Air Conditioner vs. Air Handler

If you’re searching for heating and cooling services, you may encounter confusing, sometimes contradictory information about various kinds of HVAC systems. One component that garners quite a bit of confusion is the air handler. Is this the equivalent of an air conditioner? We’re here to clear things up.

What Is an Air Handler?

An air handler is the indoor portion of some types of HVAC systems. It links to a network of air ducts that deliver conditioned air all through the building. Air handlers range in size, type and capacity, based on the application.

Some people use the terms “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 work together to condition and circulate the air.

Does an Air Conditioner Use an Air Handler?

Generally, an air conditioner [shares|uses|utilizes} the furnace’s blower motor, so no air handler is necessary. However, in weather where home heating is not something that is necessary, an air conditioner may be the lone HVAC equipment present. In this instance, the indoor air handler works in conjunction with the outside unit, referred to as the condenser.

In this setup, the AC unit’s air handler [blows|forces|pushes} indoor air [across|over|along the outside of} the evaporator coil, which absorbs heat and collects moisture, leaving the air handler to deliver cooled, dehumidified air back into the building via ductwork. Refrigerant lines link the air handler to the outdoor condenser, facilitating the heat transfer to the outside. This will permit the air conditioning to maintain a constant, comfy indoor temperature and humidity level.

Does a Heat Pump Use an Air Handler?

This is where air handlers are most commonly found. In cold climates where heat pumps are less dependable, they are sometimes installed alongside furnaces, creating what’s called a dual-fuel system. However, advancements in cold-climate heat pumps make dual-fuel systems less popular these days. Because there is no furnace to lend its blower motor, heat pumps require a dedicated air handler to circulate conditioned air.

Heat pumps work by removing heat from the outside air and moving it inside through the indoor coil. The air handler blows air across the coil to obtain heat before circulating it all over the building. A heat pump can additionally be used for cooling, where it pulls heat from the indoor air and moves it outside, just like an air conditioner.

Does a Furnace Use an Air Handler?

No. Furnaces come with a blower motor to circulate conditioned air. The blower is typically housed inside the furnace. It forces air across the heat exchanger, a metal component that moves 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 create heat. Once heated, the air is distributed back through the ductwork system and into the building.

What Are the Parts of an Air Handler?

The basic parts of an air handler include:

    • Blower: The blower is a motor-driven fan that circulates air throughout the ductwork. It forces air across the heating or cooling elements to manage the indoor temperature.
    • Heating or cooling elements: Depending on the type of HVAC system you have installed in your home, the air handler may include heating or cooling elements, including an evaporator coil or backup electric heat strip.
    • Air filter: An HVAC air filter removes dust, dirt and other impurities from the air as it flows into the air handler to be heated or cooled. Air filter types and efficiency ratings vary according to the system requirements. Remember to swap out your air filter on a regular basis to avoid 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 controlled to direct air to specific rooms as necessary to maintain a comfortable temperature.
    • Humidifier or dehumidifier: Some air handlers contain a humidifier or dehumidifier, which manages the indoor relative humidity level. A humidifier puts moisture into the air in the winter, while a dehumidifier removes moisture in the summer.
    • Control system: The control system is a way to regulate the air handler. It may include a thermostat, humidistat or other sensors to monitor the temperature and humidity inside the building.

Schedule Air Conditioner or Air Handler Repair

If you’re suffering from issues with your air conditioner, air handler or other HVAC components, Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning is here to help. Our team of experienced techs can diagnose and repair any problems with your climate control system, ensuring it runs safely and efficiently. We believe in our exceptional work so much that we back every repair with a one-year 100% satisfaction guarantee! For more information or to schedule air conditioning repair in North America, please phone a Service Experts office near you today.

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