All About Air Handlers

An HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) air handler unit, or AHU, may resemble a furnace in appearance, but its purpose is very different. It conditions and circulates both cool and hot air, depending on what time of year it is. An air handler works in tandem with your air conditioner or heat pump to help you get the most efficiency from your HVAC system.

What Exactly Is an Air Handler?

Because it’s usually housed in a cased unit, an air handler does look like a furnace. Typically it’s located inside your home and contains a blower, evaporator coil, and many components of your ventilation system, such as sound attenuators, filter racks or chambers, and dampers. The air handler is the inside component of your HVAC system––working with your split-system air conditioner or heat pump. Usually air handlers connect to existing ductwork, distributing the conditioned air through your home and returning it to the air handler. The air handler blows the air (where the heat’s been removed by the evaporator coil) through the ducts in your home.

Air handlers come in different sizes. Smaller units may only have an air filter, blower, and coil. These are called terminal units, blower coils, or fan coil units. A larger air handler, known as a makeup air unit (MAU), conditions 100 percent outside air, no recirculated air. An air handler that’s only designed for outdoor use and usually on roofs is called a rooftop unit (RTU), but this type is generally for commercial use. Feel free to contact COMPANY NAME for a more thorough discussion of the air handler and what would be a good fit for you.

How Do I Know If I Need One?

If you’re in the market for a new HVAC system, and you’re looking at a conventional gas furnace and air conditioner, you most likely will not be needing an air handler. On the other hand, if you’re considering an electric heat pump, an air handler will probably be part of your purchase.

Often air handlers contain heat strips to provide additional heating, which cause them to sometimes be mistaken for electric furnaces. But there are true electric furnaces that are completely different in workings and purpose than an air handler. Those air handler heat strips are only there to assist in providing heat when the temperatures are a little lower but not low enough to require having a furnace.

A general rule of thumb in determining whether you’ll be purchasing an air handler as part of your HVAC system or not is to take a look at the temperatures where you live, like here in Smithville, TX. If you live in an area with mild temperatures that rarely see cooler numbers on the thermometer, say in a balmy climate, you’ll most likely need an air handler. You’ll want a split-system air conditioner with an outdoor condenser and indoor air handler. In the South where you may experience some cooler temperatures but generally see higher ones, you’ll most likely be installing a heat pump and an air handler. If you live in the North, especially the upper North where temperatures definitely dip into frigidity, you’ll want a high-efficiency gas furnace but no air handler.

If you have any questions on whether you need an air handler as part of your HVAC system, call 512-229-7774 and talk to one of our Wilson’s Heating & Air experts. We’re happy to discuss air handlers with you.

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