The Complete History of Modern PTAC Units

No doubt you’ve seen one on your travels. Packaged terminal air conditioners, or PTACs, are common in most hotel rooms. They are usually mounted in the wall under a window. As they are individual heating and AC units, they’re designed to keep hotel rooms cool or warm while staying out of the way. You’ve probably used one without ever thinking about it! These wonderful devices have a fascinating history. Here’s the complete history of modern PTAC units. Next time you flip the switch to cool down or heat up your hotel room, think about where that handy device came from!

Hot Times in the Old Town

Whether you use it seasonally or have used it your entire life, it’s difficult to think of a world without heating and air conditioning. Up until the 1800s, people consigned themselves to being hot in summer and cold in winter. Fires and fans were the only methods to heat up or cool down a room in a home or building. It has always been easier to get warm than cool off; bringing down the temperature of an entire room was a challenge.

In related news, ice was a luxury back in the 19th century. Blocks of ice harvested from northern lakes were transported to cities across the United States, but moving ice that way was costly. Eventually, a doctor and scientist named John Gorrie applied his intelligence to the situation.

Ice Is Nice

John Gorrie was an ice-making and refrigeration pioneer. Originally a physician, Gorrie often used ice to cool down rooms containing malaria patients. The need for a long-lasting solution—ice swiftly melts, after all—inspired him to create an ice-making machine. He patented the device in 1851.

Gorrie’s later experiments in creating refrigeration and air conditioning were on the right track, but his partner died, and funding fell through before he could develop this machine. As it turns out, a later inventor, Australia-born engineer James Harrison, created a more effective cooling process, which he patented in 1856. Still, society was years away from effective air conditioning. When it did happen, it came from an entirely unexpected place.

Willis Carrier Plays It Cool

Willis Carrier was a respected engineer with a degree from Cornell University. He applied himself to air conditioning, but not for the purpose of keeping people cool. A lithography and publishing company in Brooklyn hired him to solve a peculiar problem. Humidity caused the paper the company used to print magazines and other items to expand, curl, and become useless. Carrier developed a basic system that reduced the heat and humidity in a room and kept the paper crisp and dry during the printing process. Carrier tinkered with his idea and eventually received a patent in 1906 for his new spray-type AC device.

Most refrigeration and air conditioning ideas at the time were confined to industrial purposes, but widespread environmental air control for everyone was coming.

Thinking Small

Most air conditioning devices in the 20th century were oversized machines with industrial applications. They kept large buildings, like printing companies and movie theaters, cool. The first household units were still a dream of the future, but not a distant one.

By 1935, Chrysler Motors produced and sold to the public the first individual AC units properly identified as packaged terminal air conditioners (PTACs). Some things haven’t changed with these devices, as they fit snugly under consumers’ windows then and now. Portability was still a problem, but society was closer than ever to the first modern PTAC units. These appeared sometime in the 1980s and soon became the industry standard.

PTAC Benefits

How did PTACs become so popular within the hospitality industry? The reasons vary. Firstly, they’re affordable. Owners and managers can equip rooms with individual PTAC units at a reasonable price. Secondly, buying used units drives down the costs even more for smaller organizations with limited budgets. These devices don’t have to be connected to pipes, drains, or ducts, saving money and time on installation. Lastly, PTAC units are popular with guests. An HVAC system with a single thermostat produces one level of heat or coolness. With PTACs serving as hotel AC units, guests can adjust the heat and cooling levels in their rooms to their preferences.

The controls are built into the unit as well, which doesn’t require the extra installation of a separate wall thermostat (though you can add one if you prefer). PTACs have the added benefit of being secured within a wall, unlike a window AC unit that sits on the windowsill.

Upkeep and Safety

As with any device, PTACs require periodic maintenance to work efficiently. Hotel cleaning staff should keep PTACs clean and free from dust and debris, of course, but don’t leave it at that. Once a month, they should remove and clean or replace the filters and vent screen. Additionally, they should vacuum the interior of the PTAC unit and wipe down the interior, especially the condenser coil, to prevent the growth of mold, bacteria, mildew, and other health-threatening organisms. Schedule annual visits with an AC unit technician to ensure your machines are running well and staying clean with regular use. Call them immediately if a unit makes odd noises, emits unpleasant odors, runs poorly, or breaks down.

How Can We Help?

That’s the complete history of modern PTAC units! Look after your guests’ comfort by installing individual PTAC units in every room. At Transworld Services, we offer a fine selection of units that will keep your guests as cool or warm as they like. Our PTAC units, made by top manufacturers, are easy to install, operate, and maintain. They are also energy efficient!

Contact us for further information on the best units for your facility and purchasing options. And don’t forget that we provide a variety of other appliances, such as television sets, ranges, refrigerators, microwaves, dishwashers, ice makers, indoor and outdoor signage, and much more! Talk to us about arrangements for installation, warranties, financing, and shipping. We offer competitive prices on all merchandise and are trusted by the largest hotel chains in the world.

The Complete History of Modern PTAC Units