What Is a Commercial Air Handler?

What Is a Commercial Air Handler?

A commercial air handler is like the respiratory system of your building, breathing in fresh air from outside and exhaling the used and stagnant air. It is also what makes sure that the hot air and cold air produced by the furnace/heat pump and air conditioner reach the parts of your building that need them – like offices and bathrooms.

There is some confusion about air handlers though, which is understandable since air handlers and furnace units can look alike to the untrained eye. Let’s take a look at a few of the basics.

What Is the Difference Between an Air Handler and an Air Conditioner?

When you inhale, you move air into your lungs where your body can extract oxygen from it. When you exhale, you move that air out. Commercial air handlers are very much the lungs of their buildings – moving air around and managing airflow throughout the structure. They constantly exchange interior air for air from outside the building… keeping the interior atmosphere fresh and maintaining an acceptable level of air quality.

One thing air handlers don’t do is heat or cool the air. Air handling units just move it around. Air conditioners and their counterparts – heat pumps and furnaces – are the machinery that actually create the cold or hot air respectively.

How Do Commercial Air Handlers Work?

An air handling unit brings in outside air, routing it through the furnace or AC to re-condition the air. Ultimately supplying it as fresh air to the rest of the building through a system of ducts. These same ducts return the air to the air handling unit, where it is exchanged for the air that has just cycled through.

This is how buildings maintain their fresh air, rather than having it become still and stagnant. A more in-depth explanation of this process can be found courtesy of The Engineering Mindset’s video on the subject. If that doesn’t do the trick, or if video is not your cup of tea, then there is an associated text version here.

Do Air Handlers Use Refrigerant?

Just like a furnace; air handlers contain a blower (fan), controls, and an evaporator coil that conditions and recirculates the air in your home. The air handler works with the outdoor unit (a condenser or heat pump) in a typical split system by using refrigerant lines that connect the two systems.

What Is the Life Expectancy of an Air Handler?

On average a commercial air handler has a life expectancy of about 10-20 years. Of course, this is assuming regular maintenance and servicing.

If you see the condensate pan leaking, it’s a warning sign. Air conditioners work hard in the heat of summer (creating a lot of condensation) which accumulates in the pan below the air handler. This can lead to algae or mold buildup in the lines… clogging them if regular maintenance isn’t performed. Energy Link has a great list of factors that can affect air handler/HVAC lifespan.

Henick-Lane Can Handle All of Your Commercial HVAC Needs

As experts in commercial HVAC needs and requirements for more than five decades, our team can provide affordable and practical solutions for all types of commercial buildings and high rises. We can custom design an HVAC solution that will keep your tenants comfortable and satisfied. If your building requires service or an upgrade, contact Henick-Lane today.