NATIONAL REPORT—Lodging owners are increasingly turning to service companies to handle the cleaning and maintenance of their packaged terminal air conditioners (PTACs). Benefits include increased air flow and energy efficiency, improved indoor air quality within the guestroom, elimination of unpleasant odors, fewer breakdowns, the extension of the life of the PTACs by as much as three to five years, cost savings, and peace of mind knowing that the job has indeed been done. A few of the companies that now offer cleaning and maintenance services throughout the United States include Cintas Corp., Dream Green Services, LLC, and Fibercare. These companies can also service other types of heating and cooling systems (VTACs, split-system units, etc.).
Representatives of the companies mentioned above agreed that many lodging owners fail to service their PTACs as often as required. Fred Wehby, senior director of Deep Clean Services at Cintas, says PTAC maintenance was one of the investments that fell by the wayside during the recent recession. Cintas formally announced its air-conditioning (A/C) coil cleaning service called ChemTron Coil Cleaning by Cintas late last year.
“We are currently in 85 of the top 100 metropolitan areas,” Wehby says.
Susie Pfeiffer, co-owner and president of four-year-old Dream Green Services, whose company also provides nationwide coverage, says PTACs should be thoroughly cleaned no less than once a year. Properties located along coast lines and in desert environments should be serviced twice each year. Location does impact the frequency at which PTACs should be cleaned—even at the very local level. Wehby says PTACs located especially on the first and second floor should be given more attention because of lawn mowing debris and dirt, leaves, and even small critters. Filters should be cleaned in all PTACs once a month.
Measurable Difference After Cleaning
The difference in PTAC performance after a cleaning is immediate and significant. Cintas studies have shown an up to 8.5 degree temperature improvement, up to 28 percent increase in airflow, and up to 17 percent energy savings. According to Dream Green Services, an annual PTAC cleaning can result in an associated electricity bill decrease of 6 percent per month.
While the goal of each service company is the same—the cleaning and servicing of the PTAC unit—each company has its own unique process. Dream Green Services, which also replaces and repairs PTACs, uses a steam cleaning method where pressured hot water is applied to the unit to remove dirt, grime and any mold that may have grown. To avoid corrosion and environmental damage, the company says it uses an eco-friendly soap to help lift dirt from the unit’s coils, fins and surface areas. The dirty water is vacuumed away after the washing. The process is performed in the hallway of the property in a self-contained box. Filters are also cleaned.
Using technicians certified to perform the service, Dream Green Services will also remove Freon from PTACs. It is put into a reclaiming machine so that the customer can use it again. Dream Green Services will also take away old PTACs for recycling. The disassembling of a PTAC for its valuable metals is “totally worth the process,” Pfeiffer says.
Care Taken During Cleaning
Cintas technicians service PTACs within the guestroom itself. To prevent any backsplash, a tarp is placed on the floor and the bed is covered as well. The PTAC is placed on a tray on the tarp.
“We focus on cleaning the coils with a foaming product,” Wehby says. “It penetrates between the coils and fins. It helps push dirt toward the outside of the unit, making it easier to rinse with room temperature water. We clean the pan. You can get some mold growth there. We remove the sludge. We treat the drain lines, spray the entire system with a disinfectant, and insert a strip that has a disinfectant on it in the bottom of the pan. We also clean and sanitize the filters.”
Wehby says his company’s cleaning process is certified by the Green Clean Institute and is Energy Star certified.
Fibercare, a 30-year-old company, cleans the PTAC within the guestroom. Ashton Grudnowski, president of Fibercare, says the farther PTACs are moved, the greater the risk of damage occurring. Fibercare uses a steam cleaning process along with a non-toxic, biodegradable product. In areas where the heater coil will be used, Grudnowski recommends paying special attention to its cleaning.
Very Reasonable Payback Time
The cost of service varies by company and by the level of cleaning and maintenance service provided. Grudnowski says her company performed a study to determine the payback time of a PTAC cleaning service. They found that within two to three months time, the energy savings alone paid for the service.
PTAC and other types of heating and cooling equipment cleaning and maintenance does take coordination between hotel management and the service company. A service company may not come out unless there are a minimum number of units to clean. In cases where a room is “occupied,” the hotel may need to provide an escort for the service technician.
Glenn Hasek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.