According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), energy represents the single fastest-growing operating cost in the lodging industry. The EPA estimates that a 10 percent reduction in energy consumption would be equivalent to increasing RevPAR—revenue per available room—by $0.60 for limited service hotels and by more than $2 for full-service hotels. Further, if the entire lodging industry reduced their energy use by 10 percent, a whopping $745 million would be saved each year in energy costs.
Yet despite considerable dialogue on reducing energy consumption and costs, one particular contender for change remains overlooked and under-serviced: hotel PTAC units, or packaged terminal air conditioning systems. According to ENERGY STAR—a joint program of the EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy—air conditioning and lighting alone make up half of a hotel’s electricity consumption. As a result, initiatives that help A/C units perform in top-notch condition can go a long way in keeping utility costs in check and positively impacting the bottom line. According to a study from the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), energy savings as high as 25 percent can be attained from running clean heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment versus machines with dirty coils.
As summer and peak vacation season approaches, hoteliers can significantly reduce energy consumption and utility costs by more thoroughly inspecting and cleaning their PTAC units. This will also help protect the life of the assets and increase guest satisfaction by improving indoor air quality and removing the unpleasant odor caused by dirty systems.
CLEAN, DISINFECT, DEODORIZE
Due to time and equipment constraints, housekeepers and engineers are generally only able to clean the surface of PTAC units—the parts that are immediately visible to guests. Unbeknownst to the staff members or hotel guests, these units often conceal coils clogged by dust and debris and base pans full of mold, mildew and other harmful bacteria. In addition, when left untreated for lengthy periods of time, dirty PTAC units cause unpleasant odor and noise, creating a less than favorable environment for room occupants.
To maximize efficiency and reduce summer cooling costs, PTAC units should undergo a thorough cleaning in April or May. (However hotels in warmer climates may need to service their PTAC units more often). After collecting dust and debris in the offseason, most PTAC units are ripe for spring cleaning—particularly if they’re close to the ground. In order to maintain a high level of cleanliness, PTAC units should be taken apart so that every aspect of the units, including coils, fans, passages, base pans and filters can be thoroughly cleaned.
In addition—amid recent outbreaks of Legionnaire’s Disease in hotels—it is vital that hoteliers go beyond cleaning to include sanitation and mold prevention techniques. Because condensation pans are exposed to high levels of heat, water and air, they are the perfect breeding ground for Legionella and other harmful bacteria. To prevent this, it is important to disinfect the unit with an EPA-registered disinfectant that kills mold, mildew and bacteria after a thorough cleaning. To foster long-term disinfection, housekeepers or maintenance staff should also consider inserting an EPA-registered disinfectant strip into the pan to fight bacteria re-growth for up to six months after cleaning.
Finally, although it sounds simple, it is important to clean and sanitize the filter. A clogged or dirty PTAC filter can significantly reduce the unit’s airflow and performance level and can also lead to compressor failure. Sanitizing the filter after cleaning also helps prevent premature recontamination.
MAXIMIZING LABOR EFFICIENCY AND REDUCING COSTS
Prior to cleaning and disinfecting their PTAC units, hoteliers should weigh the benefits of partnering with a facility services provider versus using in-house resources. For many hotels, outsourcing this service not only results in significantly cleaner PTAC units, it also maximizes labor efficiency while minimizing costs. Trained professionals equipped with specialized tools can clean faster and more effectively, thereby reducing room downtime and lost revenue. These experts can generally clean a few dozen more units a day than in-house staff—a number that rises when in-house staff are called away from PTAC cleaning to respond to other maintenance projects or guest requests.
It’s also important to consider the location of cleaning. Depending on the personnel and equipment available, PTAC units can be cleaned on-site (in their respective hotel rooms) or taken to a remote location for cleaning. Hoteliers must exercise caution under both scenarios to protect their property and guests. Individuals conducting on-site cleaning need to ensure that contaminants from the drip pan and the cleaning chemicals used don’t spill onto the carpeting, causing potentially serious mold and mildew problems if undetected and untreated. This also applies to hoteliers who prefer to remove their PTAC units from the wall and carry them to a remote area, such as a parking lot or workshop for cleaning—a laborious task that puts hotel doorframes, elevators and carpeting at risk while also making the room unusable for guests for a longer period of time.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Hoteliers who regularly schedule and clean their PTAC units can achieve significant financial savings while also ensuring a clean, safe and comfortable stay for guests. Dirty PTAC units have to work nearly twice as hard to provide guests’ desired temperatures—elevating energy consumption and costs. By deep cleaning PTAC units, hoteliers remove sludge and biological build up in the units’ drain lines and base pans and completely clean and sanitize the filters for maximum airflow. This allows the units to operate more efficiently and helps protect guests from illnesses associated with bacteria or mold. It also protects the equipment from costly, inconvenient breakdowns. By properly cleaning and maintaining their PTAC units, hoteliers can reduce energy consumption up to 25 percent and significantly improve indoor air quality for guests. In addition, deep cleaning PTAC units maximizes guest comfort, leading to positive word-of-mouth reviews and repeat business for summers to come.
Todd McKeown is Vice President of Global Hospitality and Gaming for Cintas Corporation, a leading provider of facility service solutions. Cintas Facility Services offers a wide range of solutions that enable hotels to build their image and increase profitability and productivity. For more information, please visit www.cintas.com/Hospitality.