An air handler, often abbreviated AHU (air handling unit), makes up the heart and veins of your HVAC system.
In a basic system, your air handler will use air from indoors, outdoors, or a combination, and use some type of heating or cooling element (usually a coil) to create temperature-controlled air.
Once the air is the proper temperature, it will pass through filters to clear out any dust, particles, and allergens, and from there is sent out to your ductwork and funneled to separate rooms. The entire process is powered by a fan or blower.
Air handlers can range from simple to complex, and control temperature, humidity, air pressure, and air cleanliness. Without the circulation provided by your AHU, your HVAC system would be nearly useless.
Why Do I Need an Air Handler?
Regardless of where you live there will be seasonal temperature fluctuations, but with the help of a solid air handler, you’ll be able to handle all of your temperature and humidity needs.
In addition to comfort, your health can be affected by your environment, and an air handler with proper filtration gives you control over the air that surrounds you every day.
The air handler is responsible for conditioning and distributing air throughout your building. Whenever your space needs to be cooled, heated, dehumidified, or filtered, your air is coming directly through your AHU.
What Does an AHU Look Like?
The air handler component of your HVAC system is the metal box located indoors that looks like, and is often confused for a furnace. This box contains the fan, filters, and other components that condition and move your air.
Ventilation is an essential function of your AHU, and for that reason it is important to keep your air ducts clean and well maintained to protect the integrity of your air.
Once the air is cleaned and either heated or cooled, it is pushed through the ducts and vents connected to your air handling unit to supply rooms with quality, conditioned air.
Air handling units are customizable in order to cater to different sized buildings in a variety of warm, cool, wet, or dry climates. The basic components of an air handler include:
- Heating or Cooling Element – Depending on whether you desire cool or hot air, this part of your air handler is what controls the temperature of your airflow—it often takes the form of a coil.
- Heat Recovery Device – These components are used to increase the efficiency of your system by recovering any heat energy that may be lost while your AHU works.
- Fan or Blower – The main feature of any AHU, this mechanism provides the force responsible for moving air throughout the building. Fans can run at single or variable speeds to suit specific needs, and larger commercial units can contain multiple blowers if necessary.
- Air Filters – Air passes through filters to get rid of any dust, contaminants, and allergens so that upon arrival to the building it is clean and fresh.
- Mixing Chambers – This is where the outside air and return air come together to create air at the optimal temperature.
- Dampers – These are valves that control the amount of outside air that enters the mixing chamber.
- Humidity control (optional) – While not a necessary component, AHUs in colder climates often have humidifiers to add humidity to dry, heated air. Buildings in more humid climates may contain dehumidifiers to maintain a comfortable atmosphere.
- Vibration and Sound Attenuators – Noise and vibration reduction results in a more efficient system and provides longevity to the parts of the machine. If you hear excessive or strange noises coming from your HVAC system, it can be signal that something is wrong.
- Thermostat – Turning your unit on, off, and controlling the temperature and strength of your air flow will be done through a thermostat. These range in complexity and level of control.
Types of Air Handlers and How to Choose What’s Best for You
There are several types of air handlers, varying in size, capacity, and customizability. All types should comply with ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers) standards to protect the system and the people it serves.
Here are a few of the most popular options available:
- Terminal/Fan Coil/Blower Coil Unit – These are the smallest of all AHUs. They usually serve just one temperature zone and are not very complex—often consisting of just a fan and a heat transfer coil. This type of AHU should be used for smaller homes.
- Packaged AHUs – These are commonly found on rooftops (RTU—rooftop units) and they include fans, filters, coils, and dampers in a single cabinet. These units are slightly larger and can handle a greater capacity than fan coil units. They are commonly used in small commercial buildings and complexes.
- Modular AHUs – These units allow the user to select each component part separately, effectively creating a customized unit to meet specific needs. They usually serve commercial buildings, but with different customization techniques, they can work for anyone.
- Custom AHUs – This type of unit is 100% customizable, allowing the slightest adjustments and configurations. It is most often used in industrial settings that require very precise specifications.
As you can see, air handlers are fairly versatile and many options are available, meaning the most important decision you’ll make when choosing an air handler is selecting the right size.
Air handling units become inefficient if they are either too large or too small, so to get assistance in choosing the proper sized AHU for you, just give us a call at (844) 769-5995, or simply fill out the form on the right to get your free estimate today!
Get a Free Estimate on an AHU Install Today!
It’s easy to forget that the air we breathe can have an impact on our health, but with proper filters and regular maintenance, your air handler will take care of your air quality so you can stop worrying.
If you’re ready to make the upgrade to an AHU, Pro HVAC Service can connect you with local service providers who will set you up with the ideal air handler for your needs and budget.
To get your free estimate on any of our residential HVAC services, simply fill out the form to your right, or just give us a call today at (844) 769-5995. Within minutes of placing your request, you can expect to hear back from our qualified HVAC technicians.