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What’s the Difference Between an Air Conditioner and Air Handler?

Whether it’s AC repair or total AC system replacement, there are a number of terms within the HVAC industry that can get puzzling 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 talk about all of the variations in one blog post, so we’ll take a look at one of the routine inquiries we see at Stevenson 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 typically situated inside the home and works with both the heating and cooling pieces of your HVAC system. If you take a quick peep at an air handler, it may closely resemble a furnace. Air handlers can work 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 runs with an AC system, an air handler works together with your heat pump. Heat pumps are used to control your comfort by transferring heat, rather than producing 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 that complicated and we’re happy to explain the difference. An air handler includes the blower, and several other parts 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 looking 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 searching 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 aren’t often found together. If you have a furnace you probably don’t need to worry about an air handler. Air handlers tend to be setup with heat pumps and help improve air flow throughout the house. Some models also provide secondary heating and cooling parts to help out the heat pump. A furnace works differently. Instead of an air handler, furnaces have included blowers that move the heated air into your ducts and disperse through your home. Since furnaces have combustion chambers and burn fuel to make heat, they don’t require some of the parts you’ll find in a new air handler. 

Air Conditioners 

Air conditioners contain the condenser and are usually placed 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 pull out 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 send 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 digest. 

Understanding all of your home’s heating and cooling parts for the Columbus climate is probably a little idealistic, but there are a couple 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 Stevenson Service Experts a call at 614-334-3192 or set up a free appointment online today. 

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