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What is an Air Handler? And How it Can Save You Money

July 22, 2013

If you have a central air conditioner in your home (as most Sarasota-area homeowners do), you probably associate the AC with “that metal box outside our home.”

But most air conditioners are actually two parts – and the part you don’t see is called an air handler.

What is an air handler?

Most Florida homes have a split central air conditioning system. Basically, that means that there are two parts to the AC system. They are:

  • The outdoor unit (usually in your backyard or side yard sitting next to your home.)
  • The indoor unit (usually found in an attic or closet and also known as the air handler unit or AHU)

The outdoor unit is responsible for removing the heat from your home. It cools the refrigerant in your AC system.

The cooled refrigerant then moves to your indoor unit (air handler) where a fan blows air over the cool refrigerant-filled coils, transferring the cool temperature to your home’s air.

So what?

Besides just knowing more about air conditioners, why should you care about what an air handler is and how it works? Because your air handler affects your home’s air quality and energy efficiency.

You want to make sure you keep the inside of your air handler clean because this is the air that is circulated through your home and that you breathe in! If the inside of the air handler is dirty, the air coming you of your vents will probably be dirty and unhealthy as well.

And, if that’s not enough, a dirty air handler also runs less efficiently, costing you money.

To keep your air handler, clean and energy efficient, you should:

  • Regularly change your air filter – A dirty air filter will allow dirt into your air handler.
  • Get annual tune-ups – Your annual maintenance tune-ups will help keep your air handler clean.
  • Install air quality equipment – In Florida’s humid climate, it can be helpful to install a UV germicidal light to help eliminate mold and bacterial growth in your air handler.

Energy-Efficient Upgrade: Variable-speed air handlers

A typical air handler has two speeds: on and off. It’s either operating at 100% or not at all.

A variable-speed air handler works more like an adjustable fan. It has different speeds and only works as hard as it needs to in order to cool your home. When paired with a two-stage air conditioner or heat pump, this can greatly lower you air conditioning bills.

Now you know a little more about how your home air conditioning system works and have some insight into what to look for in an energy efficient air conditioner.

Have another air conditioning, heating, plumbing, electric, or air quality question? >Ask our experts.

Posted in: Buyer's Guide

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