air handler vs air conditioner

If you’re a regular homeowner, the chances are that you don’t know the difference between an air handler and air conditioner. Maybe not even that those were two different things. If you’re looking to get the best HVAC system possible, it’s essential to understand the terminology that professionals use.

If you’ve contacted USA Home Improvement at (844) 468-7244, you’ll know that we always try to keep things clear and understandable. We can help troubleshoot your air conditioner, provide repairs, maintenance, installation and so much more. If you need a bit more of an explanation, we’ll do our best to settle the air handler vs. air conditioner confusion once and for all.

What is an Air Handler?

An indoor air handler is a unit that controls how air moves through your home. It’s usually located indoors and can be connected to both your heating and AC systems, moving hot or cold air around as necessary.

Some references readily use the terms ‘blower’ and ‘air handler’ interchangeably, but there is a subtle difference between the two. The blower is actually part of the air handler unit. The air handler also contains many other components, such as air filters, dampers and mixing chambers which all work together with the blower to move air around.

Many people get confused about what the actual purpose of an air handler is, and even if they have one connected to their system. The critical thing to remember is that air handlers don’t heat or cold air. Instead, these devices move air around. If your heating system has another component that does this already, like a blower, then you won’t need an air handler as well.

Air Handler vs. Furnace

If you’ve ever looked at an air handler, you may think that it seems like a furnace. However, if you’ve got a furnace, chances are you won’t need an air handler. A furnace usually comes with its own dedicated blower to move air around so that an air handler would be an unnecessary extra. Also, air handlers don’t directly cool or heat air, so furnaces and air handlers serve very different functions.

Air Handler vs. Heat Pump

Heat pumps and air handlers are again, two different things, but they are usually installed together in a heating system. The reason for this is because a heat pump transfers heat, which the air handler then moves around to a suitable location. The heat pump does the work of changing the air’s temperature while the air handler does the job of shifting this air to where it’s supposed to go.

What is an Air Conditioner?

Air conditioners perform a completely different function to air handlers. The primary purpose of an air conditioner is to take outdoor air, cool it, and transfer it into the home. Air conditioners work by moving warm air over a refrigerant coil. This coil contains a special liquid called coolant that sucks the heat out of the air, which is then moved into the home. The warmed coolant is moved outside, where the temperature is expelled. The main thing to remember is that air conditioners don’t.

Where it gets confusing is that many air conditioning units contain air handlers in them. Air handlers pull the air in from the outside, moving it over the coils and then into the home. This pull means that if you have an AC in your home, you have an AC air handler as well. This air handler will only control the air inside the AC and won’t affect your heating system at all.

Different Functions

Air handlers and air conditioners have entirely different functions, making it easy to remember the difference between them. Air handlers are designed to move air around. That’s all that they do. They don’t heat up or cool down, they move air.

Air conditioners, on the other hand, exist only to cool air by removing heat from the outdoor air. They make use of air handlers to take in air, move it over evaporator coils, and then move it to the indoor area.

Of course, this terminology is only crucial if you’re designing your HVAC system. If you’d rather have the professionals worry about air handlers and air conditioners, why not give USA Home Improvement a call on (844) 468-7244? We’ll do the terminology; you enjoy the results.