Maintenance corner: Here's how you can breathe new life into ailing PTACs

It doesn’t take long for a hotel PTAC to ruin itself. Take it from Douglas Mackemer, national director of parts, supplies and specialized equipment for HVAC and PTAC distributor Carrier Enterprise, who has seen equipment get so clogged up in less than a year’s use that it voided the machine's warranty.

And where did the hotel operators go so wrong? The unsexy and sometimes painful answer is: routine maintenance. According to Mackemer, pouring a little water in PTAC drain cans and cleaning filters (and letting them dry) on a regular basis can stave off extensive cleaning procedures and prolong, even save, the life of some equipment.

“Basic maintenance is critical with any system,” Mackemer said. “It is the same level that would be performed on an automobile to change its oil. You will always shorten the life of machinery by not working on it.”

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Don Wojcik, national manager of LG’s PTAC division, suggests a monthly, quarterly and annual cleaning schedule so hotels can be sure their devices will stay running as long as possible. Wojcik said that modern PTACs, while capable of greater energy savings and effectiveness, need to be cleaned more diligently because of the closer grouping of fins on their heat-transferring interior coils. These fins, which lie on copper tubing, are found in groups of 13-14, whereas 15 years ago there may have only been six or seven to a group. Because these are responsible for moving heat from one place to another, they must be kept clean.

“Monthly, housekeeping should rinse air filters and wipe down unit covers,” Wojcik said. “This keeps dust and dirt out as a first line of defense.” On a quarterly basis, Wojcik said to clean the blower wheel and vacuum the PTAC’s interior evaporator coil.

But Wojcik added that annual deep cleaning, where PTACs are removed from their wall sleeves and a professional washes the interior and exterior, should also take place.

This deep cleaning is imperative due to the strain dirty coils place on the refrigerants used in the machines. PTACs found in rooms six to 10 stories high or higher could malfunction if their coils are not properly cleaned, as unclean coils work harder and add pressure to internally stored refrigerant.

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