PTAC Units: What They Are, Pros & Cons, 4 Best PTAC Units (+Specs)

A lot of people are quite confused about PTAC units. Often, you see questions like what does PTAC stand for in HVAC, what PTAC actually is, what are the common problems with PTAC units, and so.

In short, we wanted to address all these questions regarding PTAC units. On top of that, will also show which PTAC units are the best on the market and how to tell they are actually good by just checking the specifications. Further on, you will find a spec-by-spec comparison of the best PTAC units; you can check it to give you an idea of what PTAC units actually are.

PTAC stands for Packaged Terminal Air Conditioner. This is an HVAC unit that can provide cooling as well as heating (despite the ‘Air Conditioner’ in the name). PTACs are self-containing units; you don’t need extensive ductwork to install them. In a sense, if you check PTAC units vs mini splits, you can see that PTAC units are very similar to mini splits.

ptac require 230 volt circuit
Installation hint: All PTAC units require a higher 230V circuit.

These packaged terminal air conditioners serve primarily as commercial-grade air conditioners and are often used in:

  • Hotels.
  • Motels.
  • Hospitals.
  • Condominiums and apartment buildings.
  • Senior housing facilities.
  • Sun rooms.

PTAC units can provide anywhere from 8,000 BTU to 20,000 BTU of cooling/heating output. The most popular choice are the 12,000 BTU PTAC units that can provide cooling and heating to spaces up to 600 sq ft in total square footage.

Before we check which are the best PTAC units you can choose, let’s first look at both the pros and the cons of PTAC units. Admittedly, there are many common problems with PTAC units that we need to cover. We will also outline which 6 specifications you should pay special attention to when browsing different PTAC units:

packaged terminal ac units specs
Example of a PTAC specification sheet you should check before buying a unit.

Advantages Of PTAC Units

Before the invention of high-energy efficient mini splits (especially top DIY mini splits AC/heat pumps units), PTAC units offered quite a lot of advantages.

Here are the pros of packaged terminal air conditioners:

  • Cooling + Heating (Year-Round Usage). The ability of PTAC to provide both cooling in the summer and heating in the winter made them invaluable for all-season hotels, for example. Before mini splits, only ducted HVAC systems were capable of delivering both heat and cooling.
  • Easy Installation. Because you don’t need ductwork, the PTAC units are quite easy to install. You just have to install the indoor and outdoor units, make a hole in the wall, pull through the refrigerant and communication lines, and you’re done. The biggest obstacle here is drilling a hole in the wall.
  • Higher Energy Efficiency Of New PTAC Units. In the past, PTAC units were not exactly energy efficient. Today, you will easily find an energy-efficient PTAC unit with a 10+ EER rating (Energy Efficiency Ratio). This means they will have lower cooling as well as heating costs (high 8+ HSPF rating).
  • Affordable. PTAC units cost less than $1,500. Compared to central air conditioning systems that can cost $10,000 or more, they are very inexpensive. Even if you look at price per ton (since central air units have higher tonnage), the PTAC units are much cheaper than central aircon.

Nonetheless, the weaknesses and common problems of PTAC units are well known as well. Especially if you compare PTAC units vs mini splits, the PTAC units are not exactly as good a choice as these high energy efficient mini split air conditioners:

Common Problems With PTAC Units (Disadvantages)

Disadvantages of PTAC units include:

  • Less Efficient Than Mini Splits. New PTAC units are fairly energy efficient but they cannot contend with 20+ SEER rated mini splits. That means there is a more efficient alternative to PTAC units.
  • Don’t Have Zone Control. Multi-zone mini splits can have several air handlers taking care of your cooling and heating needs in any room. PTAC units, however, are installed in a single room and can’t be moved to provide cooling and heating to other rooms. Basically, you cannot have zone control and comfort that arrives from that with PTAC units.
  • PTAC Is Considered Old Tech. You won’t see many new PTAC units developed because HVAC producers have focused their engineering teams to work on better mini splits. That means you are left with older models that lack modern technologies like WiFi connectivity.
  • Mostly Produce Less Than 15,000 BTU Output. PTAC units are small if compared to mini splits and central air conditioning systems. A few of them can produce more than 15,000 BTU of cooling and heating output. Most PTAC units produce either 1-ton output (12,000 BTU) or 1.25-ton output (15,000 BTU).

Specs-wise, mini splits are much better than PTAC units. And we haven’t even touched on the common problems of PTAC units.

These common problems PTAC units share include:

  • Frequent water leakages inside the room. Indoor unit leaking is not something that you want to see.
  • Temperature fluctuations. Because they lack the cooling and heating output, PTAC units cannot provide a constant indoor temperature at extremely high temperatures (summer) and at extremely low temperatures (winter).
  • PTAC problems involving not blowing cold or hot air. Older units are especially notorious for being a bit ‘weird’. In the winter, they blow cool air, and in the summer, they blow warm air.
  • Problems deriving from older technology. Most PTAC units are based on mechanical action. It’s very difficult to diagnose and repair problems without opening the whole unit.

Despite these disadvantages, however, many hotels, motels, hospitals, and apartment build planners still choose a PTAC unit over the more expensive mini-split units.

If you want to choose the best PTAC unit, you will have to check these specs before you buy one (or several of them):

6 Key Specs To Check When Buying A PTAC Unit

Whenever you are trying to pick the best HVAC unit for your situation, you have to check the specs. Needless to say, this is the most important part of choosing a good PTAC unit as well.

Here are the key factors that you need to check in order to pick a good PTAC unit:

  1. Cooling Capacity + Coverage. Cooling output of PTAC units is between 8,000 BTU and 20,000 BTU (from 2/3 ton to 1 2/3 tons). What really matters is cooling coverage. DOE rule of thumb is to use ’20 BTU per sq ft of living space (8 ft ceiling height)’. That means that the smallest PTAC unit (8,000 BTU) will be able to cool 400 sq ft of space and the biggest PTAC unit (20,000 BTU) will be able to cool about 1,000 sq ft of space.
  2. Heating Capacity + Coverage. You have to do a similar thing for heating as well. In most cases, you will have to calculate 25 BTU per sq ft of space or more. That means that a 10,000 BTU heating output from a PTAC unit will be able to adequately heat spaces up to 250 sq ft. You can also use PTAC units as supplementary heating units (helping the furnace in heating).
  3. Heating Source. Real PTAC units are basically heat pumps. They reverse the refrigeration cycle (flow of refrigerant) and provide heating in the winter. Alternatively, some PTAC units provide via the electric heater. They usually have a 3.5 kW heater that can provide a little more heating than two stand-alone 1,500W space heaters. Between heating via heat pump vs electric heater, the heat pump is better because it can lower the costs of heating.
    ptac heat pump compressor
    Example of a PTAC unit’s heat pump compressor.
  4. EER Rating. This is the Energy Efficiency Ratio rating that denotes how energy efficient a PTAC unit is. The higher the EER rating, the more efficient unit you have. This results in lower running costs.
  5. Brand. The PTAC market is flooded with poor brands. When buying one, make sure that you are buying a good brand such as Cooper & Hunter, Amana, Friedrich, LG, or Danby.
  6. Price. PTAC units are quite inexpensive. If you see a price above $1,500, you know something is not right. That’s because most – including the best – PTAC units cost about $1,000.

With all this in mind, let’s check which are the best PTAC air conditioners currently on the market:

4 Best Packaged Terminal Air Conditioners In 2022

PTAC Unit: 1. Cooper & Hunter 15,000 BTU 2. Cooper & Hunter 12,000 BTU 3. Amana PTC153G 35AXXX 4. Friedrich ZoneAir Premier
Photo: best ptac unit on the market best packaged terminal air conditioner with 12000 btu capacity most efficient ptac unit top rated ptac unit
Cooling Capacity: 14,700 BTU 12,000 BTU 15,000 BTU 12,000 BTU
Cooling Area: Up To 750 Sq Ft Up To 600 Sq Ft Up To 750 Sq Ft Up To 600 Sq Ft
Heating Capacity: 13,500 BTU (Heat Pump) 12,300 BTU (3.6 kW Heater) 11,900 BTU (3.5 kW Heater) 12,000 BTU (Heat Pump)
Heating Area: Up To 400 Sq Ft Up To 500 Sq Ft Up To 450 Sq Ft Up to 475 Sq Ft
Energy Efficiency: 9.6 EER Rating 10.5 EER Rating 12.0 EER Rating 10.7 EER Rating
Price: $$$$ $$$$ $$$$ $$$$
Average Rating: 4.9 out of 5 stars 4.8 out of 5 stars 4.3 out of 5 stars 4.1 out of 5 stars
Availability: Check Price Check Price Check Price Check Price

1. Best PTAC Unit In 2022: Cooper & Hunter PTAC 15,000 BTU

Best PTAC Unit In 2022: Cooper & Hunter PTAC 15,000 BTU
Cooling Capacity: 14,700 BTU
Cooling Area: Up To 750 Sq Ft
Heating Capacity: 13,500 BTU (Heat Pump)
Heating Area: Up To 400 Sq Ft
Energy Efficiency: 9.6 EER Rating
Dimensions (WxDxH): 42 x 21 x 16 Inches
Price: $$$$
Rating: 4.9 out of 5 stars

Cooper & Hunter produces the best PTAC units today. In the past, Amana was the #1 brand for PTAC. However, Cooper & Hunter is one of the few HVAC producers that went all-in into engineering a new era of packaged terminal air conditioners.  Their 14,700 BTU model is the best PTAC unit today.

Cooper & Hunter PTAC 14,700 BTU model is capable of adequately cooling spaces up to 750 sq ft (8 ft ceilings). This is considered a good PTAC unit for large rooms due to its bigger-than-average cooling capacity.

Heating-wise, the Cooper & Hunter 14,700 BTU model uses a heat pump system. This heat pump system can produce 13,500 BTU of heating output. It is adequately sized for spaces up to 400 sq ft in total square footage. Because it has less heating output than cooling output, this PTAC is best used as a supplemental heating element. That means that the main heating source should always be a furnace that can generate a much larger heating output.

With almost a 10 EER rating (9.6 EER, to be exact), Cooper & Hunter has developed a PTAC unit with good energy efficiency. A low 8 or lower EER rating is the main disadvantage of older units. With a 9.6 EER rating, this PTAC unit has the same energy efficiency as most portable air conditioners and few window air conditioners.

All in all, the Cooper & Hunter PTAC 14,700 BTU unit is the best version of the PTAC unit we have today. It costs about $1,100 and can provide both cooling and heating at a good energy efficiency rating:

Cooper & Hunter PTAC 14,700 BTU Review

Pros
  • Big 14,700 BTU cooling output can adequately cool spaces up to 750 sq ft
  • Has a good energy efficiency (9.6 EER rating)
  • Provides a good amount of heating as well (13,500 BTU)
  • Made by Cooper & Hunter; one of the most reliable HVAC companies
  • Is moderately priced
Cons
  • Heating is primarily supplemental; you will still need a furnace
  • Energy efficiency is good but you can find PTAC units with 10+ EER rating as well
  • PTAC units are not as easy to install as DIY mini split AC units

2. Best 12,000 BTU PTAC Unit (1-ton): Cooper & Hunter PTAC 12,000 BTU

Best 12,000 BTU PTAC Unit (1-ton): Cooper & Hunter PTAC 12,000 BTU
Cooling Capacity: 12,000 BTU
Cooling Area: Up To 600 Sq Ft
Heating Capacity: 12,300 BTU (3.6 kW Heater)
Heating Area: Up To 500 Sq Ft
Energy Efficiency: 10.5 EER Rating
Dimensions (WxDxH): 42 x 21 x 16 Inches
Price: $$$$
Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars

Cooper & Hunter PTAC 12,000 BTU is a smaller version of the bigger 15,000 BTU unit. It has all the same engineering but can provide cooling at better energy efficiency. This is the best 1-ton PTAC unit.

With a 1-ton capacity, Cooper & Hunter PTAC 12,000 BTU can provide cooling to spaces up to 600 sq ft in total.

The heating output is 12,300 BTU (using a 3.6 kW heater). This will provide the same amount of heat as two bigger 1,800W space heaters and can be used to provide heating to spaces up to 500 sq ft in total.

It’s quite amazing to see 10+ EER rating PTAC units. If you checked the most energy-efficient PTAC units 20 years ago, even the most energy-efficient packaged terminal air conditioner would have a below 10 EER rating. The Cooper & Hunter PTAC 12,000 BTU has an EER rating of 10.6, making it one of the most efficient units on the market.

In short, the Cooper & Hunter PTAC 12,000 BTU is a smaller version of the 15,000 BTU unit by Cooper & Hunter. It costs less than $1,000, has a high energy efficiency and a good coverage:

Cooper & Hunter PTAC 12,000 BTU Review

Pros
  • Symetrical cooling and heating coverage (around 500 sq ft)
  • Very high energy efficiency (10.6 EER rating)
  • Made by Cooper & Hunter; a reliable brand
  • Costs less than $1,000
Cons
  • It is still a PTAC unit; mini splits are better
  • These units are known for their leakage problems (indoors)
  • Is less energy efficient than 20+ SEER mini splits

3. Most Energy Efficient PTAC Unit: Amana PTC153G35AXXX

Most Energy Efficient PTAC Unit: Amana PTC153G35AXXX
Cooling Capacity: 15,000 BTU
Cooling Area: Up To 750 Sq Ft
Heating Capacity: 11,900 BTU (3.5 kW Heater)
Heating Area: Up To 450 Sq Ft
Energy Efficiency: 12.0 EER Rating
Dimensions (WxDxH): 51 x 29 x 32.5 Inches
Price: $$$$
Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars

Amana was once known as the best PTAC brand. Even today, their Amana PTC153G35AXXX is still a top-rated PTAC unit that is quite popular, especially if you are looking to cut some costs.

That’s because this is a bigger 15,000 BTU PTAC unit that costs less than 1,000$.

On top of that, this is the most energy efficient Amana PTAC unit with a 12.0 EER rating. This is the highest energy efficiency rating you will see in a PTAC unit. That means that the Amana PTC153G35AXXX is not only cheap; it also saves you money with low running costs.

All in all, the Amana PTC153G35AXXX is still one of the most popular choices but it’s glory days are in the past:

Amana PTC153G35AXXX AC Review

Pros
  • Provides 15,000 BTU of cooling output
  • Costs less than $1,000 (very good price for a bigger unit)
  • Extremely high energy efficiency (12.0 EER rating)
  • Made by Amana; once known as the best brand for PTAC units
Cons
  • It is an older model
  • Doesn’t have the modern features like WiFi connectivity
  • It’s harder to install by yourself; you will likely need a professional installation

4. Top-Rated Symmetric PTAC Unit: Friedrich ZoneAir Premier

Top-Rated Symmetric PTAC Unit: Friedrich ZoneAir Premier
Cooling Capacity: 12,000 BTU
Cooling Area: Up To 600 Sq Ft
Heating Capacity: 12,000 BTU (Heat Pump)
Heating Area: Up to 475 Sq Ft
Energy Efficiency: 10.7 EER Rating
Dimensions (WxDxH): 42 x 21.5 x 16 Inches
Price: $$$$
Rating: 4.1 out of 5 stars

Friedrich ZoneAir Premier is one of the very few PTAC units with 100% symmetric output. That means that it can provide both 12,000 BTU of cooling output as well as 12,000 BTU of heating output.

On top of that, the Friedrich ZoneAir Premier has a high – above 10 EER rating – energy efficiency. With a 10.7 EER rating, it will save costs compared to other standard and older PTAC units.

Nonetheless, the Friedrich ZoneAir Premier costs quite a lot. It is one of the few modern PTAC units that costs more than $1,200. You can get a cheaper alternative with similar specs.

Friedrich ZoneAir Premier Review

Pros
  • Perfectly symmetrical output (12,000 BTU cooling, 12,000 BTU heating)
  • Can be used in spaces up to about 500 sq ft in total
  • High energy efficiency (10.7 EER rating)
  • Friedrich is a recognizable brand in the PTAC industry
Cons
  • It is costly; costs more than $1,200
  • Symmetric output PTAC units will require the help of a furnace in the winter
  • Not as good a brand as Cooper & Hunter or Amana

This has been our segment about these older PTAC units that are being quickly replaced by mini splits. Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of what PTAC stands for and what are the advantages and disadvantages of PTAC units.

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