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Air Handler vs Condenser: What's the Difference?

Inside or Out?

 

HVAC systems are comprised of many complex parts to bring you comfort, keep you cool and improve your indoor air quality. We don’t expect homeowners to know everything about everything when it comes to air conditioning. But it’s always good to know something about something, which is why we have a blog.

 

So with that in mind, a common question we get in the air conditioning business is “What is the difference between an air handler and a condenser?” Before we get to that, the air handler and condensing unit are the two basic components of what’s called a split system. And what we mean by a split system is a heat pump heating and air conditioning system. Heat pumps are very common in Florida. And if you’re reading this, you likely have an air handler and a condenser as part of your AC system. So here are the differences between an air handler and a condenser.

 

Air Handler

The air handler is the component that circulates air inside your home. It’s typically found indoors, either in a closet or attic. An air handler’s basic components are an air filter, a blower and a coil. The internal blower moves air through the evaporator coil and transfers it throughout the building via ductwork. The air filter is found within the air handler. And its purpose is to remove airborne contaminants, while the indoor coil keeps the air at a specified temperature.

 

Condenser Unit

The condensing unit aka “the air conditioner” is found outside the home. A condenser’s major components are a compressor and a condenser coil. Instead of blowing conditioned air throughout the home like the air handler does, an air conditioner's main function is to remove heat from within the home. It does this by passing warm indoor air through return ducts and then over the refrigerant coil within the AC system. The condensing unit’s job is basically to transfer heat from the air outside of the building  by compressing refrigerant and pumping it through its condenser coils.

 

Should I Replace Both?

Unfortunately, yes, you should replace your air handler and condenser at the same time if one or the other fails. When you purchase a new HVAC system, the efficiency ratings are based on matched equipment. So for example, if you bought a condenser with a 17 SEER rating for its energy efficiency, you won’t get the expected performance without the matching air handler. While it may sound unnecessary to have to replace both if one or the other still works, the fact is matched systems perform better. Air handlers and condensers are built to work in tandem with matching units for maximum efficiency and optimum performance.

 

seasonal energy efficiency ratio

 

Better as a Team

Can you replace the outdoor condenser unit without replacing the air handler? Yes, you can. But by doing so, you put the dependability of both at risk and could end up paying more in the long run. Advances in HVAC technology have made air conditioning systems work better than ever. So replacing both your indoor and outdoor units ensures that both are on par with the same level of efficiency. That means a new condenser with a non-matching or outdated air handler will result in poor efficiency and cost more in energy bills. And if you replace only the condenser unit and the air handler fails down the line, you’ll be paying double anyway in installation costs.

 

Additionally, when you purchase new HVAC equipment, you get a new manufacturer’s warranty and service guarantee with the installation. So if you only replace your condenser unit, your air handler's warranty may expire before it. And some manufacturers may not extend full warranty coverage to equipment that doesn't match.

 

They Belong Together

Simply put, the air handler and the condenser are a team. And they work better together if they were built for each other. So if you're going to replace one, replace the other as well. It will save you money in the long run and you will avoid some major headaches. New HVAC systems are more efficient and affordable than ever before. Knowing what the best equipment to buy for your needs is the biggest challenge.

 

 

It can be overwhelming to differentiate each component of an AC system; know what it does; and why it's important. Which is why we're here to help! Whether you're interested in buying a new AC system or just want to ask questions about your existing system,  call us at 813-609-5015 anytime!

 

What's More Important than the Air You Breathe?

 

We’ve covered indoor air quality in the past. But we also understand that not everybody reads everything we post. So every once in a while we’ll revisit a subject that is of the highest importance to what we do. And indoor air quality is of great importance not only to the HVAC business, but to homeowners as well. After all, you can’t live without air and indoor air quality is well … a pretty big deal!

 

Air conditioning is as much about comfort as it is about health. And indoor air quality is directly associated with your need to breathe, so here are some important things to know about indoor air quality.

 

Common contributors to poor indoor air quality:

Pet dander
Pollen
Bacteria
Airborne viruses
Carbon Monoxide
Mold
Mildew
Household Chemicals
Radon

 

Outdoor air vs Indoor air

People typically spend more time indoors than outdoors. From your home to your job, you likely breathe more indoor air than outdoor air on a daily basis. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, human exposure to air pollutants may be a lot higher than outdoor levels. In Florida, mold is a particularly significant contributor to poor indoor air quality due to high humidity.

 

So while people might struggle to breathe due to high levels of pollen and pollution outdoors, they might not fare better indoors if the air quality is bad. Long-term exposure to mold, dust and other indoor air pollutants leads to serious respiratory problems down the line. Since studies have shown that indoor air quality can be worse than outdoors, evolving HVAC technologies are bringing ways to move outdoor air in to minimize issues with indoor air quality.

 

Ventilation

The “V” in HVAC stands for Ventilation. And natural ventilation, which describes air movement through open windows and doors, can improve indoor air quality. One way of lowering indoor air pollutants in your home is to increase the amount of outdoor air intake. And natural ventilation can be beneficial at times when humidity levels are lower in Florida. So if the humidity is high, it’s best not to open your windows for long periods of time because it could lead to mold growth in places like closets and cabinets where there’s not much ventilation.

 

Poor ventilation can also ruin indoor air quality because proper air circulation reduces moisture in the air. So if your home feels stuffy or you see condensation around the house, its ventilation is probably poor. Scheduling AC maintenance at least once a year can help reduce moisture indoors and allow an AC professional to identify ventilation issues in your home.

 

Ductwork

Modern homes are built with energy efficiency in mind.  And duct systems are often built tighter to save energy, which could cause ventilation concerns. Dirty or leaky ductwork can negatively impact your indoor air quality. So it's important to have your ductwork inspected and cleaned at least once every few years. Super Heat & Air offers top-notch duct cleaning service, and we can easily identify and repair any ductwork issues to purify your air and greatly reduce the amount of pollutants that can make their way into your home.

 

Change Your Air Filters

We’ve mentioned it over and over again, and we’ll mention it again: change your air filters! Doing so at least every 3 months significantly helps improve indoor air quality. Air filters keep out dust, pollen and other airborne pollutants that affect your health. And a dirty air filter reduces airflow, which increases energy consumption and could damage your AC system. Always check your air conditioning system’s air filters and replace them when they’re clogged or dirty. We advise changing them every 90 days if you don’t have pets and every 60 days if you do. And if you have more than one furry friend or suffer from allergies, replace your air filter every 30 days.

 

 

Get a High Efficiency AC system

Keeping your indoor air quality clean requires constant airflow moving through your air conditioning system. And higher efficiency AC systems run at lower power for longer periods of time, which keeps the air flowing constantly. This not only improves your indoor air quality, but saves you money by being more energy efficient. If you’re not ready to buy a new AC system, you can have a high efficiency air filtration system installed in your home. It can work with your existing HVAC system to deliver cleaner air to your home.

 

Keep Humidity Low

Humidity makes the air feel hotter than it actually is. In Florida we are constantly running our AC systems because it feels hot during times of high humidity. Your central air conditioning system removes moist, humid air from your home. As we mentioned before, high humidity can cause mold growth, which leads to greater health problems. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) recommends keeping humidity levels inside your home somewhere between 30-60%.

 

Additional tips for improving indoor air quality

Clean and vacuum your home at least once a week
Monitor pest control to keep your home free of bugs
Wash dust-collecting linens such as bedding, curtains and stuffed toys regularly
Use eco-friendly cleaning supplies instead of chemical-based household cleaners
Ensure proper ventilation for all gas appliances
Don’t smoke tobacco products indoors
Keep your windows closed during times of high humidity and pollen
Use ventilation fans in bathrooms, kitchens, attics and basements

 

Your AC System is Your Friend

That’s right, your air conditioning system is your best friend when it comes indoor air quality. As we mentioned, air conditioning is more than just about comfort. Your AC system provides cool air, but it helps control indoor air quality as well. When maintained properly, it provides clean air and does wonders for your health! This is especially true for high efficiency AC systems, which are designed with evolving technologies to provide cleaner indoor air.

 

rheem air conditioner special

 

Ready to improve your indoor air quality? Call Super Heat & Air at 813-609-5015 anytime and schedule an appointment!

 

Spring it On!

 

Spring in Florida has arrived and the weather is starting to warm up. And while Spring is not the season most associated with hot temperatures (that would be summer), spring in Florida can get hot. Very hot! And with hotter temperatures comes higher energy bills. So with that in mind, here are some spring energy savings tips to save you money:

 

Get AC maintenance

It needs to be done. Air conditioners experience wear-and-tear like any other machine. And they require maintenance to keep them running efficiently and prolong their life. Something as simple as replacing your air filter can make a world of difference. It’s a “do it yourself” kind of task, but it’s not enough to keep your AC system operating at its peak. You should hire us to perform routine maintenance at least twice a year. Air conditioner maintenance ensures your system runs as efficiently as possible all year long. And air conditioning maintenance is inexpensive, so don't be cheap! By the way, we offer a very affordable $29.95 AC maintenance special for first-time customers, so call us at 813-609-5015 to schedule yours.

 

air conditioner maintenance special

 

Program your thermostat

Install a programmable or smart thermostat. Programmable or smart thermostats allow you to customize and control temperature settings when you're not at home. And even on warm spring days, you can set a programmable thermostat at slightly higher temperature settings when you're away. You can save money on electricity by not keeping your thermostat at lower temperatures when nobody’s home. Programmable thermostats have evolved into much more than the traditional device you see mounted on the wall. Modern thermostats, also known as smart thermostats, often come with apps you can control remotely from your smartphone, tablet or other mobile device.

 

Seal air ducts

Get your ductwork inspected. When scheduling AC maintenance, ask for a ductwork inspection. Worn out or broken ductwork can cause loss of airflow from your AC system. And airflow loss, also known as loss of cooling efficiency, can raise your electric bills by consuming more energy. Let Super Heat & Air inspect your ductwork. We’ll check for leaks and identify any problems related to loss of cooling efficiency. And we also offer $100 off our entire home duct cleaning service, which helps keep your airflow steady and your indoor air quality clean!

 

duct cleaning special tampa florida

 

Use your ceiling fans

Become a fan of your fan! A common cooling myth is that ceiling fans are designed to cool a room. But ceiling fans are designed to cool the human body, not a room. Ceiling fans don’t produce cool air. They only circulate air around it. So if the air is cool enough inside, use your fans to circulate it rather than turning the AC on. And if you still feel like you need to turn your air conditioner on, using your ceiling fans allows you to raise the temperature a few degrees higher while still keeping you comfortable. Ceiling fans consume less energy than your air conditioning system, which could save you money! But don’t forget that ceiling fans don't cool a room, so turn them off when you leave your house to save energy.

 

Crack open some windows

If it's breezy outside, why not open some windows? Springtime in Florida can get just as hot as summer. But spring is also known for nice outdoor breezes, even here in the Sunshine State. Yes, we Floridians are used to running our air conditioners all day long. But why not open up windows and enjoy some natural air instead? Cooling your home with Mother Nature’s breeze can save you money by allowing you to give your air conditioner a break. Turn off your AC system on cooler spring nights and open your windows while you sleep. And then close the windows and blinds in the morning to trap any leftover cool air inside.

 

Check for drafty areas

Do your own inspection. Worn out windows can increase your energy bills by letting air escape your home. And if the weather stripping on your windows and doors is worn out, it’s very easy to get it replaced to keep air trapped inside. Drafty areas in attics, basements and unused rooms can also increase in your energy bills. Check the windows, doors and walls around your home for cracks, openings and worn-out weather stripping. And if your curtains or blinds are worn out and don't block sunlight properly, consider buying some new ones.

 

Welcome the sunlight

Use natural light. Blocking sunlight with new drapes or blinds is awesome, but welcoming sunlight into your home can also save you money. The key is to avoid direct sunlight, but opening your drapes during the day can save electricity through natural lighting. If a window faces the sun directly, it might heat up up your home. But if you can let natural light through other windows in on a pleasant spring day, you can turn the lights off for a while to save some money.

 

 

Use energy efficient appliances

Find the labels. If natural lighting is not your thing, try getting an energy efficient lighting system. Traditional incandescent lighting generates a lot of heat and consumes a lot of electricity. So when purchasing lighting or appliances for your home, look for the ENERGY STAR® label. The ENERGY STAR label can be found in everything from lighting equipment to electronic devices and even air conditioners, so keep an eye out for it.

 

Don’t forget that leaving appliances and electronics that generate heat such as lamps, computers and even television sets can raise your energy bills. So make sure not to place any heat-generating appliances or electronics near the thermostat, which could throw it off. This could cause your thermostat not to read temperatures correctly and force your air conditioning system to work harder to cool your home.

 

Enjoy some outdoor grilling

Cook outside and enjoy the weather. The old expression “if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen” works well here. That’s because outdoor grilling keeps heat from your oven or stove out out of your home. By not using your oven or stove, you can keep your kitchen and house from getting too hot. So take advantage of the springtime weather, fire up your grill, have a cookout and enjoy the springtime breeze. You can use the money you save on electricity to buy more food!

 

Ready for some real spring energy savings? Ask us how we can get you a brand new energy efficient AC system at no upfront costs through the Florida PACE program. Call us anytime, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

 

Is it worth investing in a high efficiency air conditioner? The answer is yes, of course. But you should always be informed before making large purchase decisions.

 

Winter is almost over and as spring approaches, Florida will start feeling the heat. And if you live in the Sunshine State, you know how high energy bills get when you start working your air conditioning system harder.

Energy efficiency pretty much sells itself. However, people who have an air conditioner that works may be reluctant to invest in a brand new high efficiency system. We’re going to tell you why it’s worth it.

 

Energy Savings

Keeping your home cool during hot Florida weather can be expensive. But you already know that because you live in Florida, right? And if you read our blog, you know by now that energy standards have changed. This is especially true for HVAC manufacturing. Old air conditioning systems were notorious energy suckers, and times have changed.

Think about Hummers. As popular as these vehicles once were because they were stylish, spacious and imposing, people stopped buying them because they consumed too much gasoline. And then they were discontinued in 2010 and became obsolete. The same could be said for any AC system manufactured more than a decade ago. While they may still work, they’re obsolete when it comes to energy efficiency standards.

We don’t really need to sell you on energy efficiency. But if you’re wondering whether or not it’s worth investing in a high efficiency air conditioner, here are some questions to consider:

 

How fast can I get a return on investment?

This question doesn’t have a solid answer. However, when running a high efficiency air conditioner, you’ll notice a decrease in your energy bills over time. And any money you save on your energy bills is a return on investment, so you will see the value as time goes on.

If patience is not a virtue you possess, you may be inclined to buy a cheaper AC system. And that’s fine, but you'll also take a financial hit over time in higher energy bills. Or you may be reluctant to buy a brand new energy saving AC system because you just can’t afford it right now (we’ll get to that later). We get it. Or you just don’t see the benefits of long-term savings, and that’s OK. We're not here to pressure you into anything.

If you really need an answer about how fast you’ll get a return on investment, there are statistics out there. However, every AC system is different. Cooling needs also vary and we don't want to provide inaccurate information about how fast you could get your money back. What we do know is that modern air conditioners have proven to be more efficient than older AC systems. And the value of buying one will prove worth the investment over time.

 

new air conditioner discount Tampa

 

Besides energy savings, why else should I invest in a high efficiency air conditioner?

Excellent question, especially for those who don’t care about saving money. The benefits of a high efficiency air conditioner go beyond energy savings. Today’s AC systems are designed to not just lower energy bills, but to improve indoor air quality too!

Before we get to that, we’d be remiss not to mention that if you have an older AC system, you may have to replace it anyway. That’s because older AC systems run on R22 refrigerant. Unfortunately, R22 (freon) is not considered environmentally friendly. And the process of phasing it out has already begun. The US Environmental Protection Agency is enforcing the complete elimination of R22 refrigerant by 2020. So if you have an AC system that runs on R22, you’re going to end up replacing it anyway.

Most newer AC systems run on a more eco-friendly refrigerant called R410A. This type of refrigerant has become the new standard. So if you have an AC system that runs on R22, you’ll no longer be able to replace or replenish the refrigerant in a couple of years. You might be able to run your system, but if it has a freon leak, no AC technician will touch it. That's because there will be no R22 refrigerant left to replace it with. And if by some miracle you find some available, it will cost you a fortune to obtain it once it’s been phased out.

 

What about indoor air quality?

Now that we got the refrigerant thing out of the way, let’s talk about indoor air quality. As mentioned before, high efficiency air conditioners do more than save you money. Modern AC systems better control the cleanliness of the air. They also do a better job of controlling humidity, temperature and odor. These things combined are known as indoor air quality. And poor indoor air quality can negatively affect your health and your comfort.

With evolving HVAC technologies come more advanced air filters. Today’s air filters are made to better clean the air you breathe. They have what’s called a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value or MERV rating. An air filter’s MERV rating measures the overall effectiveness of air filters. So the higher the MERV rating, the better the filtration. Newer AC systems are designed to operate with higher MERV air filters, which provide better protection against dust and other airborne contaminants. Air filters have to be changed out regularly, of course. But higher efficiency air filters last longer and do more to protect your AC system from losing airflow.

 

What’s this SEER thing?

If you've done research about high efficiency air conditioners, you've probably come across other acronyms besides MERV. One of those acronyms is SEER, or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. Basically the higher the SEER, the more efficient the AC system. Older AC systems may come with SEER ratings of 12 or less. And a rating that low is considered extremely inefficient by today’s energy standards.

Modern AC systems can run at lower power for longer periods of time and keep the air moving through your home. And good airflow means good indoor air. So the higher the SEER, the better the indoor air quality.

Opinions vary on what a good SEER rating is. But the rule of thumb we use (and this may change as HVAC technology evolves) is that if the SEER on an AC system is lower than 13, it’s not energy efficient. SEER ratings today can go as high as 25. And while the SEER rating is not the definitive way to determine which AC systems are the most efficient, it’s a great indicator for knowing if you’re getting your money’s worth!

 

hvac acronyms

 

What other factors should I consider?

Energy efficiency labels like ENERGY STAR® are a good way to spot a high efficiency air conditioner. And another acronym you should be aware of is EER, or Energy Efficiency Ratio. The EER (not to be confused with SEER) measures cooling capacity vs energy consumption. Obviously like the SEER, the higher the EER, the more efficient the air conditioner. Knowing all these identifiers is a good way to make informed decisions on buying a high efficiency air conditioner.

 

About PACE

Other factors to consider include customer reviews; longer operating life; extended warranties; added value to your home; and available financing options. Speaking of financing options, have you heard of the Florida Property Assessed Clean Energy or PACE program? We offer PACE program financing assistance to qualified Florida property owners. That includes financing for high efficiency air conditioners at no upfront costs to those who qualify!

Now that we got our PACE pitch out of the way, we’ll leave you with this: most experts agree that if your AC system is a decade of age or older, it's time to replace it. Reduced cooling capacity, excess noise, increasing energy bills, worn out parts and other age factors should influence your decision on buying a new AC system. And if you care about the environment, know that high efficiency air conditioners are also designed with eco-friendliness in mind! So not only would you be getting a return on investment, but you would be doing your part to protect the environment too!

 

Still not sure if you should invest in a high efficiency air conditioner? Call us at 813-609-5015! We'll tell you about our financing options and about how you may qualify for Florida PACE program financing.

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