Whether it’s AC repair or total AC system replacement, there are a variety of 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 one blog post, so we’ll take a look at one of the more common inquiries we see at Strand Brothers Service Experts: what’s the difference between an air conditioner and an air handler?
An air handler contains the parts that move the air throughout your home, called the blower. It is usually located inside the home and works with both the heating and cooling pieces of your HVAC system. If you take a quick glance at an air handler, it might closely resemble a furnace. Air handlers can work with an air conditioner and contains the indoor coil, used to cool and heat your home depending on which system it’s running with.
Air handler vs Heat Pump
Just like an air handler works with an AC system, an air handler works together with your heat pump. Heat pumps are used to heat and cool you home by transferring heat, rather than producing it, and the air handler helps move all that heated or cooled air.
Air handler vs blower
Air handlers are not blowers. This puzzles some folks, but it's not that complicated and we're happy to explain the difference. An air handler contains 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 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 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 likely be a part of your home’s HVAC system.
Air Handler vs. Furnace
Air handlers and furnaces don't normally pair together. If you have a furnace you shouldn't need to think about an air handler. Air handlers tend to be paired up with heat pumps and help regulate air flow throughout the home. 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 included blowers that move the hot air into your ductwork and disperse into 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 modern air handler.
Air conditioners contain the condenser and are traditionally set 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 number of pieces in 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 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 complex 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 Austin 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 Strand Brothers Service Experts a call at or set up a free appointment online today.