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Air Conditioners Vs Air Handlers: What You Need To Know

Sharp Vs Carrier Air Conditioner: Which Is Better?

Due to the numerous terms and parts involved, it can be difficult to understand the differences between air handlers and air conditioners. We have undertaken research and compiled the following data to provide clarity on this topic:

An air conditioner is in charge of cooling or heating the air within a house to change its temperature. Air handlers, on the other hand, are made to move air throughout a room without really changing its temperature.

To clear up any misunderstanding, we will examine further information and respond to frequently asked queries concerning these technologies.

Differentiating Between Air Conditioners And Air Handlers

Air Conditioners Vs Air Handlers: Which Is Better?

It is quite simple to distinguish between air handlers and air conditioners. Although both HVAC systems are capable of cooperating to provide a comfortable environment, there are several key differences between them. We will discuss their distinguishing characteristics in this post to assist you in comprehending their functions and deciding whether they are required for your property. The air conditioner will be our first topic.

Air Conditioning Unit

An “AC,” usually referred to as an air conditioner, is a system for cooling or heating an area to maintain a particular temperature. In many environments, air conditioners are frequently used for cooling purposes.

There are various sorts of AC units available to accommodate a variety of purposes, regardless of the size of the area being cooled, including central air systems, window units, and ductless ACs. Large buildings frequently employ rooftop systems, which explains why malls and hospitals rarely have wall-mounted air conditioning units. Here are a few extra tasks that air conditioners can perform:

  • Eliminating too much humidity from the air to regulate moisture levels, which can lead to mold and mildew problems.
  • Assisting with ventilation of indoor air.
  • Removing dust-related particles.

Air Conditioner Components
To guarantee an air conditioner operates properly, the following elements cooperate:

  • A vaporizer coil
  • Compressor
  • Coil for condensers
  • Expansion valve
  • Air filter
  • Refrigerant
  • Fan
  • The thermostat

Benefits Of Air Conditioning
In addition to reducing uncomfortable temperatures, an air conditioner has a number of other advantages.

  • Decreasing the frequency of asthma episodes by removing dust and allergens from the air and enhancing the quality of the air within homes.
  • Improving home security by removing the need to open windows, which might expose the interior to prospective intruders, insects, and vermin.
  • Encouraging better sleep since lower temperatures encourage relaxation and let the body know it’s time to sleep.
  • Maintaining a cool environment to prevent electronics from overheating, protecting their performance and lifespan.
  • Reducing the impacts of hot temperatures and excessive sweating to reduce the danger of dehydration and heat-related illnesses like stroke.

Disadvantages Of Air Conditioning
While air conditioners offer numerous advantages, there are also a few drawbacks to consider:

  • The potential to cause dry skin and eyes due to the removal of moisture from the air, which can also lead to faster evaporation of natural oils.
  • Generating ambient noise when the AC unit is running.
  • Increasing the risk of transmitting airborne diseases, fungi, and allergens as air circulates, providing a means for them to travel within the space.
  • High energy consumption, resulting in higher electrical bills.
  • Contributing to environmental harm through the emission of carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming.

Air Handler

An HVAC system’s air handler, commonly referred to as a “fan coil unit,” is in charge of moving air throughout vents and various rooms in your house. It is often installed as a component of a system and functions in conjunction with a heat pump or air conditioner.

Air handlers, which can be installed on a building’s roof, floor, or basement, are frequently employed in central air conditioning for medium- to large-sized structures. A number of

Air handlers can be classified as either single-speed, five-speed, or variable-speed.

Air Handler Components
An air handler, like an air conditioner, has a number of components that work together to achieve peak performance:

  • Housing
  • A fan with a motor.
  • A cooling/heating coil
  • Filtering
  • Panel
  • HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filter
  • Humidistat
  • A mixing bowl.

Advantages Of An Air Handler
Air handling units offer the following advantages:

  • Ability to be installed in a single location.
  • Efficient delivery of conditioned air to different spaces, ensuring occupants can enjoy the desired temperature.
  • Supporting the proper functioning of air conditioners or heat pump systems.

Disadvantages Of An Air Handler
The main drawback of an air handler is the potential for malfunctions, which can impact the performance of the supported air conditioner or heat pump system.

Placement Of Air Handlers And Air Conditioners

Air handlers are typically installed in the attic, basement, or closet, while air conditioning units are placed in areas where temperature regulation is desired, usually spaces where people gather, such as the living room or dining room.

Air Conditioner Or Air Handler: Which Is Cost-Effective

Consider the following price factors when purchasing, replacing, or installing air conditioners and air handlers. The provided information may vary based on specific details and sources.

Air Conditioner

Air Conditioners Vs Air Handlers: What You Need To Know

The cost of an air conditioner depends on factors like brand, size, and type. Here are estimated prices for common types:

  • Central air conditioner: $1,200 – $4,500
  • Window AC unit: $150 – $750
  • Ductless mini-split: $1,000 – $5,500
  • Geothermal: $3,000 – $6,000
  • Dual fuel: $2,800 – $5,500

While window AC units can be installed by oneself, other types of AC units require professional installation. Therefore, consider the following installation costs:

  • Central air conditioner: $1,200 – $2,000
  • Ductless mini-split: $500 – $2,000
  • Geothermal: $10,000 – $30,000
  • Dual fuel: $1,300 – $2,500

If you only require repair services for your existing AC and need to hire an electrician, the following estimated costs are associated with common air conditioner issues:

  • Leak: $200 – $1,300
  • Drainage problem: $100 – $150
  • Compressor replacement: $600 – $1,200
  • Frozen condenser coils: $250 – $1,000
  • Fan/air blower: $450 – $650
  • Clogged air filter: $75 – $180
  • Electrical circuit: $100 – $150
  • Thermostat: $100 – $250

Air Handler

Air Conditioners Vs Air Handlers: What You Need To Know

Air handlers generally cost between $500 and $3,500, depending on factors such as size, brand, and type. Estimated prices for different types are as follows:

  • Hydraulic Air Handler (usually 4/5 tons or more): $600 – $3,500
  • Variable-Speed Air Handler: $1,000 – $3,500
  • Commercial/Industrial HVAC Handlers: $1,500 -$3,500
  • Residential models: $500 – $2,200

The installation cost for air handlers, which includes space preparation, connections, testing, and cleanup, ranges from $200 to $2,100. Replacing an existing unit can cost $2,200 – $3,800, including the price of a new air handler, installation fee, and removal/disposal of the old unit (usually $300 – $500).


While air conditioners and air handlers have different functions, they work together to fulfill their respective roles. Air conditioners regulate and control the temperature of a space, while air handlers circulate and distribute the conditioned air throughout the area.

Based on our research, new air conditioner units tend to be cheaper, with the most affordable option being a window unit priced at around $150. On the other hand, the least expensive air handler option is residential models, starting at approximately $500.

When considering installation, factors such as brand, size, desired area for temperature control, type, and local installation fees should be taken into account. With this understanding of the difference between air handlers and air conditioners, you can eliminate confusion when encountering these HVAC terms.

Air Conditioners Vs Air Handlers: What You Need To Know

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