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 improve your home’s energy efficiency and air quality. Of course we can’t write about all of the variations in one blog post, so we’ll take a look at one of the more common inquiries we see at Broad Ripple Service Experts: what’s the difference between an air conditioner and an air handler?
What is an Air Handler?
An air handler contains the equipment that moves the air throughout your home, called the blower. It is normally set inside the home and works with both the heating and cooling pieces of your HVAC system. If you take a quick look at an air handler, it may 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 operating with.
Air handler vs Heat Pump
Exactly like an air handler works with an AC system, an air handler works as a team with your heat pump. Heat pumps are used to heat and cool you home by transferring heat, rather than generating it, and the air handler assists in moving all that heated or cooled air.
Air handler vs blower
Air handlers are not blowers. This can be confusing for some people, but it's not too hard to understand and we're happy to explain the difference. An air handler has 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 part of a greater whole.
Here’s what you should know about air handlers: if you’re looking for a conventional furnace or air conditioner, you’ll probably never need to know what an air handler is because it’s possible you won’t need one. However, if you’re looking 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 are usually mutually exclusive. If you have a furnace you shouldn'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 house. Some models also provide backup heating and cooling parts to help out the heat pump. A furnace works a little differently. Instead of an air handler, furnaces have built in blowers that move the heated air into your ventilation and disperse into your home. Since furnaces have combustion chambers and burn fuel to make heat, they don't need some of the parts you'll find in a typical air handler.
Air conditioners contain the condenser and are usually placed outside the home. One of the most common mix-ups with 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 pieces within 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 brought 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 parts for the Indianapolis climate is probably a little idealistic, 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 experts at Broad Ripple a call at 317-527-0271 or set up a free appointment online today.