An air handler, sometimes called an air handling unit, functions as the indoor component of an HVAC system like a split-system air conditioner or heat pump. Air handlers circulate the conditioned air, which, depending on the type of system you use, may help warm or cool your home.
Can an air handler work on its own?
Air handlers typically do not work on their own. Most air handlers require an outdoor unit, like a condenser unit or heat pump, to keep your home comfortable.
A condenser helps cool your home by removing heat from the air and releasing it outside. If your system can heat, then the condenser is responsible for pulling heat from the outside air and transferring it into the home. The air handler then circulates this cool or warm air.
To keep them operating efficiently, it’s important that the air handler and condenser match. If one needs replacing, you should replace the other as well.
What makes up an air handler?
Air handlers consist of a few important internal components:
The blower motor moves the air. Air handlers may feature single speed, multi-speed, or variable speed options.
- Single Speed: Single speed blowers operate at one consistent speed. They turn on, operate at full capacity, and shut off again.
- Multi-Speed: Multi-speed blowers can switch between multiple speeds to provide air, making them more energy efficient than single speed options.
- Variable Speed: Variable speed blowers feature a wide range of different speeds. They continuously adjust airflow to precisely control the temperature and feature the highest energy efficiency.
Additionally, you may see ECM (electronically commutated motor) and PSC (permanent split capacitor) motor options. ECM motors feature variable speed while PSC motors usually offer single speed.
The evaporator, or indoor, coil absorbs heat from the air to bring the temperature down. To provide heat, evaporator coils transfer heat into the air.
The air filter reduces the number of particulates and debris circulating through the air to improve indoor air quality. Depending on where you live, you want to check on or change them every 30 days.
Where do you use an air handler?
Air handlers can work in residential or commercial areas but where you place an air handler in your building depends on what type you have. For certain systems, like mini-split systems, an air handler can install inside the room you want to cool. These models typically mount to the wall or ceiling. For wall mounts, you want them a safe distance from both the floor and ceiling for sufficient air flow.
Other air handlers, like ones that use ductwork to circulate air, can resemble a furnace in appearance and may install in appropriate closets, attics, or basement areas.
Each home is different but, in certain homes, you want to avoid placing an air handler in the garage and in some attics as these may be inefficient spaces for them.