PTACs are becoming quieter and more efficient

This article is the first of a two-part series on PTACs. Look to Thursday's technology newsletter for the second part.

For many years, the packaged terminal air conditioning market has remained relatively stagnant but recently, there have been technological upgrades to the units in a variety of ways. New PTAC units are more efficient and quieter than in the past, said Douglas Mackemer, national director of parts, supplies and specialized equipment for Carrier Enterprise. “Manufacturers have redesigned the units and they are significantly saving in energy and noise,” he said. “Hotel chains are now realizing they can pay more upfront but will get greater cost benefits down the road.”

Carrier Enterprise has focused on reduced sound levels and better exchange of air in the guest rooms in its new PTACs. The fresh air exchanges are important to meet Department of Energy guidelines, Mackemer said. The company recently debuted the ETAC 2, which has been redesigned to greatly reduce the sound levels as well as energy consumption.

“Maintaining low levels of noise and keeping the decibel rating down is very important to guest comfort,” said Kevin McNamara, vice president of air conditioning systems for LG Electronics USA. “Heat transfers and compressors are more efficient, which helps both the noise and energy levels.”

The improvements in compressor technology has lead to higher energy efficiency ratios, with good PTAC brands being up to 13 EERs, said Barry Bookout, director of sales for the lodging and specialty markets division of Friedrich Air Conditioning Co. The external look and dimensions haven’t changed in the past 20 years he said but manufacturers are being more creative with the internal workings.

“Fixed dimension PTACs fix your coil size—optimizing the coil by curving it creates higher efficiency,” Bookout said. “There’s only a certain amount of space to play with so manufacturers need maximize.”

Islandaire’s Dr. PTAC is designed as a two-stage system. The first stage conditions and tempers room air while the second stage brings in conditioned outside air and continuously pressurizes the room. The second stage is initiated by an outdoor humidistat that allows the unit to condition the incoming fresh air. The company is developing a two-stage electric heater that can go into the unit, said Richard Nuss, vice president of Islandaire.

For future PTACs, McNamara said LG will be moving to inverter technology with a more robust and efficient compressor, but it will command a higher price point. LG uses inverter compressor technology in its air conditioner products now and it is cost competitive with market demand for PTAC usage.

“It maintains an even and consistent temperature, which is better for the guest and more energy efficient,” he said.

Being released to the market in early 2016, Carrier has implemented a more efficient compressor in its PTAC units, which will equal significantly greater energy efficiency, Mackemer said.