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 confusing for homeowners. Not to mention all of the different pieces of heating and air conditioning equipment that can be used to boost your home’s energy efficiency and air quality. Of course we can’t speak to all of the variations in one blog post, so we’ll take a look at one of the routine inquiries we see at Coastal 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 usually set inside the home and runs with both the heating and cooling components of your HVAC system. If you take a quick look at an air handler, it might closely resemble a furnace. Air handlers can operate with an air conditioner and houses the indoor coil, used to cool and heat your home depending on which system it’s operating 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 moves all that heated or cooled air.
Air handler vs blower
Air handlers are not blowers. This can be confusing for some of our customers, but it's not too hard to understand 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 component of many.
Here’s what you ought to know about air handlers: if you’re looking 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 looking for an electric heat pump, it’s helpful to know that an air handler will probably 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 probably don't need to worry about an air handler. Air handlers tend to be setup with heat pumps and help regulate air flow throughout the house. Some units also provide backup heating and cooling parts to help out the heat pump. A furnace works on a different concept. Instead of an air handler, furnaces have their own blowers that move the hot air into your ducts and disperse into your home. Since furnaces have combustion chambers and make heat, they don't need some of the parts you'll find in a new air handler.
Air conditioners contain the condenser and are typically set 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 take heat from inside your home through a variety of components 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 brought 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 transfer 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 components for the Savannah climate is probably a little idealistic, but there are a couple 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 Coastal Service Experts a call at 912-208-2399 or set up a free appointment online today.