Burning for energy savings: Burnsville scores big with Ice Arena renovations

Thanks to a massive energy efficiency renovation, the Burnsville Ice Arena has become an impressive model of sustainability. Prior to the renovation, which began in 2010, the facility was in serious need of improvement. The ice center was producing 46% of CO2 emissions from city-owned buildings, making it one of the largest CO2 producers in Burnsville. In addition, all of the major equipment was around 38 years old, and the city was spending an average of $29,000 annually on compressor repairs.

However, in 2009, the city received an Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) through the U. S. Department of Energy as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which provided an excellent impetus to start renovations at the Ice Arena. The purpose of the EECBG program was to create or retain jobs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce energy use. With needed upgrades, the EECBG funding came at a perfect time.

The Project:

The project had an ambitious scope involving a number of different renovations throughout the entire ice center. The $5 million project included replacing the ice system, dasher boards, control systems, and HVAC systems. The arena also received energy efficient lighting retrofits, new energy management systems (EMS), a new melting pit for ice shavings, and an impressive energy efficient dehumidification system. The new dehumidifier saves energy by reducing the air-conditioning system load by 30-40%. It also provides the facility with savings on its heating costs: while the system operates, it generates waste heat that is captured and used to heat other areas of the building.

One of the renovations that resulted in substantial savings was a new industrial-grade ammonia refrigeration system. Ammonia is currently the most efficient chemical refrigerant on the market. The system emits waste heat into the ice arena’s new geothermal-based HVAC system through a core water loop. The core water loop provides heat for the building and arena, as well as for subfloor heating, snow melting, domestic water, and dehumidification. The system also includes two cold water loops, which provide cooling for the HVAC system and pre-cooling of ventilation air entering the ice arenas. This balance between heating and cooling in the systems helps to save money and energy over the course of the year.

The renovations at the Burnsville Ice Arena created a number of environmental and financial benefits. The project reduced the facility’s overall carbon emissions by 20%, for a total reduction of 1.28 million pounds of CO2 per year. The new refrigeration system also significantly reduces the amount of refrigerant needed for operation—from 10,000 pounds to only 600 pounds annually—which not only saves on energy costs, but also on the cost of refrigerant. The new mechanical systems will recover and use 100% of the heat emitted from the refrigeration system, saving 78,000 therms annually. Overall, annual energy costs of the facility’s entire operation will be reduced by an estimated $77,000 per year, with total annual energy use reduced by 43%.

Project manager Dean Mulso is not only pleased with the energy and cost savings of the new arena, but also the social benefits that resulted from the renovations. Mulso states, “We probably spent about 28 hours a year on labor on compressor repairs, now our staff can dedicate more time to general maintenance and keeping the ice arena at top quality for the best customer service.”


With all the energy efficiency and conservation improvements at the Burnsville Ice Arena, it has surely become an excellent model for aging ice arenas across the country, as well as cities considering projects to reduce their energy costs and environmental impact. Burnsville continues to work on improving energy efficiency throughout the city and sharing its own knowledge about the successes and challenges of its sustainability efforts with others.

Project Profile:

  • Location: Burnsville, Dakota County, MN
  • Project cost: $5 million
  • Funding: $347,000 EECBG grant funding, $100,000 in rebates through Dakota Electric
  • Technology: HVAC systems, EMS, Dehumidifier, Lighting, Geothermal
  • Energy and cost savings: Annual reduction of 1.28 million pounds of CO2, 20% carbon emission reduction, annual energy costs of operation save $77,000, annual energy use reduced by 43%
  • Community benefits: Cost savings mean more money for other city services, a more comfortable facility,and more staff time available to ensure a top-quality ice arena

For more information, contact Dean Mulso by email at [email protected], or call 952-895-4653.
Other Local Government Energy Action Ice arena Stories:


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This year-long effort tells the stories of nearly 50 Minnesota municipalities, counties, and schools and the tangible results of their energy-saving efforts to inspire others to take their own actions. 

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