If you’re hunting for heating and cooling services, you may find confusing, sometimes contradictory information about different HVAC systems. One element that creates a lot of confusion is the air handler. Is this the same as an air conditioner? We’re here to set the record straight.
What Is an Air Handler?
An air handler is the indoor part of some kinds of HVAC systems. It attaches to a network of air ducts that circulate conditioned air inside the building. Air handlers vary in size, type and capacity, dependent 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 a number of other components, all of which function together to condition and circulate the air.
Does an Air Conditioner Use an Air Handler?
Typically, an air conditioner shares the furnace’s blower motor, so no air handler is necessary. However, in climates where home heating is not required, an air conditioner may be the only HVAC equipment present. In this instance, the indoor air handler works in tandem with the outdoor unit, called the condenser. In this setup, the AC unit’s air handler blows 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 via ductwork. Refrigerant lines attach the air handler to the outdoor condenser, enabling the heat transfer to the outside. This allows air conditioning to preserve a constant, comfy indoor temperature and humidity level.
Does a Heat Pump Use an Air Handler?
This is where air handlers are most commonly found. In cold climates where heat pumps are less effective, they are sometimes installed alongside furnaces, creating what’s referred to 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 will need a dedicated air handler to disperse conditioned air.
Heat pumps work by removing heat from the outside air and transferring 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 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 equipped with a blower motor to move conditioned air. The blower is most likely housed within the furnace. It pushes air across the heat exchanger, a metal component that transfers heat from a fuel source to the air blowing over it. The fuel source can be natural gas, propane or oil, which is ignited to create heat. Once warmed up, the air is dispersed back through the ductwork system and back into the building.
What Are the Parts of an Air Handler?
The basic components of an air handler include:
- Blower: The blower is a motor-driven fan that moves air throughout the ductwork. It forces air across the heating or cooling elements to regulate the indoor temperature.
- Heating or cooling elements: According to the type of HVAC system you own, the air handler may include heating or cooling elements, including an evaporator coil or backup electric heat strip.
- Air filter: An HVAC air filter takes dust, dirt and other impurities from the air as it goes 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 particular rooms as desired to maintain a comfortable temperature.
- Humidifier or dehumidifier: Some air handlers have a humidifier or dehumidifier, which controls the indoor relative humidity level. A humidifier infuses moisture into the air in the winter, while a dehumidifier removes 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 suffering from issues with your air conditioner, air handler or other HVAC components, Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning is here to assist you. Our squad of talented specialists can diagnose and repair any problems with your climate control system, making sure it runs safely and efficiently. We believe in our exceptional work so much that we guarantee all repairs with a one-year 100% satisfaction guarantee! For more information or to schedule air conditioning repair in North America, please reach out to a Service Experts office in your neighborhood today.