If you’re looking for heating and cooling services, you may find confusing, sometimes contradictory information about different HVAC systems. One element that creates plenty of confusion is the air handler. Is this the same as 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 models of HVAC systems. It connects to a network of air ducts that circulate conditioned air through the building. Air handlers differ in size, type and capacity, depending on the application.
Some consumers use the jargon of “air handler” and “blower” interchangeably, but this is not right. An air handler is an entire unit containing a blower and numerous other components, all of which operate together to condition and circulate the air.
Does an Air Conditioner Use an Air Handler?
Typically, an air conditioner utilizes the furnace’s blower motor, so no air handler is required. However, in climates where home heating is not needed in a home or commercial property, an air conditioner may be the lone HVAC equipment present. In this case, the indoor air handler works in tandem with the outside unit, called the condenser. In this setup, the AC unit’s air handler pushes indoor air across the evaporator coil, which absorbs heat and collects moisture, leaving the air handler to deliver cooled, dehumidified air back to the building using ductwork. Refrigerant lines link the air handler to the outdoor condenser, enabling the heat transfer to the outside. This enables 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 frequently found. In cold climates where heat pumps are less dependable, they are occasionally installed alongside furnaces, creating what’s called a dual-fuel system. However, advancements in cold-climate heat pumps make dual-fuel systems less prevalent 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 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 through the building. A heat pump can even be used for cooling, where it pulls heat from the indoor air and transmits 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 most likely housed in the interior of 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 warmed, the air circulates back through the ductwork system and back into 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 moves air within the ductwork. It drives air across the heating or cooling elements to manage the indoor temperature.
- Heating or cooling elements: Depending on the type of HVAC system you own, the air handler may contain 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 based on system requirements. Remember to switch 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 powered to direct air to specific rooms as necessary to keep a comfortable temperature.
- Humidifier or dehumidifier: Some air handlers contain a humidifier or dehumidifier, which manages 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 a way to regulate the air handler. It sometimes will 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 you out. Our staff of knowledgeable professionals 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 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 reach out to a Service Experts office in your neighborhood today.