Air Conditioner vs. Air Handler

If you’re hunting for heating and cooling services, you may find confusing, sometimes contradictory information about different HVAC systems. One thing that causes quite a bit of confusion is the air handler. Is this another way to describe an air conditioner? We’re here to clear things up.

What Is an Air Handler?

An air handler is the indoor part of some types of HVAC systems. It links to a network of air ducts that deliver conditioned air through the building. Air handlers vary in size, type and capacity, depending on the application.

Some individuals use the jargon of “air handler” and “blower” interchangeably, but this is not correct. 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?

Generally, an air conditioner [shares|uses|utilizes} the furnace’s blower motor, so no air handler is needed. However, in environments where home heating is not something that is necessary, an air conditioner may be the sole HVAC equipment present. In this situation, the indoor air handler runs in conjunction with the outside unit, known 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 to the building via ductwork. Refrigerant lines attach the air handler to the outdoor condenser, enabling the heat transfer to the outside. This enables 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 known as a dual-fuel system. However, advancements in cold-climate heat pumps make dual-fuel systems less prevalent as of late. Without a furnace to lend its blower motor, heat pumps need a dedicated air handler to disperse conditioned air.

Heat pumps work by pulling 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 all over the building. A heat pump can additionally be used for cooling, where it retrieves heat from the indoor air and moves it outside, just like an air conditioner.

Does a Furnace Use an Air Handler?

No. Furnaces are made with a blower motor to move conditioned air. The blower is typically found inside the furnace. It pushes 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 produce heat. Once heated, the air spreads 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 through the ductwork. It forces air across the heating or cooling elements to regulate the indoor temperature.
    • Heating or cooling elements: Depending on 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 eliminates dust, dirt and other airborne debris 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 routinely 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 certain rooms as desired to uphold a comfortable temperature.
    • Humidifier or dehumidifier: Some air handlers have a humidifier or dehumidifier, which manages the indoor relative humidity level. A humidifier adds moisture into the air in the winter, while a dehumidifier gets rid of 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 keep track of 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 team of talented techs 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 back every single repair with a one-year 100% satisfaction guarantee! For more information or to request air conditioning repair in North America, please contact a Service Experts office in your area today.

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