Air Conditioner vs. Air Handler

If you’re looking for heating and cooling services, you may come across confusing, sometimes contradictory information about a variety of HVAC systems. One component that garners a lot 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 types of HVAC systems. It links to a network of air ducts that circulate conditioned air through the building. Air handlers range in size, type and capacity, based on the application.

Some individuals use the words “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 operate together to condition and circulate the air.

Does an Air Conditioner Use an Air Handler?

Normally, an air conditioner [shares|uses|utilizes} the furnace’s blower motor, so no air handler is needed. However, in climates where home heating is not required, an air conditioner may be the lone HVAC equipment present. In this situation, the indoor air handler runs in tandem with the outdoors unit, called 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 circulate cooled, dehumidified air back into the building through ductwork. Refrigerant lines connect the air handler to the outdoor condenser, enabling the heat transfer to the outside. This will permit the air conditioning to preserve a constant, comfortable 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 effective, they are at times installed alongside furnaces, creating what’s called a dual-fuel system. However, advancements in cold-climate heat pumps make dual-fuel systems less popular as of late. Because there is no furnace to lend its blower motor, heat pumps will need a dedicated air handler to move conditioned air.

Heat pumps work by extracting heat from the outside air and shifting it inside using the indoor coil. The air handler blows air across the coil to obtain heat before circulating it inside the building. A heat pump can even 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 move conditioned air. The blower is usually found inside the furnace. It forces air across the heat exchanger, a metal component that transfers 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 spreads back through the ductwork system and into the building.

What Are the Parts of an Air Handler?

The basic components of an air handler include:

    • Blower: The blower is a motor-driven fan that moves air throughout the ductwork. It forces air across the heating or cooling elements to regulate the indoor temperature.
    • Heating or cooling elements: According to 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 contaminants from the air as it enters 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 routinely to protect against 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 certain rooms as necessary to uphold a comfortable temperature.
    • Humidifier or dehumidifier: Some air handlers have a humidifier or dehumidifier, which regulates the indoor relative humidity level. A humidifier infuses 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 gauge the temperature and humidity in 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 assist you. Our team of Expert professionals can diagnose and repair any problems with your climate control system, so that it runs safely and efficiently. We believe in our exemplary work so much that we guarantee 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 contact a Service Experts office near you today.

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