What is an Air Handler?

Jul 18, 2017 | Air Conditioning, Heat Pump

Camera, sunscreen, and a passport on a blue picnic table in Wichita, KS.

An air handler unit may resemble a furnace in appearance, but its purpose is very different. It conditions and circulates both cool and hot air, depending on what time of year it is. An air handler works in tandem with your air conditioner or heat pump to help get the most efficiency from your HVAC system.

What Exactly Is an Air Handler?

The air handler is the inside component of your HVAC system, working with your split-system air conditioner or heat pump. Air handlers connect to existing ductwork, distributing the conditioned air through your home and returning it to the air handler. The air handler blows the air (where the heat’s been removed by the evaporator coil) through the ducts in your home.


Air handlers come in different sizes. Smaller units may only have an air filter, blower, and coil. These are called terminal units, blower coils, or fan coil units. A larger handler, known as a makeup air unit, conditions 100 percent outside air; no recirculated air.

An air handler that’s only designed for outdoor use and usually on roofs is called a rooftop unit, but this type is generally for commercial use.

How do I Know if I Need One?

If need a new HVAC system and you’re looking at a gas furnace and air conditioner, you most likely will not be needing an air handler. If you’re considering an electric heat pump, an air handler will probably be part of your purchase.

Location Matters

A general rule of thumb in determining whether you’ll be purchasing an air handler or not is to take a look at the temperatures where you live.

If you live in an area with mild temperatures that rarely see cooler numbers on the thermometer, say in a balmy climate, you’ll most likely need an air handler. You’ll want a split-system air conditioner with an outdoor condenser and indoor air handler.

If you live in the South, you may experience some cooler temperatures, but generally see higher ones. You’ll most likely be installing a heat pump and an air handler.

If you live in the North where temperatures dip into frigidity, you’ll want a high-efficiency gas furnace, but no air handler.

Contact Us

If you have any questions on whether you need an air handler as part of your HVAC system, call 316-733-1600 and talk to one of our Welch’s Heating & Air experts. We provide service to Wichita, Andover, El Dorado, & the surrounding Kansas communities.

Welch's Heating & Air is proud to offer HVAC services to Wichita, Andover, Augusta, Towanda, El Dorado, Rose Hill, Douglas, Derby, Haysville, Goddard and the surrounding communities. Call us at 316-733-1600 or request service online today!

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