What Are Types of HVAC Systems in Hotels?

Heating and cooling systems in hotels serve one essential purpose – meeting the guests’ comfort expectations. That’s why it’s incredibly important for owners to take their time and choose the system that suits their facility the most.

You’ll typically encounter one of the following HVAC systems in a hotel – packaged terminal air conditioners, vertical terminal air conditioners, or variable refrigerant flow systems. Budget-friendly hotels usually opt for PTACs and mini-split systems, while more luxurious places choose to invest in VRFs as they’re quiet, practically invisible, and energy-efficient. 

What Are Types of HVAC Systems in Hotels?

There are three types of HVAC systems that are typically used in hotels.  

Packaged terminal air conditioners

These units contain all the necessary components in a single metal box. Each system can be used for an individual room and installed through a wall or below a window.

In the majority of cases, PTACs do pull in outside air, but they are not able to provide code-required ventilation.

Read: Why Are HVAC Vents Under Windows?

Vertical terminal air conditioners

Such air-cons are built right into the wall and they can provide heating and cool for multiple hotel rooms. The operation process is similar to that of a PTAC.

VTACs also do not provide fresh air to the space – that is usually done through a separate DOAS.

Variable refrigerant flow systems

In such systems, there is a single outdoor unit that can be connected to 24 coils (each located in a separate room). To heat and cool, the unit pumps either hot or cold refrigerant to the fan coil.

VRFs are also the quietest out of all the systems mentioned.

Read: Why HVAC Maintenance Is Important?

Have a Question? Ask HVAC Technician

Click here to use the chatbox to speak with one of our technicians.
No in-home service calls. No appointments.

Which HVAC System Is Best for Hotels?

For small hotels that don’t have a huge budget, a PTAC is the most suitable option. For mid-scale to upper-scale properties, a variable refrigerant packaged heat pump is a better choice as the guests of such hotels have higher expectations.

Noise levels are something that hotel owners should take into consideration. Variable refrigerant flow systems are the units that offer quiet operation, high efficiency, and a hidden appearance, but such heating and cooling systems are an investment.

What Type of AC Is Used in Hotels?

In budget-friendly hotels, single-split and multi-split conditioners are the most popular option. You might also see window-mounted units in such properties.

For standard hotels that have 3 or 4 stars, variable refrigerant flow systems and air-cooled chilled water systems are usually the units of choice. However, some 3-star hotels might still be gravitating towards single- and multi-split systems as they are relatively cheap.

Finally, luxurious hotels, in a lot of cases, prefer water-cooled chiller systems as they are incredibly energy-efficient and practically invisible to the guests.

Do Hotels Use Central Air?

Big hotels with plenty of rooms can be using centralized systems where the air is processed through a single central unit. The smaller properties and local businesses, however, prefer decentralized options (like wall-type and through-the-wall units).

Read: Why HVAC Not Working?

How Do Hotels Heat Their Rooms?

PTACs, VTACs, and VRFs are all capable of not only cooling but also heating. The latter can even operate simultaneously in heating and cooling mode.

PTACs and VTACs depend on a heat pump to reverse the cooling cycle when heat is needed. Some come with an additional heating element located near the vents that get heated with the help of electricity. 

Some hotels might also use electronic and baseboard heaters.

Read: How To Choose A Garage HVAC Unit?

Why Is HVAC Important in Hotels?

Customer satisfaction plays a huge role in the hotel business and, of course, the businesses are willing to meet their guests’ comfort expectations. 

Heating and cooling systems play a vital role in making the visitors’ experience pleasurable. Some units can also improve the air quality in the room which is a huge bonus (and it can be mentioned in the hotel’s advertisements). 

How Does Air Conditioning Work in a Hotel?

Let’s take an example of a water chiller system that works similarly to a VRF.

  1. Once you insert the hotel card into the slot, the electricity turns on.
  2. The air-con starts pulling in the air from the room. It then pushes the air over the cooling coil.
  3. If the set temperature on the thermostat is below the room’s temperature, the unit will keep the valve that controls the cold-water supply in the system open. The water is what’s running through the cooling coil.
  4. To distribute the cold air, the system uses a supply air diffuser and a short duct. The mixing plenum box and the return air grille are the components that are responsible for circulating the air back in.

Read: Quietest HVAC System

Why Do Hotels Use PTAC Units?

Packaged terminal air conditioners are one of the cheapest ways to provide every hotel guest with the comfort that they’re expecting. These systems provide custom cooling and heating options for a relatively low price.

How Do Hotels Clean PTAC Units?

If not cleaned properly and regularly, a PTAC will start making unusual noises and, of course, the air quality is going to suffer.

Here are a few things that hotels do to clean these units:

  • Ensuring that there are no obstructions in front of the unit
  • Cleaning the indoor filters once a month
  • Removing the units from the sleeve and thoroughly cleaning them once a year

Which HVAC System Is Best for Hotels?

Variable refrigerant flow systems are quiet, hidden, and highly efficient. When it comes to guest satisfaction, VRFs are usually the systems that visitors enjoy the most.

However, such units might not be the best options for small hotels or properties that are on a tight budget. In such a case, PTACs and mini-splits are the most cost-effective choice.  


What Is a Chiller in a Hotel Room?

Chillers transfer heat from one space to another just like package units or split systems. The main difference is that such units use water to cool the rooms.

Water conducts heat better than air and this is why water-cooled chillers are used a lot in various facilities (as long as there is an adequate supply of water).

What Is the Difference Between AHU and Chiller?

The chiller is where chilled water is produced that then gets pushed to the AHU (air-handling unit).

Do PTAC Units Bring in Fresh Air?

Even though PTACs do use outside air that does not mean that the units can provide adequate ventilation

  1. The pressure drop inside the system makes it practically impossible for enough fresh enter to enter the room.
  2. The guests can control the fan settings and turn them off – this eliminates the possibility of fan-assisted ventilated air.
  3. You can’t measure the flow of the fresh air into a room, so no hotel with PTACs can verify that they’re providing code-required ventilation

Why Are Hotel Air Conditioners So Cold?

Even though practically all hotel rooms shave individual thermostats, the devices never seem to work. The staff usually keeps all the rooms at a low temperature (as the majority of people staying at hotels are inclined to turn down the thermostat anyway). 

Which Is the Best Ventilation Method for Hotel?

Proper ventilation contributes to the guests’ comfort levels and the overall air quality. Hotels can use centralized or unitized systems. Constant airflow regulators, for example, are a centralized solution. They can correct the stack effect in high buildings to help maintain optimum indoor air quality.