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What is Low-e?

Low-emissivity arena ceilings have been around for about 20 years and yet there is still some misunderstanding of their purpose and why they are beneficial in ice arenas. Some people beleive that if they have a white ceiling that is unsulated, a low-e ceiling will not help them. Others beleive that a low-e ceiling will make the arena colder.

The fact is that a low-e ceiling works because the material it is made of has a very low potential to transfer radiant energy. Most objects and materials, including bright white-faced insulation, have an emissivity factor of .9; this means they are 90 percent efficient in transferring their radiant energy to other objects. A good low-e ceiling has an emissivity factor of .03, or is 3 percent efficient in transferring its radiant energy. Like infrared heaters radiant energy never heats the air, it only heats the objects it strikes - in this case, your ice surface.

Radiant energy will always flow from objects at a higher temperature to objects at a lower temperature. The greater the temperature differential, the faster the rate of heat transfer. Since your arena ceiling is always warmer than your ice surface, there is a constant transfer of radiant energy to the ice. When a low-e ceiling is installed over the ice sheet, it interrupts the flow of radiant energy to the ice. The low-e ceiling reduces the heat load on the ice sheet by as much as 20 percent. Radiant energy always flowa perpendicular to the surface that is emitting it.

An incidental but very beneficial side effect of the low-e ceiling is that it is highly reflective. This substantially increases the perceived light level and may allow you to decrease the number of light fixtures, resulting in even greater energy savings.


It has been experienced in poorly insulated indoor ice arenas with a large amount of radiation emitting from the ceiling surfaces that suspending a ceiling with a low-e surface between the ice sheet and the hot upper ceiling surfaces will cause a reduction in refrigeration costs. This is the result of blocking the infrared energy from reaching the ice sheet. This experience is frequently misrepresented as a better alternative to providing a well insulated ceiling; however this is not true.


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