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

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 puzzling 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 talk about all of the variations in a single blog post, so we’ll take a look at one of the normal inquiries we see at Atmostemp Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning: what’s the difference between an air conditioner and an air handler?

Air Handlers

An air handler contains the parts that move the air throughout your home, called the blower. It is normally located inside the home and works 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 work with an air conditioner and holds 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 runs with an AC system, an air handler works as a team with your heat pump. Heat pumps are used to control your comfort by transferring heat, rather than generating 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 people, but it's not that complicated and we're happy to explain the difference. An air handler contains the blower, and several other parts inside. You may have dampers, filters, mixing chambers and more in an air handler. The blower is just one piece of the pie.

Here’s what you ought to know about air handlers: if you’re searching for a conventional furnace or air conditioner, you’ll probably 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 most 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 won't need to worry about an air handler. Air handlers tend to be setup with heat pumps and help regulate air flow throughout the home. Some models also provide secondary heating and cooling parts to help out the heat pump. A furnace works on a different concept. Instead of an air handler, furnaces have their own blowers that move the hot air into your ventilation and disperse into your home. Since furnaces have combustion chambers and make heat, they don't require some of the parts you'll find in a new air handler.

Air Conditioners

Air conditioners contain the condenser and are traditionally placed 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 host 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 pulled into the system through return ducts and then passes across 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 intricate 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 Voorhees climate is probably a little impractical, but there are a couple 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 professionals at Atmostemp Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning a call at or set up a free appointment online today.

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