What's the Difference Between an Air Conditioner and Air Handler?
Whether it’s AC repair or total AC system replacement, there are various terms within the HVAC industry that can get confusing for homeowners. Not to mention all of the different pieces of heating and air conditioning equipment that can be used to improve your home’s energy efficiency and air quality. Of course we can’t speak to all of the variations in a short blog post, so we’ll take a look at one of the routine inquiries we see at Stevenson Service Experts: what’s the difference between an air conditioner and an air handler?
What is an Air Handler?
An air handler contains the components that move the air throughout your home, called the blower. It is usually set inside the home and runs with both the heating and cooling parts of your HVAC system. If you take a quick look at an air handler, it can closely resemble a furnace. Air handlers can work with an air conditioner and holds the indoor coil, used to cool and heat your home depending on which system it’s running with.
Air handler vs Heat Pump
Similar to how an air handler can work with an air conditioner, an air handler works as a team with your heat pump. Heat pumps are used to regulate temperature by transferring heat, rather than creating it, and the air handler helps move all that heated or cooled air.
Air handler vs blower
Air handlers are not blowers. This puzzles some of our customers, but it's not that complicated and we're happy to explain the difference. An air handler contains the blower, and several other pieces inside. You may have dampers, filters, mixing chambers and more in an air handler. The blower is just one part of a greater whole.
Here’s what you need to know about air handlers: if you’re in the market for a conventional furnace or air conditioner, you’ll more than likely never need to know what an air handler is because it’s possible you won’t need one. However, if you’re in the market for an electric heat pump, it’s helpful to know that an air handler will most likely be a part of your home’s HVAC system.
Air Handler vs. Furnace
Air handlers and furnaces don't normally pair together. If you have a furnace you won't need to be concerned about an air handler. Air handlers tend to be paired up with heat pumps and help manage air flow throughout the building. Some air handlers also provide backup heating and cooling components to help out the heat pump. A furnace works on a different concept. Instead of an air handler, furnaces have included blowers that move the hot air into your ductwork and disperse through your home. Since furnaces have combustion chambers and create heat, they don't have some of the parts you'll find in a modern air handler.
Air conditioners contain the condenser and are typically placed outside the home. One of the most common misunderstandings about air conditioners is that they cool the existing air in your home. Air conditioners actually pull out heat from inside your home through a number of pieces within your system and expel it outside. The removal of heat is what makes the air feel cool, not the addition of cold air.
The warm air inside your home is brought into the system through return ducts and then passes across a refrigerant coil. As the warm air is blown across the cooled coil, heat is removed. Refrigerant lines then send the heat outside. Now you’re left with cool, comfortable indoor air that you can enjoy on the hottest of days. And that’s pretty much it. Sure, the equipment is more complicated than that, but the process itself is easy to break down and comprehend.
Understanding all of your home’s heating and cooling parts for the Dayton climate is probably a little idealistic, but there are a few things that can be helpful to you as a homeowner. If you’d like more information about your current system and whether an air handler or air conditioner is right for your home, give the pros at Stevenson a call at 937-503-7896 or set up a free appointment online today.