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Get the Most Out of Your Air Handler Unit in 2023

Are you tired of struggling with inconsistent indoor temperatures and high energy bills? It’s time to take control of your home’s comfort and efficiency by understanding the crucial role of your air handler unit. In this blog post, you’ll discover the ins and outs of air handlers, how to select the right one for your home, and the importance of regular maintenance. Get ready to transform your living space into a haven of comfort and energy savings!

Short Summary

  • Understand the components of an air handler unit and how it works to ensure optimal performance.
  • Consider efficiency, size and compatibility when selecting a new air handler unit for your home.
  • Regular maintenance such as cleaning filters, inspecting coils & replacing parts is essential to maintain efficient operation of your HVAC system.

Understanding Air Handler Units

A picture of an air handler unit with a heat pump and air conditioner

An air handler, also known as an air handling unit, is the unsung hero of your air conditioning and HVAC system. It is responsible for circulating cool or warm air throughout your home, ensuring that your living space remains at a comfortable temperature. If you’re experiencing issues with your current system, you might need an air handler that works in tandem with your air conditioner or heat pump to deliver conditioned air to every corner of your home.

But what are the inner workings of an air handler unit? Let’s dive deeper into its components and how they function together to keep your home cozy and comfortable.

Components of an Air Handler Unit

At the heart of every air handler unit are three essential components: the blower motor, evaporator coil, and air filter. The blower motor is responsible for circulating conditioned air, including hot air during heating mode, through the air ducts in your home. Meanwhile, the evaporator coil serves to cool or warm the air that is drawn in through the return duct, depending on the mode of operation of the HVAC system. Finally, the air filter ensures that the air circulated by air conditioners and other HVAC systems is clean, capturing dust, and other particles from the air.

A high MERV rating filter can even inhibit the reintroduction of mold spores, pet dander, or pollen into your home, contributing to a higher seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) for your HVAC system.

Adding optional components like a whole-house dehumidifier or electric heat strips to an air handler provides extra comfort and air quality benefits. These additions make it easier to control indoor levels of humidity, temperature, and air circulation. With all these components working harmoniously, your air handler unit becomes an essential part of your HVAC system, ensuring a comfortable living environment for you and your family.

How Air Handlers Work

Understanding how air handlers work is key to optimizing your HVAC system’s performance. In a nutshell, an air handler circulates and conditions air through the process of pulling it in via the air filter, passing it over the evaporator coil to remove heat and moisture or add warm air, and then pushing it back out through the blower.

Synchronizing air handlers with other HVAC equipment is of great importance for optimal functioning and to guarantee that the system is backed by the manufacturer’s warranty. That’s why it’s crucial to procure an air handler within the same communication type as your condenser to ensure seamless communication between the system components.

In reference to air handlers and HVAC equipment, “rating” denotes that the configurations on the air handler ought to be consistent with the accessible settings on the air conditioner or heat pump for optimal performance.

Selecting the Right Air Handler Unit for Your Home

A picture of a person inspecting an air handler unit for efficiency ratings

Now that you have a better understanding of air handlers and their function, it’s time to focus on selecting the right air handler unit for your home. The key factors to consider when choosing an air handler unit include efficiency, size, and compatibility with existing HVAC equipment.

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer for the most recommended air handler brand, as it largely depends on each homeowner’s individual needs. However, well-known brands such as Lennox, Rheem, and Trane are known to provide some of the most superior air handlers available.

Let’s delve deeper into these factors to help you make an informed decision when selecting the perfect air handler unit for your home.

Efficiency Ratings

Energy efficiency is a crucial consideration when selecting an air handler unit. While air handlers may not have efficiency ratings of their own, they do play a significant role in the overall efficiency of your HVAC system. For instance, the Rheem RH2T-series air handler is capable of achieving efficiencies up to 20 SEER, which could lead to substantial energy savings for your home.

The importance of energy efficiency in air handlers cannot be understated, as it directly affects your energy bills. By prioritizing energy efficiency in your air handler unit, you can enjoy lower energy bills and a reduced environmental impact, all while maintaining a comfortable and well-regulated home environment.

Sizing Your Air Handler Unit


Proper sizing of your air handler unit is essential for optimal performance and comfort. The size of an air handler unit is calculated based on the size of the area to be cooled, the number of people in the area, the number of windows, and the climate zone. Additional factors, such as speed, SEER, and warranty, should also be taken into consideration when selecting an air handler unit.

When determining the size of an air handler unit, it’s important to take into account the dimensions of your residence, the local climate, and the existing HVAC apparatus. By properly sizing your air handler, you can ensure that your HVAC system operates at peak efficiency, providing the perfect balance between comfort and energy savings.

Compatibility with HVAC Equipment

In addition to efficiency and size, compatibility with your existing HVAC equipment should also be a top priority when selecting an air handler unit. It’s imperative to ensure that your air handler unit is compatible with the relevant HVAC components for seamless operation. This means pairing the indoor air handler unit with the outdoor condenser unit, as well as ensuring that all components are designed to work optimally together.

Mismatching components from different brands can lead to reduced efficiency and even void manufacturer warranties. By choosing an air handler unit that is compatible with your existing HVAC equipment, you can guarantee the smooth and efficient operation of your entire system, providing you with the ultimate in-home comfort.

Types of Air Handler Units: Comparing Options

With a better understanding of the factors to consider when selecting an air handler unit, it’s time to explore the different types of air handlers available: single-speed, dual-speed, and variable-speed. Each type of air handler offers its own set of advantages and disadvantages, making it essential to weigh your options carefully before making a decision.

Let’s take a closer look at each type of air handler and their unique features, helping you determine the best fit for your home’s specific needs.

Single-Speed Air Handlers

Single-speed air handlers are the most economical option upfront, offering basic functionality at a lower cost. These air handlers operate in an either-or manner, meaning they are either on or off with no middle ground. While they may be the most affordable option, single-speed air handlers are also the least energy efficient.

If your primary concern is initial cost, a single-speed air handler may be the right choice for you. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the lower energy efficiency of these units can lead to higher long-term energy costs, potentially offsetting the initial savings.

Dual-Speed Air Handlers

Dual-speed air handlers offer improved comfort and energy savings compared to single-speed units. These air handlers feature two distinct operational speeds: 100% capacity and a reduced setting, typically around 60% power. This dual-speed operation allows for more even air circulation in your home, providing a more comfortable living environment.

While dual-speed air handlers do come at a higher initial cost than single-speed units, the increased energy efficiency and improved comfort they provide can make them a worthwhile investment for many homeowners.

Variable-Speed Air Handlers

Variable-speed air handlers, equipped with a variable speed motor, are ideal for energy efficiency conscious people. Investing in a high-end unit will offer immense benefits in the long run. These air handlers provide multiple power settings. They automatically adjust their performance to use the least amount of energy to maintain your home’s temperature. This precise temperature control not only leads to increased energy efficiency but also improves overall comfort, eliminating any hot or cold spots or abrupt fluctuations in temperature.

Although variable-speed air handlers may be the most expensive option initially, their decreased energy expenditure, improved comfort, and reduced frequency of starting and stopping make them an attractive choice for homeowners seeking the best in energy efficiency and performance, such as with heat pumps like an electric heat pump.

Maintaining Your Air Handler Unit

To keep your air handler unit running smoothly and efficiently, regular maintenance is essential. This involves inspecting potential leaks, rust, and deterioration of belts, as well as cleaning and replacing filters and coils. Scheduling routine maintenance for your air handler unit at least once a year is recommended to ensure its efficient and safe operation.

Let’s explore some of the crucial maintenance tasks required to keep your air handler in top condition.

Cleaning and Replacing Filters

Clean air handler filters are crucial for optimal performance and air quality. Dirty or clogged air filters can lead to reduced airflow, forcing your HVAC system to work harder and consume more energy. To maintain clean air handler filters, it’s essential to replace them regularly. It is recommended that 1” pleated filters be replaced every 30-60 days, 2” pleated filters every 3 months, 3” pleated filters every 120 days, and 4” pleated filters every 6 months.

By keeping your air handler filters clean and replacing them as needed, you can prevent a clogged air filter, unnecessary strain on your HVAC system, and maintain a comfortable and energy-efficient home environment.

Inspecting and Cleaning Coils

Another crucial aspect of air handler maintenance is inspecting and cleaning the evaporator coil. Dirty coils can reduce airflow and cause your air handler to operate at a higher capacity, leading to increased energy consumption and reduced efficiency. To maintain optimal performance, it’s important to inspect and clean your air handler coils on an annual basis.

When inspecting and cleaning air handler coils, use a soft brush or vacuum to remove any dust or debris. Additionally, wear protective gear such as gloves and a face mask to prevent any potential health risks. By keeping your air handler coils clean and well-maintained, you can ensure the efficient operation of your HVAC system and prolong the life of your air handler unit.

Regular Maintenance

Scheduling routine maintenance for your air handler unit is essential to ensure its efficient and safe operation. By performing regular maintenance, you can improve efficiency, extend the life of your unit, and decrease the risk of expensive repairs.

It is suggested to service your air handler unit at least annually, although for maximum efficiency, biannual servicing is recommended. By staying on top of your air handler maintenance, you can enjoy a comfortable and energy-efficient home environment for years to come.

Signs Your Air Handler Unit Needs Replacement

While regular maintenance can prolong the life of your air handler unit, there will come a time when replacement becomes necessary. Some warning signs that suggest it’s time to replace your air handler include weak airflow, freezing, diminished energy efficiency, and advanced age.

It’s important to consult with an HVAC professional if you notice any of these signs, as they can help you determine whether it’s time to replace your air handler unit or if a simple repair will suffice. It is generally advised that homeowners should change their HVAC system in 10 to 15 years. This is done to ensure optimal performance and efficiency.


In conclusion, understanding your air handler unit and its role in your HVAC system is crucial for maintaining a comfortable and energy-efficient home. By properly selecting, sizing, and maintaining your air handler unit, you can optimize its performance and prolong its life. Don’t overlook the importance of regular maintenance and know the signs that indicate it’s time for a replacement.

With the knowledge and insights shared in this blog post, you are now better equipped to make informed decisions about your air handler unit and ensure a cozy and comfortable living environment for you and your family.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does an air handler unit do?

An air handler circulates cool or warm air throughout a home as part of an HVAC system, connecting to the ductwork and providing cooling, heating or both depending on its application.

It also helps regulate the temperature of the air set by a thermostat or control system.

What is difference between AC and air handler?

The main difference between an air conditioner and an air handler is that an air conditioner actively cools the air by removing heat, while an air handler simply distributes the already cooled air around the home.

Air handlers usually contain coils to facilitate air circulation.

Do you need an air handler with an air conditioner?

Yes, an air handler is typically required when installing an electric heat pump system.

Is the air handler the inside unit?

Yes, the air handler is the inside unit as it sits inside of your home and contains an evaporator coil, electric heater package, and air filter.

It is responsible for circulating air throughout your home and is connected to the outdoor unit, which contains the condenser coil and compressor.

How often should I replace the air filter in my air handler unit?

Replacing your air filter in your air handler unit depends on the type of filter, but generally every 30-60 days for 1” pleated filters, every 3 months for 2” pleated filters, every 120 days for 3” pleated filters, and every 6 months for 4” pleated filters.