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

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 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 routine inquiries we see at Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing: 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 normally situated inside the home and runs with both the heating and cooling parts of your HVAC system. If you take a quick glance at an air handler, it may closely resemble a furnace. Air handlers can operate with an air conditioner and houses 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 together with your heat pump. Heat pumps are used to regulate temperature by transferring heat, rather than creating it, and the air handler helps move all that heated or cooled air. 

Air handler vs blower 

Air handlers are not blowers. This confuses some of our customers, 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 parts within. 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 need to know about air handlers: if you’re searching for a conventional furnace or air conditioner, you’ll more than likely never need to know what an air handler is because it’s feasible that 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 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 think about an air handler. Air handlers tend to be used with heat pumps and help regulate air flow throughout the home. Some units also provide extra 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 hot air into your ductwork and disperse into your home. Since furnaces have combustion chambers and create heat, they don’t have some of the parts you’ll find in a modern air handler. 

Air Conditioners 

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 pull out heat from inside your home through a number of components 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 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 the U.S. climate is probably a little unrealistic, 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 Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing a call at 866-397-3787 or set up a free appointment online today. 

  • How to Choose a Suitable HVAC System

    When it comes to keeping your home comfortable all year, nothing is more essential than choosing the right heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. This choice influences your daily comfort, monthly utility bills and all-around home efficiency. However, with so many system types,... Continue reading

  • Year-End HVAC Maintenance Checklist

    Now that the air starts to get cold, you know it’s time to winterize your residence for the cooler months ahead. Your heating system is crucial to maintaining a cozy, warm setting. A well-maintained furnace provides the comfort you want while using less energy. Routine inspections also make your... Continue reading

  • 2024 Furnace and Air Conditioning Trends

    In the ever-changing world of home heating and cooling, keeping up with the latest HVAC trends is crucial for homeowners who want to enhance their home’s comfort and efficiency. Looking into 2024, the HVAC industry continues to innovate, bringing cutting-edge technologies and trends that promise... Continue reading