Whether it’s AC repair or total AC system replacement, there are a variety 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 a single blog post, so we’ll take a look at one of the normal inquiries we see at Bob Brown Service Experts: what’s the difference between an air conditioner and an air handler?
An air handler contains the equipment that moves the air throughout your home, called the blower. It is normally situated inside the home and works with both the heating and cooling parts of your HVAC system. If you take a quick look at an air handler, it can 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 running with.
Air handler vs Heat Pump
Similar to how an air handler runs with an air conditioner, 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 creating it, and the air handler moves all that heated or cooled air.
Air handler vs blower
Air handlers are not blowers. This can be confusing for some folks, but it's not too hard to understand and we're happy to explain the difference. An air handler includes the blower, and several other pieces within. You may have dampers, filters, mixing chambers and more in an air handler. The blower is just one piece of the pie.
Here’s what you ought to know about air handlers: if you’re searching for a conventional furnace or air conditioner, you’ll likely never need to know what an air handler is because it’s probable 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 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 probably don't need to think about an air handler. Air handlers tend to be paired up with heat pumps and help improve air flow throughout the building. Some units also provide backup heating and cooling parts to help out the heat pump. A furnace works on a different concept. Instead of an air handler, furnaces have built in blowers that move the warmed air into your ventilation and disperse throughout your home. Since furnaces have combustion chambers and create heat, they don't require some of the parts you'll find in a typical air handler.
Air conditioners contain the condenser and are usually set 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 host of parts inside 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 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 components for the Phoenix climate is probably a little unrealistic, but there are a few 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 Bob Brown Service Experts a call at or set up a free appointment online today.