NATIONAL REPORT—For many reasons—aesthetics, noise reduction, energy efficiency—hoteliers have been opting for vertical package terminal air conditioners (vertical PTACs, aka VTACs) instead of PTACs for their guestrooms. VTACs, which are placed discreetly in an enclosed corner closet, are being implemented most often in suite environments with multiple rooms but also are appropriate for single-room configurations.
“There are different reasons for opting for VTACs, but cost is an important one; they are less expensive than two PTACs,” says Jim Benz, marketing manager for air-conditioning products for GE Consumer & Industrial. “Looks are also important. It looks like you have central air and it can be quieter. Most extended-stay hotels are opting for these.”
“They give you a more home-like feel,” adds Bill Huber, contract sales manager for Friedrich Air Conditioning Co.
VTACs, with their top discharge, can be ducted to cool or heat multiple rooms. Wall-mounted thermostats control temperature. VTACs are available with either resistance heat or a heat pump. Industry experts agree that the heat pump version, which costs about $100 more per room, is the most energy efficient.
Heat Pump Advantages
“In many markets, the savings can be as much as $250/unit per year,” Benz says. “There are very few markets where the payback from buying a heat pump would not be a year or less. Even in hot climates, I recommend them. In California, they are required.”
“A VTAC is three times more efficient when operating in heat pump mode,” Huber says.
Benz and Huber agreed that one habit hoteliers have is buying PTACs or VTACs that are oversized. These increase energy consumption and related costs unnecessarily.
“Oversizing is bad for guest comfort,” Benz says. “A hotel may need a 4,000 BTU PTAC but it will buy a 5,000 BTU model, or even up to 9,000 BTUs or more. Verticals tend to be close to 12,000 BTUs.”
“The challenge is putting the right BTUs in the right amount of space,” Huber adds.
What types of questions should you ask when shopping for VTACs? In addition to making sure the unit is sized appropriately for the space and easy to remove for maintenance, ask what its energy efficiency ratio is. Even though there is little difference among competitors, a superior ratio can save you from $7 to 20 per room/year. Also ask about coefficient of performance (COP). COP tells you the lowest outdoor temperature a unit can experience and still perform properly (about 25 degrees).
Importance of Reversal Cycle Defrost
“A lot of heat pumps only run down to 40 degrees,” Benz says. “Having a low rundown temperature is important. Heat pumps will stop working when outdoor coils are frozen. Most heat pumps have passive defrost features but the better option is reversal cycle defrost, which sends heat to the outside coils to keep them unfrozen.”
Looking for the Energy Star label is important and electronic temperature limiting is also critical. It gives the property owner the ability to set minimum/maximum temperatures to prevent the guest from overcooling or overheating the room. Also be sure to ask if the VTAC has a terminal for a door switch and an infrared sensor. Guestroom energy management systems incorporate these.
To keep VTACs running efficiently as possible, filters should be replaced every month. VTACs also should be steam cleaned annually.
GE Consumer & Industrial, which calls its VTACs ZVACs (Zoneline Vertical Air Conditioners), offers its units in 9,500 BTU, 11,700 BTU and 17,500 BTU sizes. Friedrich Air Conditioning Co.’s Vert-I-Pak units are available in sizes ranging from 9,000 BTUs to 23,500.
Glenn Hasek can be reached at email@example.com.