What's the Difference Between an Air Conditioner and Air Handler?

April 16, 2015

Whether it’s AC repair or total AC system replacement, there are a variety of terms within the HVAC industry that can get baffling for homeowners. Not to mention all of the different pieces of heating and air conditioning equipment that can be used to improve your home’s energy efficiency and air quality. Of course we can’t speak to all of the variations in a short blog post, so we’ll take a look at one of the routine inquiries we see at Peachtree Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning: what’s the difference between an air conditioner and an air handler?

Air Handlers

An air handler contains the components that move the air throughout your home, called the blower. It is usually located inside the home and operates with both the heating and cooling pieces of your HVAC system. If you take a quick peep at an air handler, it may closely resemble a furnace. Air handlers can work with an air conditioner and houses the indoor coil, used to cool and heat your home depending on which system it’s running with.

Air handler vs Heat Pump

Exactly like an air handler can work with an air conditioner, an air handler works together with your heat pump. Heat pumps are used to regulate temperature by transferring heat, rather than producing it, and the air handler assists in moving all that heated or cooled air.

Air handler vs blower

Air handlers are not blowers. This can be confusing for some folks, but it's not too complex and we're happy to explain the difference. An air handler has the blower, and several other parts in the unit. You may have dampers, filters, mixing chambers and more in an air handler. The blower is just one part of a greater whole.

Here’s what you ought to know about air handlers: if you’re looking for a conventional furnace or air conditioner, you’ll likely never need to know what an air handler is because it’s feasible that you won’t need one. However, if you’re in the market for an electric heat pump, it’s helpful to know that an air handler will likely be a part of your home’s HVAC system.

Air Handler vs. Furnace

Air handlers and furnaces aren't often found together. If you have a furnace you won't need to think about an air handler. Air handlers tend to be paired up with heat pumps and help improve air flow throughout the building. Some models also provide extra heating and cooling elements to help out the heat pump. A furnace works a little differently. Instead of an air handler, furnaces have built in blowers that move the hot air into your ducts and disperse into your home. Since furnaces have combustion chambers and create heat, they don't need some of the parts you'll find in a new air handler.

Air Conditioners

Air conditioners contain the condenser and are usually set outside the home. One of the most common misunderstandings about air conditioners is that they cool the existing air in your home. Air conditioners actually remove heat from inside your home through a number of pieces inside your system and expel it outside. The removal of heat is what makes the air feel cool, not the addition of cold air.

The warm air inside your home is brought into the system through return ducts and then passes across a refrigerant coil. As the warm air is blown across the cooled coil, heat is removed. Refrigerant lines then transfer the heat outside. Now you’re left with cool, comfortable indoor air that you can enjoy on the hottest of days. And that’s pretty much it. Sure, the equipment is more complicated than that, but the process itself is easy to break down and digest.

Understanding all of your home’s heating and cooling components for the Atlanta climate is probably a little impractical, but there are a number of things that can be helpful to you as a homeowner. If you’d like more information about your current system and whether an air handler or air conditioner is right for your home, give the pros at Peachtree Service Experts a call at 678-235-9699 or set up a free appointment online today.

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