What's the Difference Between an Air Conditioner and Air Handler?
Whether it’s AC repair or total AC system replacement, there are a variety of terms within the HVAC industry that can get baffling 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 a short blog post, so we’ll take a look at one of the more common inquiries we see at Becht/Givens Service Experts: what’s the difference between an air conditioner and an air handler?
What is an Air Handler?
An air handler contains the equipment that moves the air throughout your home, called the blower. It is normally set inside the home and works with both the heating and cooling pieces of your HVAC system. If you take a quick glance at an air handler, it may closely resemble a furnace. Air handlers can work with an air conditioner and contains 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 works with an air conditioner, an air handler works in tandem with your heat pump. Heat pumps are used to regulate temperature by transferring heat, rather than producing 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 people, 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 piece of the pie.
Here’s what you ought to know about air handlers: if you’re looking for a conventional furnace or air conditioner, you’ll probably never need to know what an air handler is because it’s feasible that you won’t need one. However, if you’re searching for an electric heat pump, it’s helpful to know that an air handler will 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 shouldn't need to be concerned about an air handler. Air handlers tend to be paired up with heat pumps and help regulate air flow throughout the house. Some models also provide secondary heating and cooling components to help out the heat pump. A furnace works differently. Instead of an air handler, furnaces have their own blowers that move the hot air into your ventilation and disperse into your home. Since furnaces have combustion chambers and burn fuel to make heat, they don't require some of the parts you'll find in a modern air handler.
Air conditioners contain the condenser and are traditionally situated 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 pull out heat from inside your home through a host of pieces inside 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 drawn 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 intricate 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 Louisville climate is probably a little impractical, 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 experts at Becht/Givens a call at 502-785-8230 or set up a free appointment online today.