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 improve your home’s energy efficiency and air quality. Of course we can’t write about all of the variations in a single blog post, so we’ll take a look at one of the normal inquiries we see at BW/Cook 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 typically 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 can 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 working with.
Air handler vs Heat Pump
Just like an air handler can work with an AC system, an air handler works as a team with your heat pump. Heat pumps are used to control your comfort 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 puzzles 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 components inside. You may have dampers, filters, mixing chambers and more in an air handler. The blower is just one part of a greater whole.
Here’s what you need to know about air handlers: if you’re searching 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 in the market 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 are usually mutually exclusive. If you have a furnace you won't need to be concerned about an air handler. Air handlers tend to be paired up with heat pumps and help manage air flow throughout the home. Some units also provide backup heating and cooling components to help out the heat pump. A furnace works a little differently. Instead of an air handler, furnaces have their own blowers that move the heated air into your ducts and disperse through your home. Since furnaces have combustion chambers and make heat, they don't need some of the parts you'll find in a modern air handler.
Air conditioners contain the condenser and are usually 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 remove heat from inside your home through a variety of parts 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 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 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 pieces for the Elkhart climate is probably a little impractical, 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 BW/Cook a call at 574-218-6404 or set up a free appointment online today.