Packaged Terminal Air Conditioners are a large sector of the air conditioner market. These are self-contained window or wall-mounted air conditioners that are most commonly used in hotels, apartments, and health care facilities.
The Packaged Terminal Air Conditioner: Cooling capacity, Installation, Quieter
Most packaged terminal air conditioners, or PTACs, in North America, are the same physical size regardless of their heating and cooling capacity. This allows hotel or apartment owners to replace them without having to make major structural adjustments. The basic cooling capacity range goes from about 7,000 to 15,000 BTUH.
Packaged terminal air conditioners have an evaporator coil that faces into the room being cooled or heated. A condenser coil is mounted so that it faces the outside. Those packaged terminal air conditioners that also heat use a four-way valve for reversing the refrigerant flow for this purpose.
The newer packaged terminal air conditioners have electronic controls, and some even come with remote controls. Energy saving features are more common on PTAC units, and some have programmable functions. Though PTACs are all approximately the same size physically, the cooling capacity varies, and it is important to choose a unit that has enough cooling capacity for the square footage of the room where it is to be installed.
Installation of packaged terminal air conditioners is a fairly straightforward process. Drain piping and ductwork are not required. Proper wiring provisions, a proper sized hole in the wall, and a “sleeve” into which the PTAC unit fits are the basic requirements for installing a unit. Many people also install a cover over the interior part of the unit to make it more aesthetically pleasing.
Packaged terminal air conditioners only cool the room in which they are installed, which is a big part of why they are so popular for hotels, apartments, dormitories, and the like. The newest PTAC units are more energy efficient than ever, with energy efficient ratings (EERs) of between 11 and 12. This is on par with an efficient window unit air conditioner. In fact, replacing an old packaged terminal air conditioner with a new, energy efficient model can result in a positive return on investment in less than one year due to energy savings.
One common complaint about older packaged terminal air conditioners was that they were too noisy. While not as quiet as a central air conditioning system, newer PTAC units include acoustical rubber isolators underneath the compressor, isolated fan motors, and insulated bulkheads, which cut down on noise considerably.
If your home or apartment has a packaged terminal air conditioner, there are several things you can do to keep it in good working order. You should always unplug the unit before doing any maintenance or inspection. Check the condenser outside to make sure it isn’t being obstructed by leaves, plastic bags, or other detritus. If it is, use a brush to remove the debris.
If the indoor evaporator has removable filters, remove them and wash them with soapy water, rinsing well afterwards to get rid of dust at least once a month. If the coils from the indoor evaporator are dirty, you can vacuum them off. This will make sure that the cooling capacity of your packaged terminal air conditioner is not compromised due to dirt obstructing air flow.
Packaged terminal air conditioners are not as efficient as central systems, but they are more practical in applications like hotels, because cooling and heating in each room can be controlled individually and turned off when not needed due to lack of occupancy. Today’s systems are much more energy efficient than the units from just a decade or two ago and often come with nice perks like remote controls and programmable features.