Skip to main content
packaged terminal air conditioner

How Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) HVAC Technology Helps Hotels Optimize Performance & Occupant Experience

With upcoming refrigerant changes and a push for sustainability, hotels are turning to advanced VRF systems to stay ahead of regulatory demands and ensure optimal guest experiences.

The hospitality industry can be competitive, as properties strive to provide the best guest experience. One way to achieve this is to maximize comfort, which varies from guest to guest. A well-designed and fully functioning HVAC system helps hotels ensure guest comfort without incurring sky-high utility bills.

Regulations surrounding increased electrification goals and reduced carbon footprints are tightening. In cities such as Seattle and states including California and New York, moratoriums are already in place for natural gas hookups used to fuel conventional HVAC systems presenting yet another challenge hotel owners must navigate. 

All-electric variable refrigerant flow (VRF) heat pump systems are proving to be an option for hoteliers to boost efficiency and comfort while preparing for the latest clean energy and refrigerant standards. The latest VRF systems provide efficient zoned heating and cooling in individual hotel rooms, staff offices, and large spaces like workout facilities or conference rooms.

VRF Brings Zoned HVAC Without the Noise

Hotels have always depended on HVAC systems that can function dynamically to accommodate the varied needs of guests and staff across a mix of spaces and temperature preferences. 

Many hotels still rely on packaged terminal air conditioners (PTACs) for heating and cooling needs. Most PTACs, typically located in guest rooms, house an inadequate soundproofed compressor. The guest hears the system kick on and off periodically, often reducing their quality of sleep and overall experience. VRF systems, however, are equipped with fan blowers that emit a nearly indiscernible background hum, making for a more enjoyable stay.

VRF Technology Saves Hotels Money

Along with optimizing guest comfort, VRF solutions allow property management to adapt the energy usage of the hotel based on varying occupancy levels. If guest rooms or conference rooms are unoccupied, management can turn down the temperature to save money. Controlling energy usage helps hotels regulate their costs and achieve the profit they desire.

According to CBRE, increasing energy costs are a major driver of the rise in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and have hotel managers worried about their utility expenses. The capabilities of VRF solutions allow zone setbacks, or adjustments to reduce the energy usage of the system in unoccupied spaces. This can save hotels thousands of dollars annually.

Sensing Solutions Make Sense

The right VRF solutions for hotels integrate seamlessly with energy-management thermostats and/or controllers that combine smart occupancy sensors with software. The result is reducing HVAC energy usage and getting closer to achieving sustainability goals.

For example, Hotel Marcel has raised the bar for sustainable hospitality. The 110,000-square-foot New Haven, Conn., property is the first Passive House-certified zero-emission hotel in the United States. Hotel Marcel reached this status by installing an air-source VRF system with energy-recovery ventilators and all-electric heat pump water heaters for high-volume domestic hot water, all of which can be managed within a single integrated platform.

The use of efficient HVAC and domestic water heating solutions, along with a 1,000+ panel solar array installed across parking canopies, is projected to enable the destination to achieve energy use intensity (EUI) of 80% less than the median U.S. hotel’s EUI. 

Refrigerant Changes Are Coming

The U.S. has ratified both the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act and the Kigali Amendment, making A2L refrigerants mandatory for most HVAC solutions, including heat pump systems, beginning Jan. 1, 2026, for commercial buildings and Jan. 1, 2025, for residential buildings. A2Ls are classified as non-toxic, mildly flammable refrigerants. To meet new global warming potential (GWP) standards, the HVAC industry will change from using traditional high-pressure refrigerants like R410A to A2L classified refrigerants with lower GWP.

Refrigerant changes are on the horizon because these leaking substances contribute to fugitive emissions – the release of gases or vapors into the atmosphere that contribute to air pollution and climate warming. 

The latest VRF systems are readily adaptable to A2L refrigerants. Additionally,Hybrid VRF products have begun to hit the market, leveraging water to reduce refrigerant in indoor spaces.

Comfort and Experience Go Hand in Hand

Remember, people will choose to stay in or return to hotels based on the experience a brand provides. Comfort is key for business and leisure travelers. Zoning solutions made possible with all-electric VRF systems, allow them to enjoy their spaces at individual comfort preferences – improving their overall experience.

VRF systems are also quieter, less expensive, and more environmentally friendly than conventional HVAC systems. Knowing all this, perhaps it’s time for hotel managers and owners to reconsider their heating and cooling needs. 

Advertisement - article continues below


As Senior Manager of Vertical Markets, Tom Varga is responsible for the growth of ductless and VRF sales within the hotel/lodging market throughout the United States. He develops strategies and business plans while managing relationships to generate an ever-increasing pipeline of new business for the company.

Varga joined METUS’ Northeast Business Unit in 2007 as one of the original pioneers of VRF technology. He excelled in his role as regional manager of commercial sales in the Philadelphia area before joining METUS’ National Accounts team in 2015.

In 2018, as METUS established a targeted focus on vertical markets, Varga became fully engaged with lodging leaders throughout the US. In his support of major developmental efforts, he often collaborates with METUS leaders and key individuals within Trane Technologies, METUS’ joint venture partner.

Before joining the company, Varga gained valuable industry experience through sales positions at Lennox Industries.

Varga holds a bachelor’s degree in technology from the University of Dayton, Dayton, OH.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds