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Responding to increased public awareness of the importance of healthy indoor air quality (IAQ), the hospitality industry is stepping up its game when it comes to providing guests with fresher, cleaner, and, sometimes, sanitized indoor air.

That’s according to manufacturers of specialized HVAC products for hotels and motels, where rooms are often heated and cooled by PTACs (packaged terminal air conditioners) and VTACs (vertical terminal air conditioners) that, until recently, didn’t typically have fresh-air intake capabilities.

Carrier, GE Appliances, and Friedrich Air Conditioning Co. report a greater interest in IAQ-related products, from hoteliers and those who develop hotel and motel projects, since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic more than two years ago.

“It’s a very important piece of our business,” said T.J. Wheeler, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Friedrich, who estimated that the company has seen growth of between 15% and 20% in sales of IAQ-focused products since the pandemic began.

“We are seeing more demand for fresh air, makeup air,” said Brittney Zeller, commercial director at the air and water solutions division of GE Appliances. “We work with our customers and try to determine their needs.”

A lot of that demand, Zeller said, is coming from new hotel and motel projects that are under way, rather than from equipment replacement projects. But she sees that changing in the coming years.

“In the next couple years, we’re going to see a lot of the replacement business” increasing, she said.

At Carrier, Meredith Emmerich, vice present for commercial HVAC, North America, said her company is seeing more chain hotels upgrading to MERV 13 filtration for their systems. If an HVAC system can accommodate it, MERV 13 filtration is among the recommendations in an IAQ checklist that Carrier developed for the American Hotel and Lodging Association, she said.


Consumer Awareness

The traveling public has apparently caught on to the benefits of improved IAQ.

According to a survey by Carbon Lighthouse Inc., a company that uses data to reduce energy usage and carbon footprints at commercial buildings, 77% of consumers said proof of hotel IAQ would influence their decision about where to stay, and 52% said they would pay more to stay at a place with better IAQ. Seventy-six percent said an IAQ rating system would help them feel better about entering a building, the survey said.

Carrier, Emmerich said, is seeing more interest in improved IAQ specifically from spa and resort hotels, where opportunities for guests to better their health are often selling points.

“These types of hotels are promoting any indoor air quality improvements in their marketing programs to show their commitment to a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable facility,” Emmerich said.

Some chains, she said, are starting to develop wellness rooms, or floors of rooms that have different air purification systems.


Products Available

Carrier, Friedrich, and GE Appliances all have HVAC products that meet the increasing IAQ requirements from the hospitality sector.

Zoneline Ultimate V12 Air Conditioner.

NEW MODEL: The guts of a new Zoneline Ultimate V12 vertical terminal air conditioning unit for hotel room and multi-unit residential use from GE Appliances. The V12 has built-in makeup air capability and an option for MERV-13 filtration. (Courtesy of GE Appliances)

GE Appliances recently introduced its Zoneline Ultimate V12, a heat pump with inverter technology and adjustable-speed makeup air capability, for hospitality and multi-unit residential use. The V12 has an option for MERV 13 filtration.

The company also has kits for installing air-purifying UV lights onto some of its Zoneline PTAC products.

Friedrich has its FreshAire IAQ options for in-room units, including MERV-13 filtration, germicidal UV light, and bipolar ionization to neutralize airborne particles. Friedrich’s Variable Refrigerant Packaged heat pump (similar to a variable refrigerant flow system, but in a self-contained unit) and its FreshAire PTAC both have integrated make-up air systems.

Carrier, said Emmerich, has a line of air-handling units with a coating that inhibits bacterial and microbial growth, and the WeatherMaker rooftop units that can improve the intake of fresh outdoor air. Carrier also recently released the Abound Healthy Air Starter Package, a system of real-time air-quality monitoring of up to three different rooms, totaling up to about 30,000 square feet. The Abound system, Emmerich said, is well-suited for hotel lobbies and conference rooms.

Emmerich said the company uses a layered approach to improving IAQ.

“There is no single strategy for creating and sustaining healthier hotel environments,” she said.

Friedrich FreshAire Air Conditioner

HOTEL PTAC: The Friedrich Air Conditioning Co. FreshAire packaged terminal air conditioner includes make-up air capability and is compatible with Friedrich FreshAire IAQ accessories. (Courtesy of Friedrich Air Conditioning Co.)

“These aren’t your grandpa’s hotel rooms anymore.”
-T.J. Wheeler
Senior vice president of sales and marketing
Friedrich Air Conditioning Co.

Changing Needs

Wheeler, at Friedrich, said that even before the pandemic, the company noticed a desire in the hospitality industry to improve IAQ. In part, he said, that stemmed from new construction methods that resulted in tighter building envelopes that don’t permit a lot of air penetration.

“These aren’t your grandpa’s hotel rooms anymore,” he said.

Zeller, at GE Appliances, noted that greater air-quality requirements by governments have also driven the industry toward improving IAQ.

“More and more states are getting stricter and stricter,” she said.

Jerad Adams, director of commercial product management at Friedrich, said that in addition to responding to the demand for products, his company is also educating its hospitality customers, such as hoteliers, maintenance contractors, and corporate engineering teams, about improving IAQ.

“We’re being asked to provide education throughout the HVAC channel,” he said.

Friedrich officials said that “off-the-charts demand” for IAQ-related products seems to have plateaued recently, but projects in the pipeline foretell sustained demand. Increased awareness of the importance of IAQ in general, Adams said, will also be a factor.

“That’s going to continue to drive IAQ purchases well into the future,” he said.

Zeller agreed. “It’s just going to be exciting to see the demand and the increase,” she said.