Air handlers provide the mechanical muscle for homes with “split” central air conditioning and heating systems. A split system refers to an air conditioner or heat pump unit outside the house connected to an air handler inside the house. When working with an air conditioner, the air handler circulates air pulled from inside the house over the cooling coils that are powered by the air conditioner, and then blows the cooled air back into the house. When working with a heat pump, the coils inside the air handler can either heat or cool the air that's forced over them by the air handler. If you have a split system with a furnace, the air handler handles the task of distributing warm air.
Air handlers are connected to the network of ducts that distribute the conditioned air throughout the house. Most air handlers also have a filtration system – usually a replaceable fiber mesh filter – to help purify the air as it circulates. Air handlers can also be configured to assist with humidity control inside the house.
Air Handler Units
Wall Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc. services existing air handlers and installs new ones for homeowners in the Atlanta area. With many of the service calls we get to repair air conditioners and heat pumps, the air handler is often the source of the problem.
Air Handler Basics
The air conditioner or heat pump located outside the house contains a compressor that pumps refrigerant through metal tubing that runs into the house and into the air handler. Inside the air handler, the refrigerant circulates through a coil of metal tubing called an evaporator coil. A blower motor inside the air handler pulls air from inside the house and circulates it past the evaporator coil. For air conditioning, the refrigerant in the coil absorbs the heat from the air. For warming the house, which occurs when heat pumps are acting as heaters, the coil releases heat extracted from the outside air by the heat pump. After circulating through the coil in the air handler, the refrigerant flows back outside to the air conditioner or heat pump.
Air Handler Installation
Air handlers must be fully integrated with the external air conditioner or heat pump they connect to. The cooling or warming cycle starts when the inside temperature rises above or below the set temperature on a thermostat. The thermostat sends an electrical signal to the air conditioner or heat pump, and to the air handler. The compressor in the outside unit starts pumping refrigerant and the blower motor inside the air handler starts pulling household air into it, forcing it over the heating or cooling coil, and the back into the house through the ducts.
The capacity of the air conditioner or heat pump to circulate refrigerant must be matched to the capacity of the air handler to effectively manage the movement of refrigerant through the evaporator coil.
Air Handler Anatomy
When purchasing an air handler, the key components to ask about are:
- Blower/Fan - The main operational component of an air handler. It should operate quietly and the motor should be powerful enough to adequately service the total square footage of your home. Some air handlers have multi-speed or variable speed motors to reduce surges of air.
- Filter Compartment - The filter compartment should be accessible and the filter should be easy to inspect and replace.
- Cabinet construction - The cabinet should be solid and well made. Galvanized steel cabinets inhibit rust.
Compatible with existing duct work - The connection to the existing duct work should not require extensive modification that might jeopardize performance.
Air Handler Options
Wall Heating & Air can inspect your current system and help you decide if it's time to replace your old air handler. The quality and specifications of the air handler greatly impact the performance of your home's split system. If an old system isn't working properly, the fault could be with the air handler and not the air conditioner or heat pump. A worn out system may not only be decreasing the comfort of your home, but it could be increasing your cooling and heating bills. Give us a call today if you live in the Atlanta metro area and you’d like to discuss your air handler options. We'd be happy to answer any questions about your cooling and heating needs.