Cleaning PTACs can improve air quality, cut costs

WAYZATA, MN—The importance of cleaning a guestroom today is more important than it ever was. The protocols at every property have been elevated due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and everything from the bathroom faucet to the TV remote must be cleaned thoroughly before any guest enters the room. There is one piece of equipment that is likely ignored in this routine cleaning of many guestrooms—the packaged terminal air conditioner (PTAC) units. A dirty unit could lead to contaminated air as well as loss to the bottom line.

According to an independent study by RPM Energy Consulting, the Extended Stay America – Fort Lauderdale – Cypress Creek in Fort Lauderdale, FL, saved more than $1,185 in annual energy costs for just four rooms by cleaning the coils of the guestroom PTACs. The company that cleaned the units was Fibercare, headquartered here. With locations across the U.S., it bills itself as the nation’s largest hotel AC cleaner.

“Hotels can save thousands of dollars in reduced energy costs by investing in a program to have their units deep-cleaned annually,” said Ashton Grudnowski, president, Fibercare, the daughter of the company’s founder, Bruce Kienke. “Furthermore, annual maintenance reduces the need for repair parts and service calls, as well as extends the life of units. On average, a typical PTAC lasts anywhere between eight and 10 years. Properly maintained units can last years longer due to the fact that clean units transfer air more efficiently and faster.”

She pointed out the tell-tale signs that a PTAC is ready for cleaning—noise, smell and debris discharge—and added, “Cleaning frequency depends on the climate and property type. To avoid issues, PTACs should be thoroughly deep-cleaned at least once per year. Properties near coastal areas are recommended to be cleaned every six months.”

Working closely with Amana and GE,  Fibercare developed an in-room cleaning process years ago, which is the same process used today.

“We use truck-mounted steam cleaning extraction equipment, which ensures the units are cleaned at a water temperature (200 degrees Fahrenheit) and extracted with a vacuum power (14 lbs.) that is able to remove even the most stubborn microorganisms and bacteria lodged in the coils,” noted Grudnowski. “To prevent spills and eliminate damage to the guestroom, a tarp is placed on the floor and the unit is placed in a tray to be cleaned. The shroud cover—the cover that wraps around the backside of the unit—is always removed during our cleaning process. By removing it, we ensure access to 100% of the front and backside of all the coils on the unit, which then translates to maximizing energy efficiencies gained for our customers. It is a complete coil cleaning process.”

She continued, “Coils are washed using HydroBalance Enviro Coil Cleaner, a non-acid, non-corrosive, EPA-registered cleaner. Applied at 80 psi, the cleanser penetrates deep between the coils and fins to push out hard-to-reach debris. The base pan of the unit is cleaned using a wand with directional tips to ensure all areas of the pan are reached, removing material buildup and malodors to eliminate odor. Drain lines are treated breaking down the sludge and biological build up which can prevent water overflow and clogging of the unit. All filters and covers are removed from the unit, cleaned and sanitized to maximize airflow and prevent recontamination. We offer the application of a pan purge strip treatment to fight bacteria growth and keep the drain lines clear. The wall sleeve (the area the unit sits in) is then lightly sprayed and vacuumed out.”

While it has not been scientifically proven,  Grudnowski believes that cleaning PTACs can help keep guests safe from viruses such as COVID-19.

“Increasing airflow into a room dilutes the number of airborne particles and thus reduces the risk of infections,” she said. “ If AC units are not well-maintained (clogged filters, coils, drains), they will not perform optimally, which means indoor air in guestrooms and hallways will not ventilate and filtrate air optimally.  This allows airborne pathogens to spread more easily than in areas of well-ventilated, properly filtered air.”

She added, “A dusty and dirty PTAC unit is more susceptible to germs. A PTAC unit pulls in outside air and pushes it through its coils and inner workings into the room.  If the inner parts of a PTAC are dirty, the more susceptible they are to pulling in other germs and viruses.  Also, the cooling operation of a PTAC creates condensation within the base pan of the unit, a collection of water which can also contribute to harboring the collection and multiplication of germs and contaminants.”

Fibercare has more than 1,500 clients, including Westmont Hospitality, TMI, Island Hospitality, Extended Stay America and Woodspring Suites.

“Fibercare has been cleaning our PTACs, and providing other services, for more than five years,” said David Crider, director of energy and sustainability, Extended Stay America. “They started with 50% of our hotels and within a couple years of great performance, they earned 100% of our business. Their crews are professional, efficient and knowledgeable. The annual PTAC cleaning process is thorough, and the result is better PTAC operation, longer asset life, more comfortable guestrooms and reduced malodors. Having Fibercare complete this service allows our hotel staff to focus more time on our core business, ensuring our guests have a great experience.”

The company offers a number of PTAC cleaning packages for hotels. Grudnowski noted that a large percentage of Fibercare’s client base is made up of management and ownership groups looking for an annual cleaning program.

“Our most popular service combination currently is AC and carpet cleaning, as it is quite a nominal additional charge to clean carpets as long as we are on property cleaning AC units,” she said. “And, the cleaning combination results in a very powerful refresh for the property and significant improvement in guest satisfaction scores, especially with the heightened awareness surrounding cleanliness these days.”

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