Air conditioner versus air handler: what's the difference? Published on April 16, 2015 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 boost your home’s energy efficiency and air quality. Of course we can’t speak to 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 Hammond Plumbing & Heating: what’s the difference between an air conditioner and an air handler? Air Handlers An air handler contains the components that move 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 might 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 running with. Air handler vs Heat Pump Similar to how an air handler runs with an air conditioner, an air handler works in tandem with your heat pump. Heat pumps are used to control your comfort 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 can be confusing for some folks, but it's not too complex and we're happy to explain the difference. An air handler contains the blower, and several other components in the unit. 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 should 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 probable 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 probably 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 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 building. Some units also provide backup 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 warmed air into your ductwork and disperse throughout your home. Since furnaces have combustion chambers and make heat, they don't need some of the parts you'll find in a typical air handler. Air Conditioners Air conditioners contain the condenser and are typically 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 take heat from inside your home through a host 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 go over a refrigerant coil. As the warm air is blown across the cooled coil, heat is removed. Refrigerant lines then carry 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 comprehend. Understanding all of your home’s heating and cooling parts for the Kitchener 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 Hammond Plumbing a call at 519-894-3222 or set up a free appointment online today.