mobile navigation
close buttonClose Menu
close buttonClose Menu
pacific heating cooling


(253) 292-3995
close buttonClose Menu


What is a Variable Speed Air Handler and Why You Might Want One

by vscontent on September 30, 2016

what is a variable speed air handler and why it's importantAlthough HVAC systems haven’t seem to have changed much over the years, you might be surprised to find out about all of the technological improvements that have been made.

These enhancements go hand-in-hand with new standards and requirements made by the U.S. Department of Energy.

One of the biggest technological improvements that have led to far more efficiency HVAC systems is variable speed air handlers for split-system or heat pump air handlers and blowers.

What is a Variable Speed Air Handler?

As you may have guessed, variable speed air handlers adjust the speed of the air handler depending on the demands of your heating and cooling system.

Split-system air conditioning systems or heat pumps (which can both heat and cool the home) have two main parts to them—an indoor system and an outdoor system. The indoor unit is also known as an air handler and consists of a motorized blower to circulate conditioned air throughout your home.

The way the air handler works is that it blows air over your evaporator coils, which takes away heat and humidity from the inside air.

If you don’t have variable-speed technology for your air handler, that means that your blower always operates at the same speed, no matter what the conditions are.

This could lead to what the HVAC industry calls short-cycling, which can be very harmful to your HVAC unit. There are many reasons why your air conditioner might be short cycling, including having an improperly installed system, and oversized unit, dirty evaporator oils, a clogged filter, or low refrigerant.

You should remedy these problems if they are in fact causing the short cycling, but sometimes when there is excessive demand on your HVAC unit, there is no helping it. The blower turns itself on and off in order to meet the demand of your heating and cooling system. If temperatures are high and your air conditioner is asked to work harder than normal, short cycling can have many negative effects.

The best way to prevent short cycling is with variable-speed technology. When the air conditioner kicks on, the variable-speed blower will adjust its speed depending the on the real-time conditions of your home.

Benefits of Variable Speed Air Handlers

  • Quiet operation – While a traditional blower fan will always operate at the same speed, variable-speed technology quiets the operation by adjusting its power depending on the needs of your home. You HVAC blower will only increase the power and noise if it needs it. Otherwise, the lower speed will take over, using less energy and making less noise. You probably won’t even notice it’s on.
  • Energy Efficiency – The stop and start functioning of your HVAC system’s blower assembly is not only ineffective, it is also inefficient. The variable-speed technology is inherently more efficient because it only uses the power when it needs it. Some estimates put the electricity savings as high as 80%. You will save energy no matter what season it is.
  • Air Filtration – Since variable-speed motors are on more often, that means that more air is circulated through your air filtration system, which improves the quality of your indoor air. The more air that passes through your HVAC system, the cleaner your indoor air will be. If you are concerned with the quality of your air, make sure you have a clean air filter and that your air ducts have been cleaned in the past 5-10 years.
  • Humidity Control – If there is more air flowing through your system, that means that moisture has less of a chance to wreak havoc on your HVAC system. A variable speed air handler will run longer but more efficient cycles, reducing your indoor humidity and increasing your comfort indoors. The increased airflow will also reduce the demand on your humidification system, adding to your energy savings.
  • Comfort – Less short cycling means less likelihood of HVAC repairs and replacements, which means less time waiting for a technician to get the air working again. Variable-speed motors also increase the amount of airflow in your home, which make you more comfortable. An HVAC system without a variable speed air handler will turn on and off, increasing the temperature variation throughout the day. Air handlers keep the temperature in your home much more consistent.

Variable-speed blower motors have the same advantages when applied to your furnace. Learn more about variable-speed technology on and don’t hesitate to ask us any questions!

Other HVAC features you should consider:

  • A unit that operates quietly
  • A fan-only switch, so you can use the unit for nighttime ventilation to substantially reduce air-conditioning costs
  • A filter check light to remind you to check the filter after a predetermined number of operating hours
  • An automatic-delay fan switch to turn off the fan a few minutes after the compressor turns off.

Related Blogs:

For your free Tacoma heat pump consultation or for professional heat pump installation, maintenance, or repair, call Pacific Air Systems at 253.292.3995 for 24/7 service!

Since 1984, we’ve been proudly serving our communities in Federal Way, Graham, Spanaway, University Place, Steilacoom, Sumner, Lakewood, Puyallup, Tacoma and Gig Harbor.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for more useful tips and tricks for maintaining a safe and efficient home.