The HVAC system in your home features several units and moving parts working together to keep you cool or warm. One of the core components is the air handler system. This unit plays a vital role in moving hot and cool air into and out of your home.
As Richmond Hill’s reliable air conditioning services provider, we are always happy to educate our clients on the intricacies of an HVAC system. If you’re wondering “what is an air handler?”, you’ll learn all you need to know about the component. You’ll also understand how it compares to other elements of your HVAC system.
What Is an Air Handler?
An air handler is a device that regulates and circulates indoor air. It’s a central part of any HVAC system. This unit ensures efficient distribution of hot and cold air in any home.
An air handler works with your ductwork to create a recurring air cycle. The process delivers air to your indoor spaces via the vents and expels air outside through the return vents. An HVAC system with an air handler doesn’t have to work too hard to keep your home cool.
There are three main types of air handlers:
- The smaller air handlers, also known as terminal units
- The larger variants, known as makeup air units
- The largest outdoor handlers, known as rooftop or packaged units
The makeup air units can condition 100% outside air. They don’t contain any recirculated air.
Air handlers come in an enclosure containing a few parts, including the following:
The Air Filter
You can find the air filter between the air handler’s intake vent and the fan. It’s responsible for cleaning the air entering the system. Most units feature powerful filters that can catch dirt, pet dander, and other airborne contaminants that trigger allergies.
You need to change your air handler’s filter every month to keep the air clean. Swapping out dirty filters also ensures the air handler doesn’t have to work as hard to suck in or release air.
The Evaporator Coils
The evaporator coils are the components responsible for cooling down air in your home. Refrigerant from the outside air enters the air handler as a high-pressure, high-temperature gas from the outdoor unit.
The air handler’s valve lowers the pressure by converting the gas refrigerant into a liquid. The pressure reduction also reduces the liquid’s temperature. The cooled liquid then moves into the evaporator coil.
As warm air passes through the evaporator coil, the liquid refrigerant cools it down. The hot temperature extracted from the air converts the liquid refrigerant back into a gas. The gas returns to the outdoor unit, from where the process will repeat until you turn off the HVAC system.
The blower is a simple device that lives up to its name. It pushes cool air from the air handler into your home.
This device works nonstop when your HVAC unit is working, so it’s under considerable strain. It’s under even more pressure when you frequently switch thermostat temperatures while the unit is working. Therefore, it’s no surprise that blower problems are one of the leading causes of HVAC issues.
These three units work together to keep your air handler—and by extension, your entire HVAC system—working effectively.
The Advantages of Air Handlers in Your Home
Having a functional air handler in your home is beneficial in the following ways:
Better Energy Efficiency
Air handlers work for longer periods. Therefore, they keep your HVAC system from turning on and off regularly, keeping your energy bills down.
Variable-speed air handlers can adapt to changes in temperature. They operate at the optimal speed required to keep you comfortable. However, in single-speed variants, you need some manual intervention to achieve a consistently comfortable temperature in the room.
Air handlers are only noticeable as they turn on and off. They are nowhere as noisy as other HVAC components while working.
Higher Air Quality
Air handlers contain filters like other similar products. However, the units work more hours than other components, constantly moving air in and out of the home. The result is an environment with cleaner, fresher air.
Is an Air Handler Compulsory?
People commonly ask this question after getting the answer to, “What is an air handler?” The unit isn’t a compulsory part of an HVAC system. Whether you need one depends on your type of HVAC system and the predominant climate.
Properties in colder climates need a furnace to beat the winter freeze. Therefore, most homes with a furnace don’t need an air handler. However, we don’t experience especially low temperatures in Georgia.
Therefore, a heat pump and air handler combination is common among Georgia homeowners. Heat pumps work more efficiently when paired with an air handler. Installing an air handler with a heat pump reduces the strain on the system, prolonging its lifespan.
Similarly, if you have mini-split systems spread across your property, you don’t need an air handler. Most of these systems can circulate air and maintain a comfortable temperature within the home without an air handler.
However, one essential factor to consider is the size of your home. The dynamics between your home size and the type of HVAC system may influence your final decision.
The best way to confirm what you need is to speak to a professional HVAC technician. At Georgia Air, we will evaluate your heating and cooling system and your home’s dimensions to decide if an air handler is a good fit.
The Differences Between Air Handlers and Air Conditioners
Air handlers are an integral part of your HVAC system. However, they aren’t a complete air conditioning system.
The air handler houses the equipment necessary to move air through the home. In many cases, you can find them indoors operating the heating or cooling system, or both. The units bear an interesting resemblance to a furnace and may be mistaken for one.
Air conditioning units work differently compared to air handlers. They feature a condenser in outdoor units typically mounted outside the home. The various parts of an air conditioner come together to pull heat from a space, redirecting the hot air outside. The air moves through return ducts and over a refrigerant coil—a shared similarity with air handlers.
However, instead of adding cold air to the room, the system only draws in hot air, recirculates it, and reverses it into the building without the heat.
You can have an air conditioning system without an air handler, but not the other way round.
The Differences between an Air Handler and Condensing Unit
Air handlers and condensers are standard fixtures in HVAC setups featuring heat pumps and air conditioners. However, the condensing unit works outdoors while air handlers work indoors.
The air from the air handler passes over the evaporator coil and flows to the rest of the building. The unit relies on a ductwork system to cool and heat any room effectively.
The main components of a condensing unit include a condenser fan coil and a compressor. The condenser unit is part of a wider heating or cooling system. In contrast, an air handler is a standalone appliance.
The Differences between a Furnace and an Air Handler
A furnace burns electricity, gas, or oil to create heat. It features an integrated blower designed to distribute warm air across your home. Therefore, most homes with installed furnaces don’t need an air handler.
Air handlers can also distribute warmed air around the home. However, they must work in conjunction with heat pumps.
Heat pumps are good alternatives for when furnaces amount to overkill. Some air handlers incorporate heating, but their main function is temperature regulation. They do not function as independent heat sources.
Replacing an Air Handler
As stated earlier, air handlers are one of the hardest-working components in an HVAC system. Therefore, they will break down from time to time due to damage and aging. When the air handler breaks down, you’re sure to notice a significant drop-off in your HVAC system’s efficiency.
A professional HVAC technician can repair the air handler. Depending on the damage, they may recommend replacing the unit. When replacing the air handler, it’s important to mirror the specifications of the current system.
Your Air Handler Professionals in Richmond Hill, GA
At Georgia Air, we have decades of experience helping property owners like you understand and make the most of your HVAC systems. We hope this article on “what is an air handler?” has clarified this important component.
Do you have more questions? Do you need to repair or replace your air handler? We are the name to trust for all the answers.
With our expertise and understanding of HVAC systems, we help homeowners like you avoid the results of mismatched furnace and air conditioning. We can also help you save money by identifying components you don’t need.
Call Georgia Air today at (912) 513-3724 for all your air handler needs in Richmond Hill, GA.