Tips & Resources

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

Spring is here and many of us are already thinking about the warm days ahead and the best way to keep cool indoors.  As the temperature heats up, we often get asked about the difference between an air conditioner and an air handler.  The type of heating system you have in your home will determine which is appropriate.

Here is a quick overview of how each works.

Air Conditioners

A common misconception about air conditioners is that they cool air or add cooled air to your home. In fact, they work by pulling the heat and humidity from the indoor air and expelling it outside, then recirculating the cool air that remains. The warm air inside your home is drawn into the system through return ducts and passes over a refrigerant coil. As the warm air is blown across the cooled coil, heat is removed. Refrigerant lines carry the heat outside leaving only cool, comfortable indoor air.

Central air conditioners have both indoor and outdoor components.  The indoor component (the coil) is typically installed over the furnace.  The outdoor component (the condenser) is set outside the home.

Air conditioners work with gas, propane or oil-fired furnaces.  They provide clean indoor air and operate quietly because the compressor is outside.

Air Handlers

While an air handler operates using the same principal as an air conditioner passing warm air over refrigerant coils to remove the heat and humidity the entire unit is indoors.  An air handler looks similar to a furnace and moves the air throughout your home using a blower.

Air handlers work with the heating and cooling components of your HVAC system using an indoor coil to either heat or cool your home.  They do not work with a conventional furnace but rather are part of a ducted forced air system that uses an electric heat pump.

Each of these systems is available with a variety of options.  For more information on the choosing the air cooling system that is right for your home, contact your Rheem Pro Partner today!