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Packaged Terminal Air Conditioner (PTAC) Buying Guide

What Are PTACs?

PTACs, short for Package Terminal Air Conditioners, are commercial-grade air conditioners installed through a wall. PTACs are commonly placed through an external wall right above the floor and often under a window. Most models include both cooling and heating, and their durable construction makes them popular in the hospitality industry.

They're built with parts to hold up against tough outdoor environmental conditions and are designed for quick, convenient cooling and heating. While PTAC air conditioning units are most commonly used in hotels, they can also be found in sun rooms, offices, and assisted living facilities. 

Why are they so popular in hotels?

Hotel managers and owners carefully consider their HVAC choices in terms of value and profitability. In the lodging industry, energy costs—particularly on heating—is one of the fastest-growing operating costs. Additionally, loud and ineffective ACs always top the list of customer complaints.

Many hotels are replacing old, inefficient PTACs with new, more energy-efficient models to save on energy costs. These newer models are built with better insulation for quieter operation; a more durable exterior to last longer; and include efficient heat pumps to reduce costs during heating. The combination of these factors makes PTACs popular in hotels and assisted living facilities.

These tough models, which allow each room to be set to different temperatures, are also simple to operate. Most of them come with digital control boards that let you quickly set your ideal temperature and make other setting changes in mere seconds. 

Heat Options

PTACs can use 2 types of heat: electric heat or heat pump. Models with electric heat use electricity and a heating element that warms air as it passes over the element. A strong fan then disperses this warm air around your space, similar to cool air while in AC mode.

Other models, however, use heat pumps, which simply reverse the cooling cycle to transfer warm air into your space.  This type of heating is more efficient and is popular in warmer climates (since it only works down to 40 degrees F).

Most PTAC models come with heat pumps and an electric heat back up for particularly cold parts of the year.

Important Considerations

Room Size/Cooling Power

The cooling capacity of a room air conditioner is measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs) per hour. To ensure high efficiency, choose an air conditioner with a BTU level designed to fit the square footage of your room or space. This is necessary to avoid a few common scenarios: If you use an air conditioner that doesn't have enough BTU power to cover your room, it will work overtime to bring the temperature down. In the process, energy dollars will be wasted.

In contrast, an AC that has too large of a BTU capacity for your space will cool it, but it won't remove as much humidity from the air as a properly-sized unit. This will make your room feel damp and clammy. Confirm your PTAC model is the appropriate size for the room or suite you're cooling.

The chart below can be used as a guide for how many BTUs you need for particular room sizes. These are the standard PTAC sizes but can vary slightly depending on brand and environmental conditions:

Room Size

Cooling Power

300 sq. ft. 

7000 BTUs

400 sq. ft. 

9000 BTUs

550 sq. ft. 

12000 BTUs

700 sq. ft. 

15000 BTUs

Electrical Requirements

PTACs are large, commercial-grade products that often require more powerful voltage than the standard 115-volt outlet. Most PTACs we carry here at Sylvane require 220-240 volts and a 6-20P plug face. Make sure your room is wired to handle this voltage if that's what your model requires. This information should be listed in the specifications on each product page.

Energy Efficiency Ratio

PTAC AC units' efficiency is measured by their Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER). The higher the EER, the more efficient the model is. Be sure to compare your model's EER to others you're considering. As previously mentioned, efficient PTAC air conditioners can save you money on operation and energy costs.

Additionally, PTAC AC units with heat pumps tend to be more efficient than those that offer electric heat.

Wall Sleeve and Grille

A wall sleeve and external grille must be purchased separately if you're using a PTAC for new construction. If you're simply replacing an old or outdated unit, you may be able to use your existing sleeve and grille depending upon its size and condition. Nearly all PTAC models are 42-inches wide, but be sure to check your dimensions before using an existing sleeve for a new model.

Features to Consider

  • Quiet Operation: Hotel and assisted living guests appreciate high-quality materials and noise-reducing technology.​
  • Central Controls: Some brands, like Friedrich PTACs, allow you to control multiple units from one central location, like a front desk. This is a great option for hotel managers who want to select high and low temperatures guests can set in each individual room. For example, hotels can save money and energy by programming their PTACs to only go down to 65 degrees.​
  • Adjustable Louvers: This allows guests to direct cool or warm air where they want it in the room.​
  • Washable Filters: Easy-access filters that can be washed will save you money on replacements and keep air fresh.

Other Helpful Resources

Still Have Questions?

If you're unsure which model is best for you, feel free to call us at 1-800-934-9194. We can take the guesswork out of your purchase. Our goals in to make your indoors healthy and comfortable. 

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