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 write about all of the variations in a short blog post, so we’ll take a look at one of the normal 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 typically located inside the home and works with both the heating and cooling parts of your HVAC system. If you take a quick glance at an air handler, it can closely resemble a furnace. Air handlers can operate with an air conditioner and contains the indoor coil, used to cool and heat your home depending on which system it’s working with. 

Air handler vs Heat Pump 

Exactly like an air handler works with an AC, an air handler works in tandem with your heat pump. Heat pumps are used to regulate temperature by transferring heat, rather than creating it, and the air handler assists in moving all that heated or cooled air. 

Air handler vs blower 

Air handlers are not blowers. This can be confusing for some folks, but it’s not too hard to understand and we’re happy to explain the difference. An air handler includes the blower, and several other components within. You may have dampers, filters, mixing chambers and more in an air handler. The blower is just one component of many. 

Here’s what you should know about air handlers: if you’re in the market for a conventional furnace or air conditioner, you’ll probably never need to know what an air handler is because it’s probable 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 are usually mutually exclusive. If you have a furnace you won’t need to worry about an air handler. Air handlers tend to be used with heat pumps and help improve air flow throughout the house. Some air handlers also provide extra heating and cooling components to help out the heat pump. A furnace works on a different concept. Instead of an air handler, furnaces have built in blowers that move the warmed air into your ductwork and disperse throughout your home. Since furnaces have combustion chambers and burn fuel to make heat, they don’t need some of the parts you’ll find in a new air handler. 

Air Conditioners 

Air conditioners contain the condenser and are traditionally placed outside the home. One of the most common mix-ups with air conditioners is that they cool the existing air in your home. Air conditioners actually remove heat from inside your home through a host of parts in 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 pulled into the system through return ducts and then pass over 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 digest. 

Understanding all of your home’s heating and cooling parts for the Columbus climate is probably a little idealistic, but there are a number of 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 Service Experts a call at 614-334-3192 or set up a free appointment online today. 

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