Air Conditioner vs. Air Handler
If you’re looking 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 the same as an air conditioner? We’re here to help sort this out.
What Is an Air Handler?
An air handler is the indoor portion of some types of HVAC systems. It attaches to a network of air ducts that circulate conditioned air all through the building. Air handlers differ in size, type and capacity, depending on the application.
Some consumers 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 a number of other components, all of which operate together to condition and circulate the air.
Does an Air Conditioner Use an Air Handler?
Normally, an air conditioner utilizes the furnace’s blower motor, so no air handler is required. However, in environments 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 operates along with the outdoor unit, referred to 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 distribute cooled, dehumidified air back to the building using ductwork. Refrigerant lines link the air handler to the outdoor condenser, facilitating the heat transfer to the outside. This allows air conditioning to maintain a constant, comfortable 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 effective, they are sometimes installed alongside furnaces, creating what’s known as a dual-fuel system. However, advancements in cold-climate heat pumps make dual-fuel systems less common these days. Without a furnace to lend its blower motor, heat pumps will need a dedicated air handler to move conditioned air.
Heat pumps work by removing heat from the outside air and moving it inside via the indoor coil. The air handler blows air across the coil to acquire heat before circulating it all over the building. A heat pump can additionally be used for cooling, where it retrieves heat from the indoor air and transfers it outside, just like an air conditioner.
Does a Furnace Use an Air Handler?
No. Furnaces are made with a blower motor to circulate conditioned air. The blower is typically housed within the furnace. It forces air across the heat exchanger, a metal component that moves heat from a fuel source to the air blowing past it. The fuel source can be natural gas, propane or oil, which is ignited to generate heat. Once warmed up, the air is dispersed back through the ductwork system and into the building.
What Are the Parts of an Air Handler?
The main components of an air handler include:
- Blower: The blower is a motor-driven fan that circulates air within 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 takes dust, dirt and other contamination 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 change your air filter regularly to prevent restricting airflow through the system.
- Dampers: Dampers are used to control airflow in properties with zoned heating and cooling. They can be manually or automatically controlled to direct air to particular rooms as needed to keep a comfortable temperature.
- Humidifier or dehumidifier: Some air handlers include a humidifier or dehumidifier, which manages the indoor relative humidity level. A humidifier puts moisture into the air in the winter, while a dehumidifier takes out moisture in the summer.
- Control system: The control system is tasked with regulating the air handler. It might include a thermostat, humidistat or other sensors to monitor 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 you out. Our squad of knowledgeable technicians can diagnose and repair any problems with your climate control system, making sure it runs safely and efficiently. We believe in our excellent work so much that we stand behind all repairs with a one-year 100% satisfaction guarantee! For more information or to set your home up air conditioning repair in North America, please contact a Service Experts office in your neighborhood today.