A Comprehensive Guide to Air Handlers
An air handler is an essential component of many HVAC systems in Chicago. From its name, this system basically handles air and can be a great addition to your home, especially if you're looking for energy efficiency and effective air circulation.
What Is an Air Handler?
An air handler, also known as a fan coil unit, is a device that conditions and circulates air as part of a heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system. It resembles a rectangular metal cabinet; you might confuse it with a furnace because they have the same shape, size, and look.
Components of an Air Handler
A typical air handler has an intake with a filter, blower fan, drain pan, humidifier or evaporator coil, condensate pump (for a gas furnace), and insulated cabinet. Other types include heating and cooling coils and variable-speed blowers.
You can power air handlers with electricity, natural gas, or a combination of both. The type you choose for your home should depend on the readily available fuel source in your area.
How Does an Air Handler Work?
An air handler works in tandem with other components of your HVAC system to circulate air throughout the house. It pulls in the ambient air through an intake, like a return duct or grille, and runs it over a filter before sending it to the evaporator coil.
The evaporator coil contains a substance known as a refrigerant. This substance is what cools or warms the air. If the thermostat requests warm air, the system will pump the refrigerant from the outside condenser into the refrigerant as a high-temperature, high-pressure gas. This will travel through the evaporator coil and disperse heat to the air that's supposed to warm the room. The blower fan will then take the air and send it through the ducts to your rooms.
If you want cold air, the air handler unit will suck in the same ambient air, filter it, and then take the refrigerant from the condenser as a cold, low-pressure gas. It will then pass this through the evaporator coil, absorbing heat as it cools down before sending it to your rooms via the blower fan.
If there is heating equipment built into the handler, such as a furnace, heat exchanger, or electric-resistance elements, it will heat the air instead of cooling it. And if you have an air conditioning system with a separate condenser, the air handler's only job would be to help circulate the conditioned air.
Types of Air Handlers
The three main types of air handlers are packaged units, split systems, and fan coil units. Packaged units are all-in-one units that include both heating and cooling components. They are ideal for smaller spaces but may not be as efficient as other types since they don't provide zone control options.
Split systems contain two parts: an outdoor component (a condenser) and an indoor component (an evaporator coil) installed inside the home to deliver conditioned air through ducts to rooms needing heating or cooling. This type is great for zoned areas because you can choose different temperatures for each room.
Fan coil units are the most energy-efficient type of air handler and contain heating coils, cooling coils, or both. They are typically installed below windows in homes that already have an existing ductwork system. This type is best if you want precise temperature control throughout your home.
These types can be further divided based on blower motor speed - that is, single, dual, and variable-stage air handlers.
Single-stage air handlers have only one speed setting, so they will run at full capacity all the time. They are the least energy efficient of all three types, but they can be good for a home with low cooling and heating demands.
Dual-stage air handlers have two speed settings, which you can use to adjust the airflow capacity as needed. This type is more efficient than single-stage air handlers since it allows for better temperature regulation.
Variable-speed air handlers are the most popular and offer maximum comfort and efficiency by automatically adjusting their speeds to match heating or cooling needs. They also help reduce humidity levels inside your home, resulting in healthier indoor air quality (IAQ).
Pros of Air Handlers
Overall, an air handler provides a cost-effective, efficient way to make your home more comfortable, healthy, and safe. It helps stabilize temperatures between rooms, so you don't feel drastic differences when moving from one space to another. An air handler also adds humidity to dry indoor air, which improves the overall comfort level inside your home during those cold winter months. And since it's powered by electricity, natural gas, or propane, you don't have to rely on burning fossil fuels for your heating and cooling needs.
Moreover, air handlers can significantly improve indoor air quality and help remove airborne particles and allergens from the air, making it healthier for occupants. They are also relatively easy to install and will last over 25 years, with good maintenance.
Cons of Air Handlers
Air handlers are not cheap to install—they can cost anywhere from several hundred dollars to thousands depending on the type and size that you need. Additionally, since these units contain multiple components, they require regular maintenance to ensure optimal performance. You will need to call a qualified HVAC technician once or twice every year or two to inspect, clean, and service the air handler - that is, if you are doing everything right to help it run efficiently.
A regular air conditioning system can just do everything that an air handler does. So, if you have a well-functioning heat pump or a normal HVAC system, it would be a redundant unit, racking up high energy and maintenance costs.
Do You Need an Air Handler?
The answer depends on what kind of heating and cooling system you have. If you have a traditional split system (with both a condenser and indoor components), then you need an air handler to circulate the conditioned air throughout your home. Additionally, if you live in a large house that has multiple zones and you need to control temperatures in each zone, then an air handler is definitely worth considering.
If you already have a furnace or a modern air conditioner system, then you don't need one since all of the components are already included in the unit. But heat pumps seem to work better when paired with an air handler. They reduce the strain of cooling or heating the home, hence improving efficiency and elongating the life span of the heat pump.
Rely on the Pros
If you need precise temperature control throughout your home, then an air handler is a great investment. It will provide comfort and improved indoor air quality for many years to come. However, before making any major decisions about installing an air handler in your home, call TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing for expert advice. Our technicians assess your existing system and provide honest and reliable recommendations. If you need one, we will help you choose the best type for your home and install it for you. Also, if you need any repairs and maintenance services on any of your HVAC systems, don't hesitate to contact us. We are a family-owned company that's been in operation for three generations. It's safe to say we have dealt with almost all types of HVAC problems and can help you with anything related to your systems. We also offer plumbing services.