The air handler is one of the most essential parts of your heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system as a homeowner, and it’s one of the most important components.

As a consequence, selecting the appropriate air handler for your home is critical, and variable speed air handlers are increasingly popular.

What Is a Variable Speed Air Handler and How Does It Work?

The air handler’s variable speed and the various fan speeds it offers are two separate features.

It allows you to select a speed that is ideal for your cooling requirements.

The air handler circulates conditioned air slowly and steadily instead of shooting ice-cold blasts throughout the house.

This is more efficient and will help to reduce your energy bills.

Variable Speed Air Handler Pros And Cons

There are several advantages and disadvantages of variable speed air handlers that you should be aware of before making a purchase.

Variable-speed air handler pros

Here are some of the advantages of variable speed air handlers:

  • They are more energy efficient than traditional air handlers.
  • They are quieter than traditional air handlers.
  • They can help to extend the life of your HVAC system.
  • Improve Indoor Comfort.
  • Enhance Air Quality.
  • Reduce Cooling Expenses.
  • Better Zoning.

They are more energy efficient than traditional air handlers.

Since variable speed air handlers offer a range of speeds, they can be set to run at a lower speed most of the time.

This is more energy efficient than having the air handler running at full blast all the time.

They are quieter than traditional air handlers.

Variable speed air handlers also tend to be much quieter than traditional air handlers.

This is because they don’t have to cycle on and off as often, so there is less noise.

They can help to extend the life of your HVAC system.

Because variable speed air handlers are more energy efficient, they put less strain on your HVAC system.

This can help to extend the life of your system.

Improve Indoor Comfort

Variable speed air handlers can improve indoor comfort by circulating air more slowly and steadily.

This can help to even out temperature fluctuations and make your home more comfortable.

Enhance Air Quality

Another advantage of variable speed air handlers is that they can help to enhance air quality.

This is because they circulate air more slowly, which allows for better filtration and fewer airborne contaminants.

Reduce Cooling Expenses

One of the main advantages of variable speed air handlers is that they can help to reduce cooling expenses.

This is because they are more energy efficient, so you’ll save money on your energy bills.

Better Zoning

Variable speed air handlers can also be used for better zoning.

This means that you can set different speeds for different areas of your home, so you can cool or heat specific areas as needed.

Variable-speed air handler cons

Here are some of the disadvantages of variable speed air handlers:

  • They cost more than traditional air handlers.
  • The installation can be more complex and expensive.
  • They require regular maintenance.
  • Higher Repair Costs.

They cost more than traditional air handlers

variable speed air handlers usually cost more than traditional air handlers.

This is because they are more energy efficient and offer a range of features.

The installation can be more complex and expensive

Although variable speed air handlers are more energy efficient, the installation can be more complex and expensive.

This is because they require special wiring and controls.

They require regular maintenance

Another disadvantage of variable speed air handlers is that they require regular maintenance.

This is because they have more parts than traditional air handlers, so there is more that can go wrong.

Higher Repair Costs

Since variable speed air handlers have more parts, they usually have higher repair costs than traditional air handlers.

However, this cost is offset by the fact that they are more energy efficient and have a longer lifespan.

Variable Speed Air Handler Price

A variable speed air handler costs between $1,000 and $3,500, while a single-speed air handler may cost as little as $600 to install.

Costs: When comparing single-speed versus variable-speed air handlers, be sure you get a good deal because prices can vary significantly.

Size: The size of your unit is also important. A rule of thumb is that you need 1 ton (12,000 BTUs per hour) of cooling capacity for every 400 to 600 square feet of living space.

Energy Efficiency: The most energy-efficient models on the market have Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratios (SEER) of 19 or higher.

Features: Some models come with features like a built-in humidifier, which can be beneficial if you live in a dry climate.

Noise Level: If noise is a concern, look for a model that has a sound rating of 7.5 bels or lower.

Installation: Generally speaking, air handlers are easier to install than central air conditioners.

Type of System: If you have a forced-air heating system, you will need an air handler. If you have a radiant heating system, you won’t need an air handler.

Is a Variable Speed Air Handler Right For You?

Now that you know the pros and cons of variable speed air handlers, you can decide if this type of unit is right for your home.

If you’re looking for an energy-efficient model with a range of features, a variable speed air handler may be the best option.

However, if you’re on a budget, a single-speed air handler may be a better choice.

Whatever you decide, be sure to compare models and prices to get the best deal on an air handler that meets your needs.

*Disclaimer: The information in this article is for general information purposes only. It is not intended to replace professional advice from a qualified HVAC contractor.

FAQs

Is variable speed air handler worth it?

Variable-speed air conditioners are usually more cost-effective than fixed-speed ones. Assume you spend $3,000 extra on a variable-speed AC device than on a single-stage air conditioner. The variable-speed AC unit may require 15% less energy to run than the single-stage unit, resulting in a 15% drop in your energy bills. That saves you $450 over the course of a year, which means the variable-speed unit will have paid for itself in about seven years. In many cases, it will take even less time to break even because variable-speed units often have higher SEER ratings than single-stage units.

What is the purpose of variable speed fan?

Variable speed blower motors, unlike conventional fan motors, are fitted with variable speeds to control the flow of heated or cooled air across your home. Greater airflow management improves the balance of temperature and humidity.

Does a variable speed air handler run all the time?

Although a variable speed air handler is generally operating at a low speed, it does so more often. Because your system does not have to be turned on and off all the time, and because it spends less time wasting energy at full output, this saves energy.

Is a ductless mini split variable speed?

Ductless mini splits are not variable speed. Instead, they operate at different speeds to cool or heat your home as needed.

How do I know if my air handler is single or variable speed?

The easiest way to tell if your air handler is single or variable speed is by looking at the model number. If the model number includes a “V,” “VS,” or “VSD,” it is a variable speed air handler. Otherwise, it is a single speed air handler.
You can also look at the nameplate on the motor. If it says “Permanent Split Capacitor” (PSC), it is a single speed air handler. If it says “Variable Speed Drive” (VSD), it is a variable speed air handler.
Another way to tell is by looking at the capacitor. A single speed air handler will have a round capacitor, while a variable speed air handler will have a rectangular capacitor.

Will a blower motor work on both single and variable speed air handler?

No, a blower motor will not work on both single and variable speed air handlers. The motors are different sizes and shapes, so they are not interchangeable.

Do all brands of air handlers have a variable speed option?

Most major brands of air handlers offer a variable speed option. However, there are a few brands that do not offer a variable speed option.

Is the attic a good place for an air handler?

No, the attic is not a good place for an air handler. The heat and humidity in the attic can damage the air handler and reduce its lifespan. There is also not enough space in the attic for the air handler to operate properly.

What is the difference between an air handler and a blower motor?

An air handler contains the blower motor and other components of the HVAC system, while a blower motor is just the component that moves air through the system.
Is a two stage air handler the same as a variable speed air handler?
No, a two stage air handler is not the same as a variable speed air handler. A two stage air handler has two speeds, one 100% and the other at 60% of capacity, while a variable speed air handler has more multiple speeds.

About the Author

Passionate about helping households transition to sustainable energy with helpful information and resources.

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