Complete Guide To Commercial Air Conditioners. What's a PTAC? How To Choose?
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Commercial air conditioners are designed not only to create a comfortable environment for your commercial building but also to protect the possessions in the building and the material that makes up the building’s interior. Your commercial air conditioner needs will be determined by the type of commercial building you are looking to cool, as well as the average summer temperatures in your area.
Whether you are looking for a complete commercial HVAC system or simply an air conditioning unit, the knowledgeable staff at Superior Home Supplies is here to help you. Read on to learn more about choosing your next commercial air conditioner, or contact us today to order now.
- What Makes Commercial Systems Different from Home AC?
- Considerations for Commercial AC
- Commercial Air Conditioning and BTUs
- Types of Commercial Air Conditioning
- Choosing the Right Commercial Air Conditioner
- Understanding Seer Ratings
- Comprehensive Air Quality
- Cost of Commercial Air Conditioners
What Makes Commercial Systems Different from Home AC?
Both commercial air conditioning units and residential AC systems deliver cooled air into a space so that your building or home will reach a comfortable temperature and have optimal humidity levels. While their purpose and even some of the ways in which a residential and commercial air conditioning unit function are similar, there are some differences you will need to be aware of if you plan to have a new commercial air conditioner installed in your business.
One of the first ways a commercial air conditioning and a residential unit differ is in size. Since a commercial air conditioner will be cooling a much larger space, it will be relatively larger and more powerful than a residential one. This means commercial air conditioners will have higher BTUs than most residential units.
The location of your HVAC system will also be different from commercial air conditioning. A residential system is quite smaller than a commercial air conditioning unit. Since a commercial air conditioner is larger and noisier, it may be placed on the roof or attached to the side of your building.
The drainage, exhaust, and ventilation system on a commercial air conditioner is also quite different from a residential one. They are more detailed, larger, and contain more pumps and pans. The drainage system of a commercial air conditioner may also be more complicated to install, depending on the placement of the system.
Since a commercial air conditioning unit will need to cool down a much larger space and be a large unit in general, it will require significantly more power to operate. It is imperative that you have enough power for the unit you choose. Otherwise, it could result in an unsafe electrical situation.
Since your commercial air conditioner is more complicated, it will require more complex maintenance to ensure efficient operation. This means you will need an HVAC professional who is experienced in working with commercial air conditioning to maintain it. Annual maintenance is typical with most systems though bi-annual maintenance may be required in certain commercial environments.
Considerations for Commercial HVAC
Whether you are looking to replace your current commercial air conditioner or install a new one, there are some considerations that you will need to make to find the best system to meet your cooling needs. Below are just some of the issues you want to weigh before deciding which commercial air conditioner will work best for your commercial building.
Commercial Air Conditioning and BTUs
One of the first considerations you need to make when choosing a commercial air conditioner is the system’s BTUs. The larger the building, the larger capacity you will need, but that is not the only thing you will need to consider when determining how many BTUs your system will need to help you reach a comfortable temperature.
Determining the right amount of BTUs is vital as too few will prevent the building from reaching a comfortable temperature and cause the system to work harder than it should, expending more energy and increasing wear and tear. If the system has too many BTUs, it may cycle on and off more frequently, which can reduce the system's longevity. While an HVAC technician will give you the proper load calculation and BTUs, you can come up with a ballpark figure of how many BTUs you will need to use.
In general, it will take about 1,200 BTUs to cool down an area of 500 sq. ft. in one hour. So divide your total building square footage by 500, multiply that number by 1,200, and you will be in the general range of what BTU your commercial air conditioner will need to be. Other factors that can influence this number are the amount and quality of the building insulation, the number of windows and doors in the building, and also how well the building is sealed.
Types of Commercial Air Conditioning
Another consideration when choosing your commercial air conditioner is what type of air conditioning unit will best fit your space and suit your needs. The type you choose will depend on how large you need it to be, how you want it to function, and where you will need to locate it. Below are some of the most common commercial air conditioning options used.
Commercial Air Conditioning and Furnace Combinations
A commercial air conditioning unit that combines a furnace with an air conditioner is often known as a packaged or rooftop unit. These systems will contain the elements needed for heating and cooling the building in one large cabinet. They are the perfect option for businesses looking to add both heating and cooling at the same time. They typically are less costly to install than split systems and can be easier to maintain since the entire system is in one spot. The main drawback is they will be susceptible to environmental damage due to their rooftop location, which can be severe in areas that see significant storms.
Commercial Split System Air Conditioning Systems
A commercial air conditioner that is a split AC system is one that is most similar to what you would find in a residential setting. They will be comprised of two cabinets. One will be located inside the building, and the other will be outside. The outdoor component of these systems will house the condenser coil, compressor, and fan, while the inside cabinet will house the air handler, blower, evaporator coil, and dampers. The indoor unit is also the portion that will connect to the ductwork.
With a commercial air conditioning unit, you can have either a single-split system or a multi-split system. With a single split, there will be only one evaporator and one compressor. These are only recommended for smaller businesses with fewer square feet to cool, such as a boutique or small office.
Multi-split systems are designed for more significant buildings and will contain multiple evaporators and compressors, typically on separate floors for multiple-floor buildings. One of the benefits of split systems is that more can be added if you choose to expand your building. They are often cheaper than rooftop systems to purchase but may cost more for installation, depending on their location. When using split systems, it is essential to have them properly placed. Otherwise, their energy efficiency will be significantly lessened.
Commercial Air Conditioning PTAC Systems
A popular option for commercial air conditioning used in businesses such as hotels and residential living centers are PTAC units. These units are typically single-stage systems that can provide heating and cooling for smaller spaces, such as individual rooms. They are considered less efficient than a multiple-stage option, but there are some newer PTAC systems with variable fan speeds that are more efficient than previous models have been.
They are not designed to operate at full capacity all the time, but ramp up when needed, which makes them an excellent option for hotel rooms that will be adjusted by the guest as needed to reach their comfort level.
Commercial Air Conditioning Coil Systems
Commercial air conditioners, considered one of the most efficient, are coil AC systems paired with already installed commercial gas furnaces. They can be installed on the roof or outside of a building and will connect to the ductwork that is already installed. They use an evaporator coil to absorb heat from the inside and a condenser coil to release it into the outdoor air. They are great at reducing the humidity levels in a building, which can help improve overall comfort and indoor air quality. They come in a wide range of BTU options, allowing you to find the right size to cool your space. They also require minimal maintenance, which is only usually needed once a year.
Choosing the Right Commercial Air Conditioner
A commercial air conditioner is an investment, which makes choosing the right one even more critical. With so many types of cooling systems on the market that have various features, finding a suitable air conditioning unit for your business can be challenging. Before making any major decisions, do your research and follow the few steps listed below.
Determine the Best Type
Determining the right type of commercial air conditioner for your business will depend on how you expect your system to function, the size of the space you need it to cover, the level of efficiency you need, and where you plan to locate it. Packaged systems can be convenient as they provide your entire HVAC system in one cabinet. They typically install on the roof and work quietly and efficiently all year round.
Split systems are a good option for heating a smaller space or if you plan on having multiple levels of heating in your building. If your commercial building is located in an area with more temperate weather, a heat pump may provide you with greater efficiency. A PTAC system may also be a good option if you plan to heat multiple units in one location.
Determine the Correct Size
It is important to remember that when you are choosing your commercial air conditioner, you don’t always assume bigger is better. Choosing the right-sized system for your building is vital to maintain efficiency and keep your system running optimally for as long as possible. While you may be able to calculate the range of BTU you need, it is best to consult a professional who will consider other factors that could affect the size, such as the number of windows in the building and the quality of the insulation.
Find a Reliable Brand
Your commercial air conditioner will work hard to make your building a comfortable temperature. You need to have a system you can rely on when the temperatures outside rise dramatically; otherwise, you may be dealing with repeated emergency calls or downtime while the system is being fixed. Find a brand known for its AC units and one that backs them with a solid warranty, so you know you can rely on your system when you need it most.
Look for Good Efficiency Levels
Energy bills are high in commercial buildings, and heating and cooling account for a large portion of those energy costs. If you are investing money in a commercial air conditioner, it is worth spending a little extra to find one with the efficiency level you are looking for. Paying a little extra upfront for a more efficient model will provide significant savings in utility bills for the years that it's in service.
Take Climate Into Consideration
You will also want to consider the local climate before deciding on your commercial air conditioner. If you live in areas with higher temperatures or need to keep part of your building temperature-controlled, you may need a bigger unit to maintain the right temperature. You also will need to consider the relative humidity of your local area, as high humidity levels may require a more extensive system.
Look for an Energy Star-Rated Commercial Air Conditioning Unit
If you are looking to maximize the efficiency of your commercial air conditioner, checking out Energy Star-rated units would be your first step. If a commercial air conditioner is Energy Star certified, it meets the strict guidelines set by the EPA. When you purchase an Energy Star system, you will ensure you are getting the most for your money in terms of energy use.
Energy Star Air Conditioners
Energy Star is a rating system that certifies if an air conditioner meets the strict energy efficiency requirements that the Environmental Protection Agency sets. If a commercial air conditioning unit meets Energy Star requirements, the system's performance has been optimized, and you will enjoy comfort without the high energy bills. In addition to saving money, you will reduce the greenhouse gas emission from your building. To be Energy Star-certified, the commercial air conditioning unit will need to have a high SEER and EER rating and use at least 8% less energy than more traditional models.
Understanding SEER Ratings
SEER ratings, or seasonal energy efficiency ratio, are ratings that the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute sets. These ratings determine the safety and environmental friendliness of HVAC systems. The rating is essentially the system’s average output versus the energy it consumes to achieve it. Higher ratings mean greater energy efficiency and environmental friendliness.
A system with higher SEER ratings will initially cost more, but in most cases, the annual savings on your energy bills will offset the additional cost. This is especially true with commercial air conditioners, which typically use more energy than residential units.
The level of SEER rating you will need your system to achieve to be considered highly efficient will depend on the region that you live in. When you live in northern climates that see mild summers, a minimum SEER rating of 14.3 SEER2 for a packaged system or 13.4 SEER2 for a split system is considered ideal.
For Southwest regions that are extremely hot and dry, all commercial AC units will need to be rated with a 14.3 SEER rating or higher to be deemed energy efficient. In this region, you will also want to consider the EER rating, which calculates efficiency when temperatures exceed 95 degrees for several days. With a commercial packaged system, you will want a rating of 10.6 EER2, and for a split system, at least a 12.2 EER2 rating.
Southern climates are not only reasonably hot but also can be quite humid. This means that you will need a commercial air conditioning unit that can cool an area and remove a significant amount of humidity from that area efficiently. To be considered energy efficient in this region, your commercial air conditioner will need to have a SEER2 rating of at least 14.3 for both package units and split systems.
Comprehensive Air Quality
Air quality is another primary concern when choosing your commercial AC. Good indoor air quality can reduce the allergens, pollutants, and chemicals in the air, creating a healthier environment. When the IAQ in a commercial building is good, the employees, guests, and customers will benefit from less respiratory illness and other problems associated with poor air quality. Not only will everyone be happier, but healthier employees will be more productive, use fewer sick days, and report greater satisfaction with their work environment.
Commercial Air Conditioners and Humidity
One critical factor that affects IAQ is humidity levels. Humidity levels that are too high or too low can lead to poor air quality and additional health concerns for workers and guests. High humidity levels can lead to excess moisture in the building, an uncomfortable environment, and health concerns, such as increased asthma symptoms and respiratory concerns. Too much humidity can also foster mold and mildew growth, leading to even more significant health and respiratory problems.
While humidity control in a home is pretty straightforward and involves an air conditioning system and dehumidifier, it can be more difficult to control humidity levels in a large commercial building. Unlike a home, adding dehumidifiers to a commercial building is not always feasible if the space is large.
In a commercial environment, humidity control is the responsibility of the HVAC system, which means finding one that provides the proper ventilation, circulation, and humidity control needed to create a comfortable environment.
Commercial Air Conditioners and Air Purification
One of the best ways you can improve the indoor air quality of your commercial building is by adding an air purification system to your commercial air conditioner. In recent years, concerns for workplace health and a clean work environment have become even more critical as businesses are looking to find ways to reduce the spread of airborne viruses.
Commercial air purification systems provide support to the filter system in your building's HVAC unit. These systems trap small particles such as pollen, dander, bacteria, and allergens that the HVAC filter may not trap. They may also use special filters that absorb odors or destroy viruses so that the air in the building can go through an additional cleaning process, returning fresh air out through the air ducts and reducing the transmission of airborne bacteria and viruses.
Installing a commercial air purification system can provide many benefits, such as:
Improved Employee Concentration
Studies have shown that improved indoor air quality allows employees to concentrate better. They will be less distracted by respiratory issues, allergy symptoms, or other problems that poor IAQ can cause. This means they will be less likely to be injured or make mistakes better.
Higher Levels of Productivity
Good IAQ can improve productivity in a couple of ways. First of all, better IAQ means that illness will be reduced, and employees will take fewer sick days throughout the year. Better IAQ can also increase productivity by keeping employees in good health, which means they can work more efficiently.
An Improved Work Environment
The air quality of your building can alter the environment of the space. Air purification systems can help reduce mold and mildew levels that may have been building up in the area over time. They also can help to remove chemicals and gasses in the air from VOCs that have been released. As these items are filtered out, the environment of the space will drastically improve.
Protection for Those Who Are Vulnerable
Depending on what your commercial building is used for, you may have to be concerned about vulnerable people who may be inside it. An air purification system can prevent the spread of illness and also reduce the symptoms of asthma and allergies.
Protection for Furnishings and Flooring
You may know how poor indoor air quality can affect people, but it can also affect furnishings and flooring in the environment as well. Improper humidity levels can cause problems with electronics, leading to malfunctioning computers and other problems. It also can lead to warping of flooring and damage to carpeting and upholstery.
Reduction of Odors and Toxic Smells
Though not visible, odors in a building can make people uncomfortable and the work environment difficult to stay in. Commercial settings can be subjected to significantly more odors than a residential environment, depending on what the space is being used for. Musty air from mold and mildew, smoke, and chemical smells from cleaning products can all lead to an environment that smells less than pleasant. An air purification system will remove the contaminants that cause odors, leading to a much cleaner smelling environment.
Cost of Commercial Air Conditioners
The price of a commercial air conditioner will depend on several factors, such as the type of unit, where it is being installed, and whether or not additional parts and components will need to be installed with it, such as ductwork.
In most cases, the least expensive part of getting a new commercial air conditioning unit is the cost of the unit, which can run anywhere from $5,000 to $12,000+. The price is most affected by the size of the system and the type of system chosen. More energy-efficient models will cost more, but the savings on your utility bills offset the price difference.
Installation costs have an even wider range, running an average of $2,000 upwards to $20,000+. The installation costs will directly correlate with the complexity of the system and the difficulty of installing it. For example, large packaged units installed on the roof will cost significantly more than a single split system installed on a one-floor building.
- A commercial air conditioning unit is much more complex than a residential air system which means there are more considerations to make when choosing one.
- One of the most important things about choosing the right commercial air conditioner is making sure it is the correct size to ensure comfort and efficiency.
- There are various types of commercial air conditioning units to choose from, and the type you choose will depend on the size of the space, whether temperatures will vary throughout, and how many floors will be cooled.
- Efficiency ratings are extremely important when choosing a commercial air conditioner since energy bills can be significantly higher in a commercial setting.
- To ensure you find a system that will produce a comfortable environment and is energy efficient, make sure it is Energy Star-certified.
- Improved indoor air quality can lead to a more productive work environment and a healthy space for those who inhabit it.
- Humidity levels are an essential part of maintaining good IAQ along with the filtration of pollutants and contaminants.
Superior Home Supplies Has Energy Star-certified Commercial Air Conditioners for Your Business
Whether you are looking for a complete commercial HVAC system or just a commercial air conditioning unit, Superior Home Supplies has systems from the best and most well-known brands in HVAC. Our systems are highly efficient, have full warranties, and are designed to last. Find the perfect Energy Star-rated commercial air conditioner or commercial air purification system to create a comfortable and healthy environment for your workers and customers. Contact us today to find the perfect model to suit your needs.