If you have a heat pump or central air conditioning unit that supplies your home with comfortable air, the air handler is likely the indoor component of your split system. Most often, air handlers are located in basements, attics, or dedicated closets and look similar to the shape of a gas furnace. As described by the name, the air handler deals with the air inside your home to deliver warm or cool air throughout your system.
Depending on the design of your home, your air handler is probably the main indoor component of your heat pump or air conditioning system. An air handler with an efficient SEER rating that is appropriately sized for the house can effectively circulate hot or cool air through your ductwork quickly. However, to work together correctly, your air handler and heat pump or air conditioner unit must be matched in capacity and efficiency. A mismatched system is around 30 percent less efficient than other systems.
So, what is an air handler? The air handler’s main purpose is to move air through your home. While your air conditioner unit can expel great amounts of hot air and your heat pump can generate lots of heat, your inside air would not circulate without a blower. Your HVAC system relies on the air handler to do its job effectively. Let’s take a closer look at air handlers and how they keep your home comfortable.
Like a furnace or air conditioner, air handlers come in different types. Most homes have a standard single-speed air handler that operates at either 100 percent on or off. These are the least expensive models but only offer on and off settings. Two-speed units are also available that have a setting lower than 100 percent. These units can help circulate the air a little more evenly and lead to fewer temperature fluctuations. The most efficient and costly air handlers are variable-speed units that have multiple blower settings. They can operate from 100 percent capacity to less than 50 percent capacity and can provide a steady stream of air throughout your home for even temperatures and less energy use.
Your air handler helps with regulating air circulation and indoor temperatures based on your thermostat settings. An air handler unit consists of an evaporator coil, blower motor, air filter, and electrical components. Before your air is conditioned or heated, it first passes through an air filter. The air filter catches and traps dust, pollen, pet dander, and other allergen and particles before they circulate your home. As the air handler is drawing air in, it is being cleaned through the filter. It is important to change your filter regularly to ensure efficient system operation and healthy indoor air quality.
The evaporator coil is an essential element in the refrigeration cycle. When your home requires air conditioning, the refrigerant cools the coils and removes heat and humidity while cooling the air as it passes over it. This provides cool, conditioned air to your home. If you have a heat pump, the coil is warm and transfers heat to the air when your home requires hot air. The blower motor in the air handler moves the air to the connected air ducts and pushes air through the ductwork system and into the various rooms of your home. As discussed, the blower motor can be single-speed, two-speed, or variable speed.
Your air handler is an important part of your HVAC system, delivering warm and cool air throughout your home all year long. Regular routine HVAC maintenance is essential to ensure the health and efficiency of your unit. Most experts recommend having your air handler and outside unit serviced annually for a basic tune-up and adjustment. Regular care and maintenance will help preserve your system for many years.