Whether it’s AC repair or total AC system replacement, there are various terms within the HVAC industry that can get puzzling 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 write about all of the variations in one blog post, so we’ll take a look at one of the normal inquiries we see at Strogen's Service Experts: what’s the difference between an air conditioner and an air handler?
What is an Air Handler?
An air handler contains the equipment that moves 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 glance at an air handler, it may closely resemble a furnace. Air handlers can work with an air conditioner and holds the indoor coil, used to cool and heat your home depending on which system it’s operating with.
Air handler vs Heat Pump
Similar to how an air handler can work with an air conditioner, an air handler works in tandem with your heat pump. Heat pumps are used to control your comfort by transferring heat, rather than producing it, and the air handler moves 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 includes the blower, and several other parts inside. You may have dampers, filters, mixing chambers and more in an air handler. The blower is just one component of many.
Here’s what you need to know about air handlers: if you’re searching 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 most 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 shouldn't need to be concerned about an air handler. Air handlers tend to be used with heat pumps and help manage air flow throughout the home. Some air handlers also provide secondary heating and cooling components to help out the heat pump. A furnace works differently. Instead of an air handler, furnaces have included blowers that move the hot air into your ventilation and disperse through your home. Since furnaces have combustion chambers and make heat, they don't need some of the parts you'll find in a new air handler.
Air conditioners contain the condenser and are usually set outside the home. One of the most common mix-ups with air conditioners is that they cool the existing air in your home. Air conditioners actually pull out heat from inside your home through a host 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 pulled into the system through return ducts and then pass over 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 complex than that, but the process itself is easy to break down and comprehend.
Understanding all of your home’s heating and cooling parts for the Rochester climate is probably a little unrealistic, but there are a few 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 experts at Strogen's a call at 603-923-4570 or set up a free appointment online today.