What's the Difference Between an Air Conditioner and Air Handler?

April 16, 2015

Whether it’s AC repair or total AC system replacement, there are a number 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 TML Service Experts: 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 situated inside the home and works with both the heating and cooling parts of your HVAC system. If you take a quick peep at an air handler, it can closely resemble a furnace. Air handlers can run 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

Exactly like an air handler runs with an AC, an air handler works as a team with your heat pump. Heat pumps are used to control your comfort by transferring heat, rather than producing 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 folks, but it's not too complex 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 searching 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 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 probably don't need to think 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 backup heating and cooling elements to help out the heat pump. A furnace works differently. 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 create heat, they don't need some of the parts you'll find in a typical air handler.

Air Conditioners

Air conditioners contain the condenser and are traditionally set 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 number of parts 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 go over a refrigerant coil. As the warm air is blown across the cooled coil, heat is removed. Refrigerant lines then carry 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 understand.

Understanding all of your home’s heating and cooling pieces for the Boise climate is probably a little unrealistic, 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 TML Service Experts a call at 208-488-4892 or set up a free appointment online today.

Contact Us