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PTAC Meaning: What is a PTAC Air Conditioner?

ptac air conditioning

If you’ve ever stayed in a hotel room, you may have marveled at the air conditioning, and what a far cry it is from your rattly old window AC.
If you’ve ever wondered how such air conditioners work, or whether there’s an alternative to expensive central air, then look no further. The answer lies in PTAC units.

In this guide, we discuss what a PTAC air conditioner is, what PTAC means, how it differs from conventional AC, and what advantages it brings.

PTAC Meaning: What is a PTAC Air Conditioner?

PTAC stands for Packaged Terminal Air Conditioner, and is a type of self-contained, through-the-wall air conditioning and heating unit.

PTACs are mostly found in the hospitality and accommodation industry, such as hotels, dormitories, and nursing homes. They are also common in apartments and condos. They are ideal for residential spaces without central air conditioning.

Saying “PTAC Air Conditioner” is actually redundant, because the AC in PTAC stands for Air Conditioner! As such, it’s more technically correct to call them PTAC units or PTAC systems.

How Do PTAC Units Work?

ptac parts

PTAC units offer both cooling and heating functions. To cool a room, the PTAC uses a compressor which pumps refrigerant to cool the coils. This absorbs heat and humidity that are expelled outside. 

There are two options for heating. Some units have a heat pump with a backup electric heat strip while others offer only electric heat. The heat pump works by reversing the flow of refrigerant. The refrigerant heats the coils to warm passing air. The heater air is then dispersed into the room via a blower. The electric heat simply uses electricity to heat up a series of heating coils and then the fan blows the heat into the room.

PTAC vs Window and Through the Wall AC: What’s the Difference?

PTAC units offer both cooling and heating, unlike most window ACs.

PTACs are also larger than most through-the-wall air conditioners; the standard size is 42″ wide by 16” high. 

PTACs are meant for commercial use, so they are often seen in the hospitality industry. However, they are also suitable for residential use.

PTAC vs Mini Split vs VTAC: What’s the Difference?

A PTAC is designed to service only one room or space.

A mini split on the other hand, can service multiple rooms, by using several indoor units connected to one outdoor compressor.

A VTAC, or Vertical Terminal Air Conditioner, is essentially a vertical version of the PTAC. By standing the unit upright, it can be hidden from view, typically in a closet. VTAC units are then ducted to one or more spaces.

To know more, check out the full comparisons below:

PTAC vs Mini Split: Which is Right for You?

PTAC vs VTAC: What’s the Difference?

What are the Advantages of PTAC Units?

✓ No need for ductwork

PTACs are completely self-contained and do not require ducts like most forced air AC systems. This makes it faster, easier and cheaper to install.

✓ Individual Control

Installing PTAC units means each room can be controlled individually. It allows users to have one room set to air conditioning at 68 degrees while another is set to heating at 74 degrees.

✓ More efficient

Ducts can account for up to 40% of energy losses in a forced air cooling system. By eliminating ducts, PTACs are more energy efficient, resulting in lower utility costs.

✓ Cooling and heating in one

Most PTACs can also provide heating in the same unit. This can be accomplished by simply reversing the flow of the refrigerant in heat pump units or simple electric coil heat in other units. This results in a compact all-in-one system without the need for a separate heater.

✓ Simple Maintenance and Replacement

PTAC units are easily serviceable or replaceable if needed. Once the wall sleeve is installed in the initial installation process, a new unit can simply be slid into place and put to use immediately. No costly refrigerant work is needed as it is a sealed system.

What are the Drawbacks of PTAC Units?

Limited area

Most PTACs are designed to service a single room or space, unlike mini splits or central that can handle multiple spaces.

Space requirement

PTACs are typically installed below a window or along an exterior-facing wall of the room. This takes up space and can detract from the aesthetics of the room. 

What to Look for in a PTAC Unit

  1. BTU capacity

The cooling and heating capacity of PTACs are measured in BTUs, or British Thermal Units. The higher the BTU, the bigger the space or room it can handle.

Click here to use our handy BTU calculator to determine the right PTAC capacity for your room.

  1. EER rating

EER stands for Energy Efficiency Ratio, which measures how efficient the PTAC is. The higher the EER, the more efficient the unit.

  1. Heating

Those in colder climates may want to determine the heating aspect of the PTAC. PTAC units can provide heating using one of two ways:

Heat pumps – The refrigerant flow is reversed during the cold season to provide heating instead of cooling. This is much more energy efficient, but does not work in very cold climates. In these situations, the unit will automatically switch to electric heat backup. 

Electric heater – Most PTACs use electric heating coils to provide heat. Even heat pump units have electric heat as a backup. This type of heating is simple, but uses more electricity.

Between the two, heat pumps are generally better because they are more efficient and use less energy.

  1. Smart features

If you are managing multiple rooms such as in a hospitality setting, you may want to invest in PTACs that have smart features or support an energy management system. This will allow you to manage multiple PTACs wirelessly, without having to physically go into each room to program each unit. 

If you run a large property and are interested in a system like this, please contact us for more details.

  1. Refrigerant

The EPA has started phasing out legacy refrigerants like R410-A in favor of new A2L refrigerants that are more efficient, environment-friendly and have a lower global warming potential.. 

Make sure your new PTAC uses the newer A2L refrigerant such as R32 or R454B to future-proof your investment.

  1. Voltage

PTAC units for residential and most commercial use typically have a voltage of 208/230, while some larger hotels or other commercial  applications use 265/277.

  1. Amperage

PTAC units are generally available in 15, 20, or 30 amp versions. Some units must be ordered with the specified amperage while others support multiple and can be changed in the field with a power cord or hard wire kit.  While cooling is usually the same regardless of the amps of the unit, the electric heating varies. A 30 amp unit will put out much more electric heat than a 15 amp unit.

  1. Brand and warranty

Since PTAC units represent a considerable investment, choose a reputable brand with a good service warranty. Remember that your PTAC will serve for many years to come, so it’s worth investing in a good brand for peace of mind.

Our Recommended PTAC Units for 2024

Entry level:

Hotpoint AH12H12D3B 12000 BTU PTAC Air Conditioner with Heat Pump – R32 Refrigerant

This affordable PTAC offers 12,000 BTUs of cooling and 3.5kW of electric backup heat. It comes with a 20 amp 208/230v power cord and has a 10.5 EER rating. 

The unit features a temperature limiting options that allows you to select one of four temperature ranges for total comfort and peak efficiency. Hotpoint also offers Intuitive Display which allows owners and guests to easily customize their preferred settings on the easy-to-use control panel.

In the event of a power failure, the Auto Power Recovery feature on Hotpoint PTAC units will automatically restart your unit in the mode it was in when power was lost. Additionally, they also offer Freeze and Frost Protection to help keep your unit in top top condition. A sensor on the indoor coil monitors the coil temperature and turns the compressor off until the coils warms up. The fan will continue running when this occurs. A nine-point diagnostic code system helps to easily identify service needs on your unit.

Other standard features for the Hotpoint PTAC units include:

  • Remote Thermostat Capability
  • Central Desk Control Capability
  • Removable Filters for easy maintenance
  • Tangential Fan for smooth airflow and low sound

This model meets the requirements for use in California and Washington. Note that new installations require a rear grille and a wall sleeve.

Hotpoint AH12H12D3B 12000 BTU PTAC Air Conditioner with Heat Pump - R32 Refrigerant - 20 Amp - 208/230 Volt
Price: $802.00 Hotpoint AH12H12D3B 12000 BTU PTAC Air Conditioner with Heat Pump - R32 Refrigerant - 20 Amp - 208/230 Volt

Hotpoint PTAC wall air conditioner units are affordable and easy to install. Remove the old PTAC and slide the new unit into the wall sleeve. The Hotpoint ...

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For larger rooms or spaces:

GE AZ65H15DAB 15,000 BTU Class Zoneline PTAC Air Conditioner with Heat Pump

GE’s new line of Zoneline PTAC units, feature the same case dimensions as earlier models, but with a shallower front for more usable space and an overall sleeker appearance. On the inside, a redesigned internal structure makes the servicing process easier and faster than ever before, providing a service diagnostics report to help technicians identify problems and a ‘quick connect’ feature that allows thermostat, central desk control, and external fan set-up in just seconds.

The new Zoneline series also uses two DC fan motors, which works to reduce noise by dialing in the exact airflow needed for each heating and cooling function. This helps it achieve a sound transmission class of 29. A large cross-flow barrier optimizes airflow for a low, balanced sound that is hardly noticeable, while a heavy-duty, baked-on mastic barrier covers the back of the unit for superior sound insulation. A weather barrier system seal around the perimeter of the unit keeps all noise and dirt outside, ensuring a better and more comfortable environment while the PTAC is in use.

This model offers 14,200 BTUs of cooling and 13,400 BTUs of electric heat, with an EER of 10.6 and COP of 3.3.

Most efficient / R32:

Amana PTH153J35AXXX 15000 BTU Class 10.4 EER PTAC Air Conditioner with Heat Pump – R32 – 3.5 kW – 20 Amp

This unit offers 14,400 / 14,600 BTUs of cooling power, a 14,000 / 14,300 BTU heat pump and a 3.5 kW electric heater, providing approximately 9,900 / 12,00 BTUs of electric backup heat. It has an EER of 10.6 / 10.4 and will cool a space that is about 450 – 575 sq. ft. The “J” Series units available in the Amana line use R32 refrigerant.

Features include RF and Bluetooth connectivity, a redesigned chassis for quieter operation (with a Sound Transmission Class of 29), and a new, sleeker appearance. It can be operated with a wired or wireless wall thermostat. This improved design also supports Amana’s Eden Energy Management System connectivity, allowing for easier troubleshooting and diagnostics as well as unit setting and configuration time.

With the RF compatibility and a DigiSmart controller (additional items required, sold separately) you can take full control of all your Amana PTAC units. This system gives you site-wide PTAC configuration options, site wide PTAC diagnostics, a front desk system interface, and email reporting all through an easy to use web interface. You can save up to 35% by reducing energy usage with the DigiSmart system!

Amana PTH153J35AXXX 15000 BTU Class 10.4 EER PTAC Air Conditioner with Heat Pump - R32 - 3.5 kW - 20 Amp
Price: $1,272.00 Amana PTH153J35AXXX 15000 BTU Class 10.4 EER PTAC Air Conditioner with Heat Pump - R32 - 3.5 kW - 20 Amp

  New, Quiet, Re-designed and Re-imagined The PTH153J35AXXX is for residential and commercial use with 208 / 230 volt electricity. This unit offers 14,...

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Premium PTAC with smart features:

Friedrich PVH12K3FB 12000 BTU Class FreshAire Series with Inverter Technology 11.5 EER PTAC Air Conditioner with Heat Pump – 20 Amp – 230 Volt

Friedrich FreshAire Series PTAC units are the most advanced PTAC units, boasting a fully integrated make-up air system while still offering the quiet sound levels and efficiency levels you have come to expect from Friedrich. They can be used in both commercial and residential applications. 

This PVH12K3FB is a 11,800 BTU cooling PTAC with 11,800 BTUs reverse cycle heat pump as well as back-up electric resistive heat. Additionally, it boasts an EER of 11.5, making it an efficient system to cool your smaller areas. It uses 208 / 230V electricity and has a 2 speed fan plus auto for better circulation. Friedrich PVH12K3FB PTACs include a 20 Amp power cord which provides 3.5 kW of electric heat. A 15 Amp cord (PXPCFA23015), providing 2.5 kW of electric heat and a 30 Amp cord (PXPCFA23030), providing 5.0 kW of electric heat are also available (sold separately).

Features include inverter technology for improved energy efficiency, quieter operation and longer operational lifespan; DiamonBlue Advanced Corrosion protection for a longer life in coastal area where the environment is harsher due to the salt water; and automatic sampling of the room temperature every nine minutes to ensure that the desired conditions are maintained.

In addition, the FreshAire System brings in additional outside air which passes through a MERV 8 filter and then mixes with return air from the room. It is then conditioned (heated or cooled) with the return air before it is re-introduced into your space. The Friedrich FreshAire PTACs are the only PTACs that meet ASHRAE 62.1-2013 requirements delivering up to 52 CFM of conditioned, MERV 8 filtered make-up air. 

Friedrich PVH12K3FB 12000 BTU Class FreshAire Series with Inverter Technology 11.5 EER PTAC Air Conditioner with Heat Pump - 20 Amp - 230 Volt
Price: $1,599.00 Friedrich PVH12K3FB 12000 BTU Class FreshAire Series with Inverter Technology 11.5 EER PTAC Air Conditioner with Heat Pump - 20 Amp - 230 Volt

Friedrich FreshAire Series PTAC units are the most advanced PTAC units. The FreshAire line features a fully integrated make-up air system while still offering...

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Get Your PTAC at Total Home Supply

At Total Home Supply, we carry a huge selection of PTAC units from the top brands, including Amana, Friedrich, and GE. Our PTAC lineup includes a broad range of BTU sizes and features, including units that have makeup air, R32 refrigerant, smart integration, and more.

With Total Home Supply, you not only get the best possible PTAC for your needs, you get our expert advice and leading warranty coverage to help you get the most out of your PTAC unit.

Mickey Luongo

Mickey is the resident heating and air conditioning expert with over 15 years of experience in the industry.

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