Operations: ACs and HVACs

Operations: ACs and HVACs

A vital part of hotel guestrooms, packaged terminal air conditioning units must be properly maintained in order to perform effectively and efficiently, according to Jim Clements, VP of operations for Innworks.

“PTACs are vital to a good guest experience,” he said. “They must be in appropriate working order to offer that experience.”

Clements, who has been in the hotel/hospitality operations business for more than 30 years, has created a PTAC checklist for Innworks’ three properties to follow in order to maintain good PTAC systems.

Clements gives the Innworks’ GMs and the maintenance staff a checklist each month for PTAC maintenance. Every room’s PTAC is checked at least once a month and as needed.
The cleaner the PTACs are, the better the units run and the lower the utility costs are, Clements said.

◾ Each month, every PTAC filter is cleaned.
◾ Drip trays are cleaned every month or as needed because “they can smell,” Clements said.
◾ The coils are cleaned twice a year or as needed.
◾ The outside grills are checked regularly to make sure none of them are bent, which affects air flow.

“This is just the basics that should be taken care of,” Clements said. “Air conditioners can last a significant amount of time — as long as you take care of them properly.”

Clements has a sign-off form that each GM needs to check off on each month. Several times a year Clements visits each property and checks the units in each room, among other maintenance checks.

Every PTAC manufacturer recommends a complete cleaning of each unit at least once per year or more, if conditions warrant.

In dusty or corrosive environments such as near construction sites or salt water, cleaning must be performed more often, sometimes up to four times a year. In addition to cleaning the filters, fans, fan shrouds, drain passages and base pan, all coils in each unit should be thoroughly cleaned.

Recommendations for HVAC, PTAC maintenance and prolonging product life

Keep the unit clean.  Dirty filters impede the flow of air across the (indoor) evaporator coil. This makes the heat exchange process less efficient and forces the compressor to run longer to achieve the desired temperature.

■  It is recommended that the air filter be cleaned twice a month or more depending on the environmental conditions using lukewarm water.
■  The chassis/coils should be cleaned every three to four months depending on environmental conditions. Nonpressurized water and a mild detergent are recommended for cleaning.
■  Do not use any cleaner containing acetone or ammonia,  that is alkaline-based or any acidic cleaners.

Make sure the housekeeping staff adjusts the temperature when they are cleaning a room. If they continually forget to do this, you can have units running anywhere from 12 – 14 hours per day with no occupants; this wastes large amounts of money and energy.
Watch for signs of poor working order. Banging noises are a sure indicator that the unit is in need of service. To ignore this problem will lead to unit failure.

If the unit seems to be running all the time or overly long, this is a clear indication of a problem. If this happens, the unit is not reaching the temperature set point or is operating inefficiently. Have the unit repaired immediately so you don’t waste energy or money running a unit that can’t handle the workload.

Source: Ben Broido, national sales manager, PTAC, LG Electronics USA.

Are your PTAC units in proper shape to keep guests cool?

Many Choice Hotels International franchisees use packaged terminal air conditioning systems to heat and cool their guestrooms. PTACs help franchisees reduce utility costs because the systems are localized and only heat and cool occupied rooms. But proper maintenance and cleaning are essential to keep these systems working efficiently and to ensure that every guest has a pleasant stay.

PTACs that are not cleaned regularly have a tendency to emit odors that guests often find unacceptable. In fact, many Choice franchisees have failed QAR inspections due to poor maintenance of their PTACs.

Most PTAC manufacturers recommend a complete cleaning at least once a year. If local conditions warrant, cleanings may be required up to four times each year. Frequent cleanings are particularly important in dusty or corrosive environments, such as near construction sites or salt water. A well-maintained PTAC system could last seven to 10 years, with that figure dropping significantly when units are neglected.

PTAC filters, fans, fan shrouds, drain passages and base pans can be cleaned with basic equipment — bristle brushes, towels and vacuum cleaners are usually sufficient. Keeping the filters clean is essential for energy efficiency. Dirty filters can restrict airflow, which makes the engine work much harder. In addition to using more energy, this could shorten the life of the PTAC system.

It is also extremely important to clean the base pan. The most common cause of unpleasant odors from PTAC systems is the accumulation of condensation. If water sits in the base pan for an extended period of time, it becomes stagnant and the base pan becomes a breeding ground for odor-causing bacteria.

While cleaning most parts of a PTAC system is fairly simple, cleaning the heating and cooling coils is not. This process usually requires that the PTAC system be removed from the wall and taken to a remote work area. The chemicals used to clean coils can be toxic. If they are applied to the PTAC system in a guestroom, the chemicals could get onto carpeting, curtains or upholstered surfaces. This could be dangerous for future guests and it could damage the fabric.

While some companies sell products that they claim make it easy to clean the coils in the guestrooms, hotel operators should take every precaution to ensure health and safety. This usually means removing PTAC systems from guestrooms prior to cleaning so that the chemicals can be applied and discarded safely.

Removal of the systems from the wall requires care to ensure that electrical cords and other PTAC components are not damaged. Removal of PTAC units typically requires two people because PTACs can weigh 150 pounds or more.

Hotels with large engineering or maintenance staffs typically handle PTAC cleaning themselves. Smaller properties often hire contractors because the hotels may not have the equipment or personnel necessary to move and clean the systems properly. When PTACs are removed from guestrooms for cleaning, the rooms are unusable for at least one day, sometimes longer.

When the systems are returned to the guestrooms, the maintenance staff should check for anything near the PTACs that could restrict airflow. Trees or shrubs on the outside of the hotel may need to be trimmed, and mulch or debris may have to be removed. Inside the room, furniture should not be positioned too close to the system.

These simple maintenance suggestions should help franchisees extend the life and performance of their PTAC systems. Guests will have more comfortable visits and owners can reduce their operating costs. Proper PTAC maintenance is a winning proposition for everyone.

Source: Choice Hotels International.

Cleaning PTAC coils efficiently

Various methods have been used to clean the coils in a PTAC, including the use of a soft bristle brush and vacuum or blower, a garden hose and pump spray bottle, pressure washers and steam cleaners. Traditionally, the PTAC is removed from its wall sleeve and taken to a remote work area where cleaning is performed. This cleaning process is time consuming and leaves the room unusable until the PTAC is reinstalled. Additionally, extra care must be taken to protect electrical components from overspray when hoses, steam cleaners or pressure washers are used.