Most homeowners in the Inland Empire are familiar with HVAC equipment such as furnaces and air conditioners. However, many might wonder, “What is an air handler?” Read our most recent blog to learn what an air handler is and what it does for the heating and cooling process.

What Is an Air Handler?

If you have questions about air handlers, you’re not alone. This common heating and cooling component just isn’t as well known as air conditioning units or furnaces, though they exist in many homes.

Split system HVAC units have both indoor and outdoor components. In homes with furnaces and air conditioners, the furnace is inside and the air conditioner is outside. When heat pump systems are installed, the air handler is inside while the heat pump is outside.

The air handler holds important system components including:

  • Evaporator coil
  • Blower motor
  • Air filter
  • Electronics
  • Electrical components

What Does an Air Handler Look Like?

It’s easy to mistake an air handler for a furnace because they look similar and are both installed inside the home. The air handler is usually installed in a utility closet, garage, basement, or attic and looks like a big, metal cabinet.

Air handlers can also come in other configurations to suit the needs of the home. Multi-position air handlers have a higher profile than traditional equipment and may be installed in different configurations. Wall-mounted air handlers are short and wide and can be installed on a wall. Ductless air handlers can be installed on walls or ceilings to work with ductless HVAC systems.

What Does an Air Handler Do?

The job of the air handler is to exchange heat in order to heat or cool air and distribute conditioned air throughout the home.

To cool your home, air flows into the air handler from the return duct. It passes over the evaporator coil inside the air handler, which absorbs heat and removes humidity via the refrigerant inside it. Refrigerant cycles outdoors to the heat pump where heat is released into the atmosphere.

To heat your home, the outdoor heat pump absorbs heat from the air outside via its refrigerant. Refrigerant travels back to the evaporator coil, where air flowing over the coil gains heat. The blower circulates heated air back to living areas throughout the home.

To achieve best energy efficiency, the indoor air handler and outdoor heat pump should be matched. To ensure a proper match, both indoor and outdoor units generally should be replaced at the same time. If these units are not correctly matched, the system will not offer the efficiency levels you expect, resulting in higher energy bills. Many equipment manufacturers also require components to match in order for warranty coverage to remain valid.

Just like furnaces and air conditioners, air handlers require regular maintenance, too. Typically, they are serviced twice per year along with the heat pump.

For More Air Handler Questions, Call Sanborn’s

If you still have questions about air handlers, we’re happy to answer them. When it’s time to replace your air handler and heat pump, contact Sanborn’s Air Conditioning & Heating to receive an estimate for a new matched system.