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A packaged terminal air conditioner (often abbreviated as a PTAC) is a type of self-contained air conditioning and heating system commonly found in hotels and apartments. Most are designed to go through a wall, having vents and heat sinks both inside and outside. The standard dimension of 42"×16" is used to ensure some level of interchangeability. The biggest advantage of using these units in hotels, apartments and institutional settings is that rooms can be heated and cooled to the individual room occupant needs.

Refrigeration cycle
A simple stylized diagram of the refrigeration cycle: 1) condensing coil, 2) expansion valve, 3) evaporator coil, 4) compressor.

A simple stylized diagram of the refrigeration cycle: 1) condensing coil, 2) expansion valve, 3) evaporator coil, 4) compressor.

In the refrigeration cycle, a heat pump transfers heat from a lower temperature heat source into a higher temperature heat sink. Heat would naturally flow in the opposite direction. This is the most common type of air conditioning. A refrigerator works in much the same way, as it pumps the heat out of the interior into the room in which it stands.

Since evaporation occurs when heat is absorbed, and condensation occurs when heat is released, air conditioners are designed to use a compressor to cause pressure changes between two compartments, and actively condense and pump a refrigerant around. A refrigerant is pumped into the cooled compartment (the evaporator coil), where the low pressure and low temperature cause the refrigerant to evaporate into a vapor, taking heat with it. In the other compartment (the condenser), the refrigerant vapor is compressed and forced through another heat exchange coil, condensing into a liquid, rejecting the heat previously absorbed from the cooled space.

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