Air Conditioner vs. Air Handler
If you’re looking for heating and cooling services, you may encounter confusing, sometimes contradictory information about different HVAC systems. One component that garners plenty of confusion is the air handler. Is this the same as an air conditioner? We’re here to set the record straight.
What Is an Air Handler?
An air handler is the indoor portion of some models of HVAC systems. It hooks up to a network of air ducts that deliver conditioned air through the building. Air handlers range in size, type and capacity, depending on the application.
Some people 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 parts, all of which operate together to condition and circulate the air.
Does an Air Conditioner Use an Air Handler?
Normally, an air conditioner shares 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 sole HVAC equipment present. In this case, the indoor air handler works along with the outside unit, called the condenser. In this setup, the AC unit’s air handler blows indoor air over the evaporator coil, which absorbs heat and collects moisture, leaving the air handler to circulate cooled, dehumidified air back into the building through ductwork. Refrigerant lines connect the air handler to the outdoor condenser, facilitating the heat transfer to the outside. This allows 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 typically found. In cold climates where heat pumps are less dependable, they are occasionally 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 in recent times. Without a furnace to lend its blower motor, heat pumps require a dedicated air handler to circulate conditioned air.
Heat pumps work by pulling heat from the outside air and moving it inside through the indoor coil. The air handler blows air across the coil to collect heat before circulating it inside the building. A heat pump can also be used for cooling, where it pulls heat from the indoor air and transmits 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 usually housed within the furnace. It pushes air across the heat exchanger, a metal component that transfers heat from a fuel source to the air blowing across it. The fuel source can be natural gas, propane or oil, which is ignited to create heat. Once warmed, the air circulates back through the ductwork system and into the building.
What Are the Parts of an Air Handler?
The major parts 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 regulate the indoor temperature.
- Heating or cooling elements: Based on the type of HVAC system you have, the air handler may contain heating or cooling elements, including an evaporator coil or backup electric heat strip.
- Air filter: An HVAC air filter eliminates dust, dirt and other contamination from the air as it goes into the air handler to be heated or cooled. Air filter types and efficiency ratings vary according to the system requirements. Remember to change your air filter on a regular basis 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 operated to direct air to certain rooms as needed to uphold a comfortable temperature.
- Humidifier or dehumidifier: Some air handlers include a humidifier or dehumidifier, which controls the indoor relative humidity level. A humidifier puts moisture into the air in the winter, while a dehumidifier gets rid of 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 keep track of the temperature and humidity inside 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 experienced specialists can diagnose and repair any problems with your climate control system, making sure 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 schedule air conditioning repair in North America, please contact a Service Experts office in your area today.