What Is Your Air Conditioner's Air Handler – And How Can Problems There Impact Your Cooling System?

Most central air conditioning systems are what is known as a split system due to the fact that there's one part of the unit outside your home and one part of the unit inside the home. The interior portion of the system is called the air handler. The air handler might stand as a solo unit or could come packaged inside your furnace to save space. The air handler contains some vital parts to the cooling process, and problems with the parts can leave you with an inefficient or nonfunctional system.

What are some of the problems that can occur within the air handler, how can those problems hurt your system, and how can a residential air conditioning repair tech help solve the problems?

Problem: Frozen Evaporator Coils

Gas refrigerant starts and is turned into a liquid within the condensing unit before moving inside via refrigerant lines. The liquid refrigerant then enters the evaporator coils, which are designed to change the liquid refrigerant back into the gas. This phase change makes it possible for the refrigerant to keep moving through the system but, more importantly, causes the coils to become cold, which is what provides the cooling source for your circulating air.

Evaporator coils are meant to get cold but not to freeze. The blower fan circulating the warm air over the coils to cool that air normally helps prevent freezes from happening. But problems in the level of refrigerant or dirt buildup on the surface of the coils can allow the coils to freeze, which will thwart the phase change process and potentially create a dangerous backwash of liquid refrigerant towards the condensing unit.

You can clean the coils yourself with a foaming coil cleanser from the hardware store. But you will want to have an air conditioning service technician check your levels of refrigerant and refill if necessary.

Problem: Overflowing Condensate Tray

The chilling of the evaporator coils naturally produces condensate that drips into a pan at the bottom of the unit and then goes down a drainpipe thanks to either gravity or a motorized condensate pump. If you start to notice water on the floor around your air handler, you likely have an overflowing condensate tray.

The tray can overflow due to a blockage in the drainpipe, which means that the condensate will keep building up without any way to get out. If you have a gravity drain system that's overflowing, this is likely the problem. If you have a condensate pump system, the problem could either be a clogged drain or a broken pump. Call in a plumber or HVAC tech to check the pipe or replace the condensate pump.

For more information, contact Krewson-Sweeney Oil Inc or a similar company.