Air Conditioner vs. Air Handler

If you’re looking for heating and cooling services, you may encounter confusing, sometimes contradictory information about various kinds of HVAC systems. One component that creates plenty of confusion is the air handler. Is this the equivalent of an air conditioner? We’re here to help sort this out.

What Is an Air Handler?

An air handler is the indoor component of some types of HVAC systems. It hooks up to a network of air ducts that distribute conditioned air inside the building. Air handlers range in size, type and capacity, dependent on the application.

Some people use the words “air handler” and “blower” interchangeably, but this is not accurate. An air handler is an entire unit containing a blower and a number of other elements, all of which operate together to condition and circulate the air.

Does an Air Conditioner Use an Air Handler?

Typically, an air conditioner [shares|uses|utilizes} 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 lone HVAC equipment present. In this situation, the indoor air handler works in tandem with the outdoor unit, referred to as 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 attach the air handler to the outdoor condenser, enabling the heat transfer to the outside. This will permit the air conditioning to uphold 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 sometimes installed alongside furnaces, creating what’s called a dual-fuel system. However, advancements in cold-climate heat pumps make dual-fuel systems less typical these days. Because there is no furnace to lend its blower motor, heat pumps need a dedicated air handler to circulate conditioned air.

Heat pumps work by removing heat from the outside air and shifting it inside through the indoor coil. The air handler blows air across the coil to obtain heat before circulating it through the building. A heat pump can additionally be used for cooling, where it extracts heat from the indoor air and transfers it outside, just like an air conditioner.

Does a Furnace Use an Air Handler?

No. Furnaces are equipped with a blower motor to distribute conditioned air. The blower is commonly housed inside the furnace. It pushes air across the heat exchanger, a metal component that moves 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 heated, the air is dispersed back through the ductwork system and inside 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 disperses air through the ductwork. It moves air across the heating or cooling elements to regulate the indoor temperature.
    • Heating or cooling elements: Depending on the type of HVAC system you have, the air handler may have heating or cooling elements, including an evaporator coil or backup electric heat strip.
    • Air filter: An HVAC air filter eliminates dust, dirt and other contaminants 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 swap out your air filter on a regular basis to avoid 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 specific rooms as necessary to maintain a comfortable temperature.
    • Humidifier or dehumidifier: Some air handlers contain 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 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 help out. Our crew of talented specialists can diagnose and repair any problems with your climate control system, ensuring it runs safely and efficiently. We believe in our exceptional work so much that we stand behind 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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