Air Conditioner vs. Air Handler

If you’re searching for heating and cooling services, you may come across confusing, sometimes contradictory information about a variety of HVAC systems. One element that garners a lot of confusion is the air handler. Is this another way to describe 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 attaches to a network of air ducts that circulate conditioned air through the building. Air handlers vary in size, type and capacity, dependent on the application. 

Some individuals use the terms “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 work 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 weather where home heating is not required, an air conditioner may be the sole HVAC equipment present. In this situation, the indoor air handler runs in tandem with the outdoor 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 inside the building using ductwork. Refrigerant lines connect the air handler to the outdoor condenser, facilitating the heat transfer to the outside. This will permit the 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 effective, 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 popular as of late. Because there is no furnace to lend its blower motor, heat pumps require a dedicated air handler to disperse conditioned air. 

Heat pumps work by removing heat from the outside air and transferring it inside through the indoor coil. The air handler blows air across the coil to acquire heat before circulating it inside the building. A heat pump can also 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 made with a blower motor to circulate conditioned air. The blower is usually found within the furnace. It forces air across the heat exchanger, a metal component that exchanges 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 create heat. Once heated, the air circulates back through the ductwork system and inside the building. 

What Are the Parts of an Air Handler? 

The main parts of an air handler include: 

  • Blower: The blower is a motor-driven fan that disperses air throughout the ductwork. It moves air across the heating or cooling elements to control 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 takes dust, dirt and other contamination 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 regularly to prevent restricting airflow through the system. 
  • Dampers: Dampers are used to control airflow in structures with zoned heating and cooling. They can be manually or automatically controlled to direct air to certain rooms as desired 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 infuses moisture into the air in the winter, while a dehumidifier takes out moisture in the summer. 
  • Control system: The control system is tasked with regulating the air handler. It may include a thermostat, humidistat or other sensors to keep track of the temperature and humidity throughout 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. Our squad of experienced specialists can diagnose and repair any problems with your climate control system, ensuring it runs safely and efficiently. We believe in our exemplary work so much that we back 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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