The Best Hotel Air Conditioners

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For any hotel owner looking to boost guest satisfaction, good air conditioning must be an essential part of the stay experience. In fact, 63% of travelers say that air conditioning in their hotel isn’t optional.  

But what does it mean for hotel air conditioning solutions to be good? With heating and cooling accounting for close to 40% of hotel energy costs, the best hotel air conditioners need to provide adequate guest comfort while remaining efficient, easy to use, and easy to maintain. 

In order to meet all of these requirements, hoteliers will need to make sure to select the right type of air conditioner for the building’s needs. Below, we’ll explain the types of air conditioners available for hotels so you can determine the best fit for your property.

Types of Air Conditioners for Hotels

When choosing an air conditioner for your hotel property, there are several options. In this article, we discuss the three major choices we think work best:

  • PTACs
  • VTACs
  • VFRs

We’ll break them down one by one so you’ll have a good idea for what type of air conditioner system your property will benefit from. 

PTACs (Packaged Terminal Air Conditioners)

PTACs are ideal for heating or cooling a single room. These relatively small wall units typically sit beneath a window and are installed using a sleeve that goes through a wall. They’re budget-friendly and easy to install, which makes them a favorite in the hospitality industry. 

How PTACs Work 

The functional design of a PTAC is simple. PTAC compressors pump coolant into refrigerant coils then pull the air over those coils to cool it. While some PTAC units pull in outside air, many use the air already inside the guest room for a more efficient cooling process. 

In colder seasons, PTACs can also heat the room by reversing the cooling process or by using an electric heating element near the unit’s vent. 

PTAC Pros and Cons

Historically, PTAC units have only had equivalent SEER ratings of 9-10. However, PTACs (especially newer models) are relatively efficient. The ETAC 2 by Gree, for example, boasts an EER of 11.6 and an equivalent SEER of up to 13. Other models have even higher efficiency ratings, such as the Friedrich PDE09R3SG with an EER of 12.2. 

Even more impressive is the award-winning Freidrich Freshaire which has an EER of 13 due to new inverter compressor technology that improves upon the design of older models. 

While older units have a reputation for being noisy, newer PTACs are much quieter thanks to better sound insulation. Some newer Friedrich PTACs, for example, feature a two-motor partitioned design (one for the indoor blower and one for the outer fan) that reduces the sound of the entire unit. 

Today’s PTACs are also very service-friendly. Hotel maintenance teams can typically repair units quickly and independently. Maintaining them is also relatively simple. As long as hoteliers stay on top of replacing filters, PTACs can remain powerful and efficient for a long time. 

Beyond that, the upfront cost is also the lowest of the models on our list. While other models require a budget of $1,500 or more, you can find many great PTAC models for $1,200 or less. If a unit stops working, repairs are usually confined to a single room which minimizes guest impact. 

Some hoteliers complain that PTACs can’t provide dehumidified outside air, making for cold and clammy spaces. Although it is a myth that PTACs are able to provide substantial dehumidification on their own, some newer PTAC models have found ways to help with this issue. “Outside Air” PTACs offer a certain amount of dehumidified fresh air, lowering the room’s humidity and creating a better guest experience. 

What Type of Hotels Should Consider PTACs? 

PTACs are ideal for mid-level and budget-friendly hotels, thanks to their affordability and ease of maintenance. Higher-end hotels have also seen success with these units for a number of reasons, one being the ability to offer temperature control for individual rooms.

VTACs (Vertical Terminal Air Conditioners)

VTACs, or vertical terminal air conditioners, are compact systems that fit vertically into a wall or a dedicated closet. They can be used to cool or heat a single room or multiple adjoining rooms. For the best setup, VTAC units are typically hidden in a 30-inch x 30-inch corner closet. 

How VTACs Work 

VTACs work similarly to some PTACs by pulling the air in the room across refrigerant coils using a compressor system. 

VTAC Pros and Cons 

With most models ranging from $1,500 to $3,000, VTACs tend to be more expensive than PTACs overall. Many hoteliers will also need to move fresh air into the room using a DOAS (dedicated outside air system) to prevent humidity issues, thus adding an additional upfront cost. 

Still, many hoteliers prefer VTACs because they can be hidden inside of a closet. Both the concealable design and the ability to cool multiple rooms make VTAC units a common choice in certain hotel settings. The ability to condition multiple adjoining rooms at once is also a benefit toward long-term efficiency costs. 

VTAC units now also have minimum efficiency requirements by law. While this creates an additional assurance for purchasing any standard model, many experts agree that VTACs that incorporate a heat pump model are more efficient than other types (even though they can be more expensive). 

Because VTACs are wholly enclosed in a closet-like space, they can sometimes be difficult to install and replace if necessary. Additionally, if you are using a VTAC to condition multiple rooms, maintenance will require disturbing all of them to complete the repairs. 

That said, VTACs are incredibly powerful and can heat or cool multiple rooms at once. They’re also very quiet and most guests hardly notice them.

What Hotel Types Should Consider VTACs?

Luxury hotels that place higher value on aesthetics should consider VTAC units for their guest rooms. Hotels that feature suites or rooms with kitchen nooks should also consider VTAC units, because they can handle multiple spaces at once. 

Given the cost and challenges of installing or replacing these units, mid-level and budget-friendly hotels should think twice before investing in a VTAC system, since the return on investment typically isn’t high enough. 

VRFs (Variable Refrigerant Flow) 

VRFs, or variable refrigerant flow units, rely on an outdoor central condensing unit to provide cooling and heating to multiple rooms or zones. Hoteliers usually place the central unit on the hotel’s roof. The corresponding indoor units are then typically placed in either a foyer or window area closer to the ceiling.

How VRFs Work 

VRFs work similar to mini-split units, but without the use of ducts. A condensing unit installed on the outside of the building will feed refrigerant through lines that connect to multiple different indoor air handlers for each room or zone. The air handlers then pump warm or cold air into the room depending on the settings.

Many VRF units also use heat recovery, which allows them to cool one room and heat another at the same time. They do this by pulling the hot air from one room and redirecting it towards another, thereby never engaging the main condenser. 

VRF Pros and Cons 

VRFs are quiet, efficient, and hidden, making them a good option for many types of hotels. While their ductless design makes them far less intrusive than some other solutions, they will almost certainly be more expensive and require an HVAC technician to install. 

Because the unit is outdoors, humidity-related issues are also less of a concern. Although VRFs don’t usually require maintenance, the technology is a little more complicated than a PTAC or a VTAC. If something should go wrong, you’ll need a professional HVAC technician to complete repairs as well. 

The unique design of VTAC units allows them to regulate the temperature in specific sections of the building based on the needs of each zone, so the units are not always constantly running. This contributes to a higher efficiency overall.

While they definitely save space, VRFs are the most expensive on this list to purchase and install. Some estimate that the cost can be anywhere from two to five times more than PTACs or VTACs. Other figures show that the cost difference between VRFs and VTACs can range from $5,000 to $11,000. 

What Hotel Types Should Consider VRFs? 

From a design perspective, VRFs are a good choice for higher-end hotels with budgets set aside to invest in aesthetics. Since the main unit is on the outside of the building and the air handlers are usually installed closer to the ceiling, they are more easily concealed than other types of air conditioners. 

That said, these units are great for buildings without ducting, or where ducting would be difficult to install. Because they’re very energy efficient, they can also save money over time in a new property.

Other Things To Consider 

The type of air conditioner you invest in for a hotel property matters a lot, but it’s not the only decision you need to make. When choosing an air conditioner, it’s also important to think about the size of your unit and how you’ll design an energy management system to go with it. 

One of the biggest mistakes hoteliers make in purchasing a new HVAC system is buying the wrong size unit. While a more powerful unit may seem more efficient for a small room, this actually makes the unit less efficient in most cases while contributing to humidity problems and shortening the lifespan of your unit over time. 

Because of this, it’s vital that you invest in a system with the right amount of BTUs (British Thermal Units) to condition the space properly. As a general rule, you need 20 BTUs for every square foot of room space. If your hotel is in a hot region, you should consider a unit with 10-20% more BTUs in total.

On top of BTUs, you’ll want to think about your energy management system (EMS). An energy management system is a combination of hardware and software that hotels use to improve efficiency. You can connect PTACs, VTACs, and VRFs to an existing EMS easily, using occupancy sensors and central temperature controls to better maintain comfort and efficiency across all of your rooms. Occupancy sensors determine whether or not guests are in their hotel room. When the room is empty, the sensors can signal the unit to stop running or adjust the thermostat appropriately. You can also set temperature controls so that guests can’t change the thermostat above or below specific temperature settings. 

Final Thoughts

Effective and efficient air conditioners aren’t a choice for hotels; they’re a necessity. It’s evident that the best air conditioners for hotels should be powerful, efficient, and easy to maintain. They need to provide adequate comfort and work consistently to create a good stay experience for your guests. 

While you may or may not have the budget for a renovated HVAC system, your solution should provide you with a better ROI. For many hoteliers, PTAC units can offer that solution. 

Although VTACs and VRFs are good options for certain properties because of their aesthetic qualities, they are sometimes harder to repair or replace and come at a higher upfront cost. On the other hand, PTACs are affordable, easy to use, and easy to maintain or replace. Newer units also improve upon the efficiency ratings of previous models while staying within the same price range.

If a PTAC unit is a good fit for your hotel property, start your search for the right unit at PTAC4Less. We offer all brands of PTAC units and accessories at the lowest possible price. We also offer warranty-backed refurbished units for properties on a tight budget. Browse our shop today for a new unit that can best serve you and your guests.