Air Conditioner vs. Air Handler
If you’re looking for heating and cooling services, you may come across confusing, sometimes contradictory information about various kinds of HVAC systems. One component that creates plenty 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 portion of some kinds of HVAC systems. It connects to a network of air ducts that deliver conditioned air through the building. Air handlers differ in size, type and capacity, dependent on the application.
Some people use the words “air handler” and “blower” interchangeably, but this is not right. An air handler is an entire unit containing a blower and several other components, all of which work together to condition and circulate the air.
Does an Air Conditioner Use an Air Handler?
Usually, an air conditioner shares the furnace’s blower motor, so no air handler is required. However, in environments where home heating is not needed in a home or commercial property, an air conditioner may be the lone HVAC equipment present. In this situation, the indoor air handler works in conjunction with the outdoor unit, known as the condenser. In this setup, the AC unit’s air handler pushes indoor air 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 through ductwork. Refrigerant lines attach the air handler to the outdoor condenser, facilitating the heat transfer to the outside. This will permit the air conditioning to maintain a constant, comfortable 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 known as a dual-fuel system. However, advancements in cold-climate heat pumps make dual-fuel systems less prevalent in recent times. With no furnace to lend its blower motor, heat pumps require a dedicated air handler to move conditioned air.
Heat pumps work by pulling heat from the outside air and moving it inside using the indoor coil. The air handler blows air across the coil to acquire heat before circulating it all over the building. A heat pump can even be used for cooling, where it pulls heat from the indoor air and moves 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 located inside the furnace. It forces 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 warmed up, the air circulates back through the ductwork system and inside 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 throughout the ductwork. It drives air across the heating or cooling elements to regulate the indoor temperature.
- Heating or cooling elements: According to the type of HVAC system you have, the air handler may include 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 enters the air handler to be heated or cooled. Air filter types and efficiency ratings vary according to the system requirements. Remember to replace 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 powered to direct air to specific 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 adds moisture into the air in the winter, while a dehumidifier takes out moisture in the summer.
- Control system: The control system is a way to regulate the air handler. It might include a thermostat, humidistat or other sensors to monitor the temperature and humidity throughout the building.
Schedule Air Conditioner or Air Handler Repair
If you’re having issues with your air conditioner, air handler or other HVAC components, Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning is here to help out. Our crew of experienced technicians 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 stand behind all repairs with a one-year 100% satisfaction guarantee! For more information or to set your home up air conditioning repair in North America, please phone a Service Experts office in your neighborhood today.