Air Conditioner vs. Air Handler

If you’re hunting for heating and cooling services, you may come across confusing, sometimes contradictory information about different HVAC systems. One component that creates quite a bit of confusion is the air handler. Is this another way to describe an air conditioner? We’re here to help sort this out.

What Is an Air Handler?

An air handler is the indoor part of some models of HVAC systems. It [[connects|links|attaches|hooks up] 11] to a network of air ducts that deliver conditioned air throughout the building. Air handlers differ in size, type and capacity, depending on the application.

Some individuals use the terms “air handler” and “blower” interchangeably, but this is not accurate. An air handler is an entire unit containing a blower and several other elements, all of which operate together to condition and circulate the air.

Does an Air Conditioner Use an Air Handler?

Generally, an air conditioner [shares|uses|utilizes]109] the furnace’s blower motor, so no air handler is required. However, in climates where home heating is not something that is necessary, an air conditioner may be the only HVAC equipment present. In this instance, the indoor air handler works in tandem with the outside unit, known as the condenser. In this setup, the AC unit’s air handler [blows|forces|pushes]110] indoor air [across|over|along the outside of]111] the evaporator coil, which absorbs heat and collects moisture, leaving the air handler to deliver cooled, dehumidified air back to the building through ductwork. Refrigerant lines connect the air handler to the outdoor condenser, assisting with the heat transfer to the outside. This allows air conditioning to preserve a constant, comfy indoor temperature and humidity level.

Does a Heat Pump Use an Air Handler?

This is where air handlers are most frequently found. In cold climates where heat pumps are less reliable, they are occasionally installed alongside furnaces, creating what’s called a dual-fuel system. However, advancements in cold-climate heat pumps make dual-fuel systems less popular 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 shifting it inside via the indoor coil. The air handler blows air across the coil to collect heat before circulating it all over the building. A heat pump can also be used for cooling, where it pulls heat from the indoor air and transfers 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 commonly housed inside the furnace. It blows 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 create heat. Once warmed up, the air circulates back through the ductwork system and inside the building.

What Are the Parts of an Air Handler?

The [main|major|basic]69] [parts|components|pieces]70] of an air handler include:

  • Blower: The blower is a motor-driven fan that circulates air throughout the ductwork. It moves air across the heating or cooling elements to regulate the indoor temperature.
  • Heating or cooling elements: Depending on the type of HVAC system you own, the air handler may have heating or cooling elements, including an evaporator coil or backup electric heat strip.
  • Air filter: An HVAC air filter takes 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 based on system requirements. Remember to swap out your air filter routinely to protect against 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 certain rooms as desired to keep a comfortable temperature.
  • Humidifier or dehumidifier: Some air handlers include a humidifier or dehumidifier, which regulates 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 responsible for regulating the air handler. It might include a thermostat, humidistat or other sensors to track the temperature and humidity in the building.

Schedule Air Conditioner or Air Handler Repair

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

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