Please choose a Location

Air Conditioner vs. Air Handler

If you’re looking for heating and cooling services, you may encounter confusing, sometimes contradictory information about various kinds of HVAC systems. One thing that garners plenty of confusion is the air handler. Is this the equivalent of 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 range in size, type and capacity, based on the application. 

Some consumers use the terms “air handler” and “blower” interchangeably, but this is not correct. An air handler is an entire unit containing a blower and several other components, all of which work together to condition and circulate the air. 

Does an Air Conditioner Use an Air Handler? 

Generally, an air conditioner utilizes the furnace’s blower motor, so no air handler is required. However, in environments where home heating is not needed in a home or commercial property, an air conditioner may be the lone HVAC equipment present. In this instance, the indoor air handler runs along with the outdoors unit, referred to as 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 distribute cooled, dehumidified air back into the building using ductwork. Refrigerant lines link the air handler to the outdoor condenser, assisting with the heat transfer to the outside. This makes it possible for the air conditioning to maintain a constant, comfortable indoor temperature and humidity level. 

Does a Heat Pump Use an Air Handler? 

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

Heat pumps work by removing heat from the outside air and shifting it inside using the indoor coil. The air handler blows air across the coil to obtain heat before circulating it all over the building. A heat pump can also be used for cooling, where it pulls heat from the indoor air and transfers it outside, just like an air conditioner. 

Does a Furnace Use an Air Handler? 

No. Furnaces are equipped with a blower motor to distribute conditioned air. The blower is most likely found inside the furnace. It pushes air across the heat exchanger, a metal component that transfers heat from a fuel source to the air blowing across it. The fuel source can be natural gas, propane or oil, which is ignited to create heat. Once heated, the air is dispersed back through the ductwork system and into the building. 

What Are the Parts of an Air Handler? 

The basic pieces of an air handler include: 

  • Blower: The blower is a motor-driven fan that moves air through the ductwork. It drives air across the heating or cooling elements to control the indoor temperature. 
  • Heating or cooling elements: Depending on the type of HVAC system you own, the air handler may include heating or cooling elements, including an evaporator coil or backup electric heat strip. 
  • Air filter: An HVAC air filter eliminates dust, dirt and other contaminants from the air as it flows into the air handler to be heated or cooled. Air filter types and efficiency ratings vary according to the system requirements. Remember to replace your air filter on a regular basis to protect against 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 specific rooms as desired to maintain a comfortable temperature. 
  • Humidifier or dehumidifier: Some air handlers include a humidifier or dehumidifier, which controls the indoor relative humidity level. A humidifier adds moisture into the air in the winter, while a dehumidifier takes out moisture in the summer. 
  • Control system: The control system is responsible for regulating the air handler. It might include a thermostat, humidistat or other sensors to track the temperature and humidity throughout the building. 

Schedule Air Conditioner or Air Handler Repair 

If you’re experiencing issues with your air conditioner, air handler or other HVAC components, Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing can help. Our team of knowledgeable technicians can diagnose and repair any problems with your climate control system, making sure it runs safely and efficiently. We believe in our exemplary work so much that we stand behind every repair with a one-year 100% satisfaction guarantee! For more information or to schedule air conditioning repair in the U.S., please contact a Service Experts office in your area 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