Air Conditioner vs. Air Handler

If you’re hunting for heating and cooling services, you may encounter confusing, sometimes contradictory information about a variety of HVAC systems. One element that causes a lot of confusion is the air handler. Is this the same as an air conditioner? We’re here to set the record straight. 

What Is an Air Handler? 

An air handler is the indoor part of some kinds of HVAC systems. It connects to a network of air ducts that circulate conditioned air inside the building. Air handlers vary in size, type and capacity, depending on the application. 

Some people use the terms “air handler” and “blower” interchangeably, but this is not accurate. An air handler is an entire unit containing a blower and a number of other parts, all of which operate together to condition and circulate the air. 

Does an Air Conditioner Use an Air Handler? 

Usually, an air conditioner utilizes the furnace’s blower motor, so no air handler is required. However, in weather where home heating is not needed in a home or commercial property, an air conditioner may be the lone HVAC equipment present. In this situation, the indoor air handler operates along with the outside unit, called the condenser.  

In this setup, the AC unit’s air handler blows indoor air along the outside of the evaporator coil, which absorbs heat and collects moisture, leaving the air handler to circulate cooled, dehumidified air back inside the building using ductwork. Refrigerant lines link the air handler to the outdoor condenser, assisting with the heat transfer to the outside. This enables air conditioning to maintain a constant, cozy indoor temperature and humidity level. 

Does a Heat Pump Use an Air Handler? 

This is where air handlers are most typically found. In cold climates where heat pumps are less dependable, they are at times installed alongside furnaces, creating what’s known as a dual-fuel system. However, advancements in cold-climate heat pumps make dual-fuel systems less common in recent times. With no furnace to lend its blower motor, heat pumps will need a dedicated air handler to disperse conditioned air. 

Heat pumps work by pulling heat from the outside air and transferring it inside via the indoor coil. The air handler blows air across the coil to acquire heat before circulating it all over the building. A heat pump can also be used for cooling, where it retrieves heat from the indoor air and transmits it outside, just like an air conditioner. 

Does a Furnace Use an Air Handler? 

No. Furnaces are equipped with a blower motor to move conditioned air. The blower is commonly located within the furnace. It pushes air across the heat exchanger, a metal component that moves heat from a fuel source to the air blowing past it. The fuel source can be natural gas, propane or oil, which is ignited to generate heat. Once warmed, the air is dispersed back through the ductwork system and inside the building. 

What Are the Parts of an Air Handler? 

The basic parts of an air handler include: 

  • Blower: The blower is a motor-driven fan that circulates air within the ductwork. It forces air across the heating or cooling elements to manage the indoor temperature. 
  • Heating or cooling elements: Based on the type of HVAC system you have installed in your home, the air handler may have heating or cooling elements, including an evaporator coil or backup electric heat strip. 
  • Air filter: An HVAC air filter takes dust, dirt and other contamination from the air as it goes into the air handler to be heated or cooled. Air filter types and efficiency ratings vary depending on system requirements. Remember to change your air filter on a regular basis to prevent restricting airflow through the system. 
  • Dampers: Dampers are used to control airflow in structures with zoned heating and cooling. They can be manually or automatically operated to direct air to certain rooms as needed to uphold a comfortable temperature. 
  • Humidifier or dehumidifier: Some air handlers contain a humidifier or dehumidifier, which controls the indoor relative humidity level. A humidifier infuses moisture into the air in the winter, while a dehumidifier takes out moisture in the summer. 
  • Control system: The control system is tasked with regulating the air handler. It may include a thermostat, humidistat or other sensors to monitor the temperature and humidity in the building. 

Schedule Air Conditioner or Air Handler Repair 

If you’re suffering from issues with your air conditioner, air handler or other HVAC components, Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing can help you out. Our crew of talented technicians can diagnose and repair any problems with your climate control system, so that it runs safely and efficiently. We believe in our exemplary work so much that we back every single repair with a one-year 100% satisfaction guarantee! For more information or to request air conditioning repair in the U.S., please phone a Service Experts office in your neighborhood today. 

Savings For You

See All Offers Here >
Offer

$50 OFF ANY REPAIR

  • Save $50 on a Paid Service
  • Written 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
  • Plus, ask how to save an additional 15% and waive your trip charge!
print
Offer

MAKE NO PAYMENTS FOR 30 DAYS!

  • Upgrade to Worry-Free Comfort with the Advantage Program and make NO payments for 30 days!
print

© 2024 Service Experts, Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning, and the Service Experts logo and design are registered trademarks of Service Experts LLC and used under license by SE Canada Inc. All Rights Reserved. *Not applicable to the Advantage Program. See your signed Advantage Program Agreement for full details and exclusions. 100% Satisfaction Guarantee is subject to certain restrictions and limitations as set forth in the applicable Terms and Conditions.

Chat with a Service Experts Professional