Clean your PTAC filters. It’s a message manufacturers have been delivering to hotels for ages, but it bears repeating. Don Wojcik, regional sales engineer for LG Electronics, said that the No. 1 concern for packaged terminal air conditioner health is cleaning interior filters monthly and evaporator coils quarterly. Once per year the entire machine should be removed from its sleeve for an annual deep cleaning.
This is even more important for hotels located in cities or areas of the country with high pollen counts and heavy pollution, both of which are heavily damaging to PTAC operations. In these locations, the outdoor condenser coil inside PTACs can become clogged with seeds, airborne particles and more, causing the machine to work harder, run louder and use more energy.
“You should never lessen on the recommended cleaning schedules, only increase based on your hotel’s environment,” Wojcik said. “Even if you just have humans in a room they are shedding skin and hair that plugs filters.”
PTAC equipment is becoming more feature rich, more energy efficient and quieter than ever, but the devices are also not getting any cheaper. While some hotels are getting by with 10- to 15-year-old machines in their guestrooms, many of these devices are hanging on by a thread due to a lack of attention to cleaning, a fate that could befall high-end replacements should a hotel not alter its approach to cleaning.
“Some of the nicest properties out there have filthy PTACs because they aren’t doing their cleaning, and they see it when they replace them,” said David Howell, owner and general manager of PTAC Inc.
Howell stresses that a lack of cleaning could invalidate investments into PTACs, cutting into the benefits newer machines provide. “PTACs improve efficiency every year, have new features such as setback modes and are more environmentally friendly thanks to the use of different refrigerants,” Howell said. “It’s all wasted, though, if they aren’t cleaned.”
Compared to PTACs, HVACs have fewer maintenance concerns unless the machine breaks down in some way. Don Wojcik, regional sales engineer for LG Electronics, recommends hotels inspect their refrigerant lines each month and replace air filters every 90 days, at a minimum. Hotels should also watch for leaves and debris that may cover air conditioning and heat units, and make sure outdoor units are positioned on level ground.
Even hotels on their best behavior when it comes to cleaning may need to pay extra attention to their PTACs in the event of a renovation. Carpet holds onto dirt, hair and fibers better than hard flooring, and a hotel switching from one to the other should be vigilant with their PTAC filters after the switch.
“It’s something hotels should be aware of when changing corporate specifications,” said Douglas Mackemer, national director – parts, supplies & specialized equipment at Carrier Enterprise. “Hard floors draw particles to PTAC filters, and if the PTAC can’t pull air it gets too cold, ices up and fails.”
In many cases, it is clear why PTACs cleaning is being neglected. Hotels that are guilty of holding onto older PTACs are forced to contend with antiquated filters that are more difficult to clean than modern alternatives, draining time and money that could be used elsewhere.
“Modern filters are much more user friendly,” said Barry Bookout, director of sales - lodging & specialty markets division for Friedrich Air Conditioning. “They used to be foam, and had to be replaced and dried. Now they can be rinsed and shaken off. And hotels with these PTACs are doing their weekly or monthly cleaning.”