

When originally making your ice sheet using cold water, air can easily be removed by using the “flash freeze” method. This is done simply by applying light sprays of the water onto a very cold surface. During this process, you can actually see the air/ice interface shimmer or percolate as the dissolved air is expelled from the cold water during the flash freeze or phase change.

Ice Maintenance / Resurfacing

The other common method of removing air is to heat the ice resurfacer water, which releases the dissolved gases. As the temperature of the water is increased, the dissolved air becomes less soluble. A combination of mineral-free water and the higher water temperature to remove the air will typically produce a smooth clean surface.

Sensible Heat Loads

Sensible heat refers, quite simply, to the heat load on the ice surface that you can ‘sense’ through a change in temperature, whereas latent heat has no temperature change but rather represents a heat load through a change of state.

There are several sensible heat loads on the ice surface, which vary from one rink to another.

Latent Load & Humidity

An in-depth understanding of humidity requires a psychrometric chart, but the general concept can be made a little easier to follow with an overview of the basics.

Quite simply, warmer air is able to hold more water vapour than colder air. This is evident when the air of a warm summer evening deposits its moisture as dew on the grass while the temperature falls throughout the night, and again when that water is absorbed the next day as the air is warmed again by the morning sun.

Ice Thickness

The thickness of the ice is critical to its quality. If it is too thin, you run the risk of skaters cutting right through to the concrete floor and possibly sustaining a serious injury.

If the ice is too thick, it is more expensive to maintain (physical plant), and the longer it will take to ‘tighten up’ (or freeze) after a flood due to reduced heat transfer through the sheet. The standard ice thickness for the industry is 1 ½ inches (38 mm) for community arenas.

Ice Temperature

Various programs or events require different temperatures. Different heat loads on the ice sheet create alternate surface temperature requirements.

There is no one magic number to suit every situation and each building is unique.

To assume there is a standard number has been a common source of misinformation for several years and has probably led to more poor quality ice surfaces than any other factor.

Water Quality

In most cases, the location of your arena will dictate the water quality. Depending on the town or city, water quality can vary dramatically from 15 parts per million (less than 1 grain of hardness) to as high as 300 to 400 ppm (18 to 24 grains), which may be drinkable but will not produce high-quality ice.

Some rural communities that have drilled wells can experience an even higher number of grains. The harder the water (i.e. higher grains) the poorer the resulting ice quality will be. Treating the water will increase the potential for improved ice quality and higher energy savings.

Knowledge & Communication

The responsibility for a quality sheet of ice does not necessarily end with the decisions of the ice maker and/or driver(s). There are usually several individuals (e.g. – recreation directors, town clerks, councillors, board members, etc.) who are involved with the operation and/or management of any rink, even if only in making decisions that affect the rink.

Jet Ice: Ice Making For Ice Makers

Jet Ice is proud to be an all-Canadian ice-making company, with two locations in Newmarket, Ontario, and Regina, Saskatchewan.

We offer a complete range of products and services for the ice making industry, including ice paints, ice painting services, custom in-ice logo stencils, application packages, water treatment systems, and training seminars.

Contact us today at 905-853-4204 or email us at