Basement Or Attic – Which Is The Best Location For Your AC Air Handler?

If you're installing a new air conditioning system, you'll need to locate both your outdoor condenser unit and your indoor air handling unit. The air handling unit contains the house blower that distributes air through your home, as well as the evaporator coil that absorbs heat energy. Most homeowners choose to install their air handler units in either an attic or basement.

Of course, basements aren't typical in all parts of the country, and some homes may not contain easily accessible attics. If you only have one or the other in your home, your choices are likely limited. However, what if you have both options available? Keep reading to understand why you may choose one location over the other.

The Attic Approach

While it's rarely the first choice for new installs, attic air conditioners can offer a few benefits. For example, it may be easier to retrofit ductwork through an attic in an older home. This approach can save you substantial money on your installation costs by allowing easy access to install return and supply vents in second-story rooms.

Drawbacks are generally related to heat and access. If your attic isn't well-insulated, heat can potentially cause you to lose conditioned air through your ductwork. Likewise, hot attics can be unpleasant or even dangerous for contractors to work in, limiting access for repairs and maintenance. If you're taking the attic approach, you may need to consider beefing up your insulation as well.

The Bottom Line on Basements

Basements and crawl spaces are often the best option for installing HVAC equipment. These locations are relatively central, and they provide a reasonable amount of protection from the elements while keeping the HVAC equipment out of occupied living areas. If you live in a hot climate, a basement will also stay cooler than your attic, reducing the potential load on your ductwork insulation.

Access is one potential downside. If your home only has a crawlspace, it may be challenging to reach your equipment, even if there's sufficient room to install it. Ductwork can also reduce the workable area in an already crowded space. You'll need to make sure there's adequate space for HVAC contractors to work when you need repairs or routine maintenance.

You also need to consider the location of your other equipment. If you already have a furnace in your attic, installing your AC air handler in another place is a no-go. Since your furnace and AC share a blower motor, the evaporator/air handler needs to be in the same central location.

The Best Option for Your Home

The best way to determine which location will work for your installation is to discuss your options with your contractor. You may also want to consider alternatives, such as package units that place the air handler outside with the condenser. These designs can be worthwhile if you don't have a good location in your home or you don't want to take up space in your attic or basement.

For more information, reach out to an air conditioning installation service, such as Carolina Air Care, near you.