While you won’t often find HVAC at the top of guest requests, heating, ventilation and air conditioning impacts not only the guest experience but operations and the bottom line.
An Overview of Options
The purpose of all HVAC units is to modify the air in the environment. There are a number of options, starting with PTAC (Packaged Terminal Air Conditioner), a single-unit placed below a window with a vent to the outside. Next up is VTAC (Vertical Terminal Air Conditioner), a compact in-wall system that heats and cools single zones or multiple rooms, which is also vented to the exterior. On the higher end is VRF (Variable Refrigerant Flow), a sophisticated central system with an outdoor condensing unit (often located on the rooftop), smaller indoor units, piping and wiring.
New to the market is the Friedrich VRP (Variable Refrigerant Package Air Conditioner), says Stephan Montroy, director of Residential products at Toronto-based Master Group Canada. He explains this option as similar to both a VTAC and a VRF in that a unit is installed in each individual guestroom, but air quality is better and there’s no external vent to the outside.
Selecting a System
When selecting an HVAC system, cost, guest experience, air quality and whether or not there’s already an existing system all factor into the decision-making process.
At the most cost-effective end of the scale are PTACs, though they often come with a low-end stigma. Moving up the scale are VTACs, followed by VRP and, finally, VRF. Air quality, noise levels and filtration also improve as you slide up the scale, with the quietest and cleanest air options corresponding with the highest price point.
Montroy says an economy property might overlook the noise issue and choose a PTAC because it is the most economical to purchase and install. But in a luxury property, where there’s an expectation of quiet, a VRF is the top solution, despite being complex and commanding a high cost for installation. On the other hand, a VRP offers the performance of a central-air system, but the installation cost is much lower.
Montroy also notes if there’s a system currently installed, it will dictate the options available, as retrofitting is cost-prohibitive. If PTACs are already in place, removing the system would be a major renovation cost, as it would expose a large hole in the wall to the exterior.
“[Hotels] don’t tend to take out the PTAC, fill in the wall and then add another HVAC system because the investment would simply be too big,” he explains. “However, if there’s a very old PTAC and it’s very noisy, then there’s a possibility to upgrade the PTAC to a better model that’s much quieter.”
Sustainability and Energy Efficiency
Where cost is not the deciding factor, environmental impact and efficiency come into play. “At the higher end, a luxury hotel will take into account the HVAC’s efficiency,” Montroy says. “This is where a VRF would be the best option because the unit can take heat from one area and bring it into another area and, in this way, your energy cost will drop.”
Rather than heating and cooling a single area on-demand, a VRF system can control multiple zones simultaneously.
HVAC can account for more than 50 per cent of energy consumption, so it’s not surprising it’s most often at the top of the list when hotels search for ways to green their properties. Since replacing entire systems can be expensive and wasteful, hotels are turning to upgrades incorporating smart technology and the Internet of Things (IoT) in an effort to reduce energy usage.
Written by Andrea Victory