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Burgesons Heating & Air Conditioning Blog

The Difference Between an Air Conditioner and Air Handler

[fa icon="clock-o"] 6/20/16 9:00 AM [fa icon="user"] Your Comfort Advisor [fa icon="folder-open'] HVAC

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 There has never been a better time to purchase a new HVAC system than now. HVAC system manufacturers have made it surprisingly convenient and affordable to heat and cool any living space, even if there is no ductwork present. The only obstacle in finalizing a purchase is knowing what type of equipment to buy. The plethora of components and complete systems could make any smart buyer feel intimidated. To soothe those worries, we're answering one of the most common HVAC questions: What is the difference between an air handler and an air conditioner?

What is an Air Handler?

An air handler will most likely be found inside the home as part of a split-system air conditioner or heat pump. An internal blower distributes the conditioned air throughout a home, making it feel more comfortable in the process. Commonly confused with a furnace due to their similar appearance, an air handler can operate with both heating and cooling equipment (split-system air conditioner or heat pump). The most common type of air handler found in homes are known as terminal units which consist of an air filter, blower and coil. The indoor coil is used to keep the air at a specified temperature. The air filter is used to remove airborne contaminants. The most efficient air handlers come equipped with variable-speed motors.

What is an Air Conditioner?

Unlike air handlers, air conditioning units are usually located outside the home. Instead of blowing conditioned air throughout the home like an air handler, an air conditioner's main function is to remove heat from within the home. To do so, warm indoor air goes through return ducts and then over a refrigerant coil located within the air conditioning system. Contrary to popular belief, a home is not cooled by adding cold air but by removing the heat from indoor air and carrying it outside the home. The process, known as the Joule Thomson effect, involves warm air passing over a refrigerant coil which results in the removal of heat. There are many more moving parts within the unit but that is essentially what an air conditioner does.

HVAC systems involved many complex parts and components with the ultimate goal of making a home feel more comfortable. It is unrealistic for homeowners to know all the ins and outs of their HVAC system which is why we're here to help. If you'd like more information on what type of air handler or air conditioning unit is best for you, call us at (909) 792-2222.