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Air Handlers vs. Furnaces

For this month’s topic for what’s the difference, we’re discussing what separates furnaces and air handlers. The two units can be mixed up from time to time, because with certain heating and cooling systems, they can perform similar functions. Their exteriors even look very similar to the untrained eye.

The Difference Between Air Handlers vs Furnaces

The more common and well known of the two units is a furnace. Most people grew up with a furnace or currently have a furnace in their home, but in recent years, more options have become available. One of those options is the split-system.

Heat Pumps/Split Systems

More commonly known as air conditioners or heat pumps, split-systems are comprised of two parts, the outdoor unit and the indoor unit, plus ductwork to circulate the air. Air conditioners can sometimes use furnaces as their indoor unit and the heating system in the winter, but it’s becoming more and more common to use other heating sources.

The prices of burning fuel or using electricity are much more expensive nowadays, so there has been a shift away from furnaces to systems such as a boiler, which can use electricity more efficiently. In this case, an air handler will be used for your air conditioner.

For heat pumps, all units will use an air handler. Heat pumps have all-season functionality, so there is no need for an alternative heating appliance to supplement it in the winter season. Air handlers can have heating strips within their system, but that is mainly used to assist the heat pump in extreme colds.

Now that you know the difference, you’ll want to know what you should be looking for in either.

The two main components that you should consider are efficiency and comfort level. With the latest variable-speed air handler models, you get more effective air circulation that matches your level of comfort quietly and efficiently.

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Team Harding has been Ottawa’s leading home comfort specialist since 1994. We are a family-owned and operated local business and all of our installers and technicians are fully licensed.

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