Air Conditioner vs. Air Handler
If you’re searching for heating and cooling services, you may encounter confusing, sometimes contradictory information about a variety of HVAC systems. One component that garners a lot of confusion is the air handler. Is this the same as an air conditioner? We’re here to clear things up.
What Is an Air Handler?
An air handler is the indoor portion of some models of HVAC systems. It attaches to a network of air ducts that deliver conditioned air inside the building. Air handlers vary in size, type and capacity, dependent on the application.
Some individuals use the jargon of “air handler” and “blower” interchangeably, but this is not right. An air handler is an entire unit containing a blower and numerous other parts, all of which operate together to condition and circulate the air.
Does an Air Conditioner Use an Air Handler?
Typically, an air conditioner uses the furnace’s blower motor, so no air handler is needed. However, in climates where home heating is not needed in a home or commercial property, an air conditioner may be the sole HVAC equipment present. In this instance, the indoor air handler runs along with the outside unit, known as the condenser. In this setup, the AC unit’s air handler forces indoor air across the evaporator coil, which absorbs heat and collects moisture, leaving the air handler to circulate cooled, dehumidified air back inside the building using ductwork. Refrigerant lines attach the air handler to the outdoor condenser, enabling the heat transfer to the outside. This enables air conditioning to uphold a constant, comfortable indoor temperature and humidity level.
Does a Heat Pump Use an Air Handler?
This is where air handlers are most typically found. In cold climates where heat pumps are less dependable, they are at times installed alongside furnaces, creating what’s referred to as a dual-fuel system. However, advancements in cold-climate heat pumps make dual-fuel systems less prevalent in recent times. Because there is no furnace to lend its blower motor, heat pumps need a dedicated air handler to disperse conditioned air.
Heat pumps work by pulling heat from the outside air and moving it inside using the indoor coil. The air handler blows air across the coil to collect heat before circulating it through the building. A heat pump can even be used for cooling, where it retrieves heat from the indoor air and moves it outside, just like an air conditioner.
Does a Furnace Use an Air Handler?
No. Furnaces are made with a blower motor to distribute conditioned air. The blower is most likely housed in the interior of the furnace. It pushes air across the heat exchanger, a metal component that exchanges heat from a fuel source to the air blowing over it. The fuel source can be natural gas, propane or oil, which is ignited to produce heat. Once heated, the air spreads back through the ductwork system and inside the building.
What Are the Parts of an Air Handler?
The basic pieces of an air handler include:
- Blower: The blower is a motor-driven fan that moves air through the ductwork. It moves air across the heating or cooling elements to manage the indoor temperature.
- Heating or cooling elements: Based on the type of HVAC system you have, the air handler may have heating or cooling elements, including an evaporator coil or backup electric heat strip.
- Air filter: An HVAC air filter eliminates dust, dirt and other impurities from the air as it goes into the air handler to be heated or cooled. Air filter types and efficiency ratings vary depending on system requirements. Remember to change your air filter regularly to prevent restricting airflow through the system.
- Dampers: Dampers are used to control airflow in structures with zoned heating and cooling. They can be manually or automatically powered to direct air to particular rooms as necessary to maintain a comfortable temperature.
- Humidifier or dehumidifier: Some air handlers contain a humidifier or dehumidifier, which regulates the indoor relative humidity level. A humidifier infuses moisture into the air in the winter, while a dehumidifier gets rid of moisture in the summer.
- Control system: The control system is responsible for regulating the air handler. It may include a thermostat, humidistat or other sensors to keep track of the temperature and humidity in the building.
Schedule Air Conditioner or Air Handler Repair
If you’re having issues with your air conditioner, air handler or other HVAC components, Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning is here to help out. Our team of knowledgeable specialists can diagnose and repair any problems with your climate control system, so that it runs safely and efficiently. We believe in our excellent work so much that we back every single repair with a one-year 100% satisfaction guarantee! For more information or to request air conditioning repair in North America, please reach out to a Service Experts office in your neighborhood today.