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 increase your home’s energy efficiency and air quality. Of course we can’t write about all of the variations in one blog post, so we’ll take a look at one of the normal inquiries we see at Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning: what’s the difference between an air conditioner and an air handler?
What is an Air Handler?
An air handler contains the parts that move the air throughout your home, called the blower. It is normally set inside the home and works with both the heating and cooling components of your HVAC system. If you take a quick glance at an air handler, it can closely resemble a furnace. Air handlers can run with an air conditioner and houses the indoor coil, used to cool and heat your home depending on which system it’s working with.
Air handler vs Heat Pump
Just like an air handler can work with an AC, an air handler works together with your heat pump. Heat pumps are used to heat and cool you home by transferring heat, rather than generating it, and the air handler helps move all that heated or cooled air.
Air handler vs blower
Air handlers are not blowers. This confuses some of our customers, but it's not too complex and we're happy to explain the difference. An air handler has the blower, and several other parts in the unit. 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 looking for a conventional furnace or air conditioner, you’ll likely never need to know what an air handler is because it’s probable you won’t need one. However, if you’re looking 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 aren't often found together. If you have a furnace you probably don't need to be concerned about an air handler. Air handlers tend to be setup with heat pumps and help manage air flow throughout the building. Some models also provide extra heating and cooling components to help out the heat pump. A furnace works differently. Instead of an air handler, furnaces have included blowers that move the warmed air into your ductwork and disperse throughout your home. Since furnaces have combustion chambers and create heat, they don't need some of the parts you'll find in a new air handler.
Air conditioners contain the condenser and are traditionally placed outside the home. One of the most common confusions with air conditioners is that they cool the existing air in your home. Air conditioners actually take heat from inside your home through a variety of components 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 go 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 comprehend.
Understanding all of your home’s heating and cooling parts for the Roanoke climate is probably a little unrealistic, 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 professionals at Service Experts a call at 540-302-8645 or set up a free appointment online today.