Furnace Vs Air Handler: Which Is Right For Your Home?

Air Handler Vs Furnace Let's End The Debate FameuxHome
Air Handler Vs Furnace Let's End The Debate FameuxHome from fameuxhome.com


When it comes to heating and cooling your home, there are a few options to choose from. Two popular choices are furnaces and air handlers. While both play a crucial role in maintaining a comfortable indoor environment, they differ in terms of functionality and usage. In this article, we will explore the differences between a furnace and an air handler to help you make an informed decision for your home.

What is a Furnace?

A furnace is a heating system that uses fuel or electricity to generate heat. It is typically located in a basement or utility room and is connected to a network of ducts that distribute the heated air throughout your home. Furnaces are commonly powered by natural gas, propane, or electricity. They work by heating the air and then circulating it through the ducts using a blower motor.

What is an Air Handler?

An air handler, on the other hand, is a part of a central air conditioning system that helps in distributing conditioned air throughout your home. It is usually located in a utility closet or attic and is connected to the ductwork. Unlike a furnace, an air handler does not generate heat. Instead, it circulates the conditioned air produced by the air conditioning unit or heat pump.

Heating Capabilities

One of the primary differences between a furnace and an air handler is their heating capabilities. A furnace can provide heat by burning fuel or using electricity, making it a popular choice for homes in colder climates. An air handler, however, relies on a separate heating source like a heat pump or electric coils to provide warmth.

Energy Efficiency

When it comes to energy efficiency, both furnaces and air handlers have their advantages. Furnaces have become more energy-efficient over the years, with high-efficiency models boasting an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating of 90% or higher. On the other hand, air handlers can be paired with energy-efficient heat pumps, resulting in significant energy savings.


Installing a furnace or an air handler requires professional expertise. However, the installation process may vary. Furnaces are typically larger and require a dedicated space, while air handlers are often more compact and can be installed in tight spaces like closets or attics.


When it comes to cost, furnaces are generally more expensive upfront compared to air handlers. The cost of a furnace installation includes the unit itself, ductwork, and any necessary venting. In contrast, air handlers are typically less expensive, especially when paired with an existing air conditioning system.


Both furnaces and air handlers require regular maintenance to ensure optimal performance. Furnaces need periodic filter changes, cleaning of burners, and inspection of the heat exchanger. Air handlers, on the other hand, require filter replacements and occasional coil cleaning to maintain efficiency.

Noise Level

Noise can be a concern, especially if your heating system is located near living spaces. Furnaces tend to produce more noise due to the combustion process and the blower motor. Air handlers, on the other hand, are typically quieter as they do not involve combustion.


Choosing between a furnace and an air handler depends on various factors, including your climate, energy efficiency goals, and budget. If you live in a colder climate, a furnace might be the better option for you. However, if you already have an air conditioning system in place, complementing it with an air handler can be a cost-effective choice. Consulting with a professional HVAC technician can help you make the right decision based on your specific needs.