Whether it’s AC repair or total AC system replacement, there are various terms within the HVAC industry that can get baffling for homeowners. Not to mention all of the different pieces of heating and air conditioning equipment that can be used to boost your home’s energy efficiency and air quality. Of course we can’t write about all of the variations in a short blog post, so we’ll take a look at one of the more common inquiries we see at San Antonio Air Service Experts: what’s the difference between an air conditioner and an air handler?
What is an Air Handler?
An air handler contains the components that move the air throughout your home, called the blower. It is typically set inside the home and operates with both the heating and cooling components of your HVAC system. If you take a quick glance at an air handler, it may closely resemble a furnace. Air handlers can work with an air conditioner and houses 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 works with an air conditioner, 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 moves all that heated or cooled air.
Air handler vs blower
Air handlers are not blowers. This confuses 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 components inside. You may have dampers, filters, mixing chambers and more in an air handler. The blower is just one component of many.
Here’s what you ought to know about air handlers: if you’re in the market for a conventional furnace or air conditioner, you’ll likely never need to know what an air handler is because it’s possible you won’t need one. However, if you’re in the market 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 won't need to think about an air handler. Air handlers tend to be setup with heat pumps and help regulate air flow throughout the house. Some units also provide secondary heating and cooling components 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 make heat, they don't have some of the parts you'll find in a modern air handler.
Air conditioners contain the condenser and are traditionally situated 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 take heat from inside your home through a number of components 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 pass 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 complicated than that, but the process itself is easy to break down and digest.
Understanding all of your home’s heating and cooling pieces for the San Antonio climate is probably a little impractical, 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 pros at San Antonio Air Service Experts a call at 210-570-9705 or set up a free appointment online today.