No matter what hotels do, packaged terminal air conditioners are nearly impossible to hide from guests. Because they need to have unobstructed access to the guestroom in order to provide proper temperature control, PTACs are often in full view, and their aesthetics are slowly changing to accommodate this.
“Every year PTACs get a little smoother, more modern and updated, but they are still somewhat objectionable to designers,” said Barry Bookout, director of sales - lodging & specialty markets division for Friedrich Air Conditioning.
While PTAC colors have changed in most cases from beige to gray, the shape of the devices can only be altered so much due to the standardized nature of PTAC wall sleeves, meaning that for now the units are going to remain in sight. But hotels can draw guests’ gaze away from the rectangular cooling units and onto thermostats, if they upgrade to modern energy-management systems.
“Hotel management companies don’t want guests looking at their air conditioners,” said David Howell, owner and general manager of PTAC Inc. “They would rather guests look at something on the wall.”
Hotels with traditional heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems have similar issues, with air vents often drawing the gaze of guests upward. Traditional HVAC systems also place constraints on hotels under development, affecting guestroom configurations and infrastructure. One alternative is the use of a duct-free “split” system, through which an outdoor unit delivers air to a number of indoor units affixed to guestrooms, with compact refrigerant being located between the two units.
Don Wojcik, regional sales engineer for LG Electronics, said that in a split system, one outdoor unit can provide heating and cooling to up to 16 rooms, and doesn’t require the high walls needed for HVAC installations. In addition, the cooling unit can be disguised, in LG’s case, as something innocuous such as a piece of art.
“The exterior condensing unit requires very little maintenance, but the interior unit still needs to have its filters cleaned,” Wojcik said. “In fact it’s much more critical to keep these units clean because their filter packs are smaller, and the coil surface is smaller.”
Wojcik recommends monthly cleanings for these units, something the industry is simply never going to get away from.