If you’re looking for heating and cooling services, you may encounter confusing, sometimes contradictory information about different HVAC systems. One thing that garners a lot 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 types of HVAC systems. It hooks up to a network of air ducts that distribute conditioned air throughout the building. Air handlers vary in size, type and capacity, based on the application.
Some individuals use the terms “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 uses the furnace’s blower motor, so no air handler is required. However, in climates 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 operates along with the outdoors unit, referred to as 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 distribute cooled, dehumidified air back into the building using ductwork. Refrigerant lines attach the air handler to the outdoor condenser, facilitating the heat transfer to the outside. This makes it possible for the air conditioning to preserve a constant, cozy 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 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 popular as of late. With no furnace to lend its blower motor, heat pumps need a dedicated air handler to move conditioned air.
Heat pumps work by pulling 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 through 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 equipped with a blower motor to circulate conditioned air. The blower is commonly found in the interior of 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 generate heat. Once heated, the air is distributed back through the ductwork system and inside the building.
What Are the Parts of an Air Handler?
The basic pieces of an air handler include:
- Blower: The blower is a motor-driven fan that disperses air by way of 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 installed in your home, 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 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 switch out your air filter on a regular basis to avoid restricting airflow through the system.
- Dampers: Dampers are used to control airflow in buildings with zoned heating and cooling. They can be manually or automatically controlled to direct air to certain rooms as necessary to keep a comfortable temperature.
- Humidifier or dehumidifier: Some air handlers include 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 a way to regulate the air handler. It may include a thermostat, humidistat or other sensors to track the temperature and humidity throughout the building.
Schedule Air Conditioner or Air Handler Repair
If you’re experiencing issues with your air conditioner, air handler or other HVAC components, Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning is here to help out. Our staff of experienced techs can diagnose and repair any problems with your climate control system, so that it runs safely and efficiently. We believe in our excellent work so much that we back each and every repair with a one-year 100% satisfaction guarantee! For more information or to request air conditioning repair in North America, please phone a Service Experts office in your area today.