Skaters could be a frustrated bunch not that long ago. The general rule was: no ice – no skating. If you wanted to glide, you had to go to the nearest facility, provided there was one. Now, thanks to technology, the market offers synthetic ice tiles that you can easily set up inside your own home and get all the benefits of a regular rink.
Considering that they're made of polyethylene plastic, some buyers might not take the concept seriously. It's easy to dismiss plastic products and put them in the toy category. However, this alternative has proven its worth repeatedly, and even professional athletes rely on it for practice in the offseason. Click here for more information on the subject.
Comparisons with the Original
One great advantage of synthetic ice over natural ice is installment. The latter is suitable for large and open areas, and, being frozen water, it needs proper temperature to remain solid. This is why people, unless they have the suitable conditions, stay away from buying natural ice panels. The alternative version is super easy to set up, and you can use virtually any area, indoors or outdoors.
If you're an experienced skater, you'll probably notice the difference in smoothness on the very first glide on the synthetic surface. Plastic is more resistant than ice, so naturally, it should put in more physical effort. It's not that drastic, of course, and you get used to it pretty quickly.
The resistance factor comes in handy for practice, especially for figure skaters and hockey players. Just like training with heavier balls in other sports, gliding on rougher rinks will sharpen your skills and make you a better skater when it comes to skating on ice.
Not all artificial panels are of the same quality. It's only logical that cheaper solutions will detract from the experience, so if you want to get as close to possible to the real deal, you should invest in polyethylene panels with very high molecular weight.
Ideally, the skating surface should be perfectly flat so that you can move smoothly and effortlessly on your skates. Properly maintained ice rinks are generally flat, whereas synthetic panels may seem uneven if the interlocking isn't done right. It's enough for a tile to be a fraction of an inch higher than the rest to create a problem. It's best to call an expert to help you if you feel insecure about the DIY approach.
If you care about ecology, it’s good to know how the two options differ. Since natural ice is frozen water, new layers replace the old ones at regular intervals. Of course, the old ice is thrown out and could pollute the environment if it's disposed of incorrectly. Plastic panels, on the other hand, are recyclable.
Indoors and Outdoors
If you have a house, you already have many options where to set your skating area. Using the basement is a good idea, for example. If you have a spacious backyard, you'll have great fun skating there, and you can always invite your neighbors for a quick hockey game. It's also an excellent opportunity for your children to socialize instead of playing video games all day long.
If you install it somewhere inside the house, you obviously don't have to worry about the issue of melting ice. Proper ice panels will do that if it gets too warm, while the polymer will remain stable no matter the temperature.
Maintenance and Cleaning
Taking care of synthetic ice rinks can be challenging and expensive. It needs a regular supply of water and electricity to preserve it, and not everyone can afford such expenses. This is where the polymer version shines: it’s very low-maintenance and practically takes care of itself. Quality synthetic ice is self-lubricating, but you still need to clean it regularly. This system also makes the colors last longer and shields the panels from ultraviolet radiation.
Cleaning, though not a difficult task by any means, should be regular and thorough. Just like any other floor, these panels can quickly get dirty and grimy. Now, it's easier to notice the contamination as the surfaces are typically white and less often light blue. Even if it's just a layer of dust, you'll probably see it immediately.
It's best to take care of hygiene regularly. If you neglect it long enough, it will be much harder to clean up when you get around to it. You'll appreciate this much more if your skating area covers a more extensive area: washing and scraping for hours is not fun for anyone. If the panels are on your driveway instead of the garage, they will be more exposed to dirt.
A Few Useful Tips
As with other floors around the house, the mop and bucket are your faithful allies. This is by far the most common method: it's simple, and it gets the job done. Wetting the surface thoroughly will remove the dirt and help it regain its pearly white texture.
This is great if there's only a bit of grime, but what if it's more stubborn? If you play hockey, you're familiar with puck marks. In this case, it's a good idea to try a stiffer brush or even grease to clean up. Of course, you should choose the method depending on how dirty the floor is.
It doesn't always have to be manual labor, though: mechanical cleaners are a good investment in the long run for synthetic ice, and they work great. They use a combination of cylinder and brush to scrub the grime after spraying the surface with water. The holding tank collects the dirty water, so it's a two-in-one solution. Covering all the panels a few times should get the job done.
If you’re hell-bent on getting your skating area like the day you bought it, try pressure washing. This method involves a high-pressure water spray with two or four jets and a rotating bar. They work in unison to remove dust, grime, mold, paint, etc., from the surface. The pressure washer is a highly efficient cleaner and very practical to boot.
People often hesitate when it comes to using detergents or degreasers. Perhaps they fear that the chemicals might damage the surface somehow. Well, if you manage to clean the area with warm water only, it’s best to avoid it. If it still needs additional scrubbing, make sure you use a neutral detergent. It’s important to rinse well; otherwise, you could leave residue on your panels. Follow this link for more info https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/01/business/glice-fake-ice-skating-.html.
Playing Hockey at Home
Synthetic ice is becoming more and more popular with hockey players, and for a good reason. In the past, they relied on ponds to practice when proper rinks weren't an option. Thanks to our invention, home practice is available to anyone. It has turned hockey into a sport that you can play throughout the year.
This sport is not reserved for athletes only: it’s a great pastime for families or groups of friends. If you have children, grabbing a pair of slides and a stick can be extremely fun for them, as well as a great workout. Your kids’ friends will surely be impressed when they see your homemade rink.
More avid enthusiasts usually rent ponds for playing hockey; however, this can be very costly. The supply of ice is pretty limited, so they charge up to $200, $300, even $500 per hour in some cases. If you're not a pro athlete and want to have fun, you would probably avoid this option. Investing in synthetic ice will not only save you money, but it will provide you the comfort of playing in your own home. Also, you can always increase the area by interlocking new panels!
As we mentioned before, artificial surfaces are more resistant than authentic ice. This helps practice tremendously: by investing more effort, you gain more strength and ability, becoming faster and more competent on a proper hockey rink. That's why professional players like practicing on synthetic ice: it makes actual playing way easier.
Another great thing is that you don't have to use special gear. While specially designed equipment does exist, you can use regular skates and pucks to play indoor hockey. Also, the plastic won't do any damage to your skates. Perhaps it could in the past, but modern polymers are way more technologically advanced.
This Olympic sport is unanimous with grace and elegance: flowing, effortless moves by graceful skaters on ice. It takes years and years of practice to perfect your skills. Physically, it's incredibly challenging: it involves jumping, spinning, long glides, circling, and so on. This, of course, requires an excellent surface to do all these things: can synthetic ice live up to the challenge?
Professional figure skaters agree that it can be a very efficient training method for specific moves. Some routines need larges surfaces, and small rinks are just too limiting. But you can perform separate moves, such as particular spins, very successfully on a homemade surface. Once again, just like in hockey, the tougher gliding enables you to perform better when the time comes.
It’s probably best to think of it as an addition to your existing regimen. After all, it can’t replace a full-scale ice rink, but having a dedicated area at home at your disposal at any time can only improve your routine.
Apart from the resistance factor and possible uneven surfaces, synthetic ice could be troublesome in some other ways too. Nothing serious, though: investing in higher quality panels will take care of all problems.
For example, there's the issue with dull blades. After a long period of skating, no skate will remain perfectly sharp. Luckily, there are synthetic panels that incorporate ultra glide technology. It improves gliding and keeps your blades sharp. The answer lies in enhanced molecular structure. As you can see, it’s good to explore the matter in detail before you make a purchase.
Low-quality rinks are precisely what the name suggests. They have low chemical stability that will eventually result in a change of color, making your panels look old and worn out, even if you bought them only a few months ago. If your skating area is outdoors, UV protection is a must. Just by investing a few more dollars, you ensure that your rink will endure the test of time.
Is it Worth Considering?
As with any other product, when deciding whether to add synthetic ice to your home, you should consider all aspects. Online research will help you gain a good perspective: many users' reviews offer quality insights into this product's pros and cons.
If you live in a country that’s way up in the northern hemisphere, freezing ponds should be readily available. But what if you’re down south, where the weather’s more unpredictable? Investing in synthetic ice by quality providers is excellent if you are doing it on a regular basis.
That way, you won't have to depend on the climate. Even if your home skating area is in the backyard, you can quickly relocate it inside in case of bad weather.
Some companies even have teams that do the assembling and removing part for you. But it's far better to do it the DIY way: it's very convenient and takes a few hours maximum, depending on the number of panels. So, roll up those sleeves and get to work!
If you plan on skating only once in a blue moon, there's always the option of hiring a synthetic ice rink. It's great for events such as backyard parties or fundraisers. The companies charge a reasonable price for the service while guaranteeing great fun and excitement for everyone.
Finally, the eco-friendly voice in our heads always tells us to use minimum energy for whatever we do. Using the household alternative, you reduce your water and electricity costs by a great deal, which is also important for public rinks that host hundreds of skaters per day. Whether it’s for private or public use, skating panels are a great source of entertainment.