Why hiding PTACs hurts everyone

This is the final part of a three part series on PTAC maintenance. Click here for part two: Debris can make an awful mess for hotel PTACs.

Guestrooms are designed to be pleasing to the eye. PTACs, however, often impede this plan, but they, too, need their space. 

“In the last couple of years, many hotel brands have been trying to ‘hide’ the PTAC in the hotel guestroom,” said Barry Bookout, national sales manager, lodging & specialty markets for Friedrich Air Conditioning. “This is part of the constant struggle between engineering and design, but the PTAC is always going to be there. It’s equipment in the wall, and designers don’t like the look.”


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Unfortunately, attempts to keep the devices hidden often backfire and reduce both their effectiveness and operation life. Douglas Mackemer, national director, parts, supplies and special equipment for Carrier Enterprise, lists draperies and furniture among the biggest guestroom fixtures that effect PTAC airflow.

As PTACs are often placed next to or within windows, covering them with a hotel drapery will not allow air to mix across a room evenly. Mackemer is also against placing furniture near PTACs, such as beds or wing-backed chairs, as they could impair airflow as well. Mackemer recommends three feet of space between a PTAC and furniture, but Bookout suggests six feet of space to ensure that hotels understand the severity of reduced airflow.

“I have seen PTACs under a desk and behind a bed’s headboard,” Bookout said. “Getting creative when hiding the unit helps no one in the end.”

The biggest effect of poor airflow is not guest comfort, but PTAC runtimes. If a PTAC is unable to satisfy a guestroom thermometer, the unit will continue to run indefinitely, which is an easy way for the PTAC to destroy itself over time.

“If the thermostat can’t be satisfied, a PTAC will run itself until its coils eventually freeze,” said William Fizer, president of Lodging Technology. “A PTAC running non stop can create one-quarter to three inches of ice on its coils in some situations.”