Improving Air Handler Efficiency in Houses

Publication Type

Conference Proceedings


LBNL Report Number



Although furnaces, air conditioners and heat pumps have become significantly more efficient over the last couple of decades, residential air handlers have typical efficiencies of only 10% to 15% due to poor electric motor performance and aerodynamically poor fans and fan housings. Substantial increases in performance could be obtained through improved air handler design and construction. A prototype residential air handlerintended to address these issues has recently been developed. The prototype and a standard production fan were tested in a full-scale duct system and test chamber at LBNL specifically designed for testing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. The laboratory tests compared efficiency, total airflow, sensitivity to duct system flow resistance, and the effects of installation in a smaller cabinet. The test results showed that the prototype air handler had about twice the efficiency of the standard air handler (averaged over a wide range of operating conditions) and was less sensitive to duct system flow resistance changes. The performance of both air handlers was significantly reduced by reducing the clearance between the air handler and cabinet it was placed in. These test results showed that in addition to the large scope for performance improvement, air handler fans need to be tested in the cabinets they operate in.

Conference Name

ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings



Year of Publication





American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, Washington, DC

Conference Location

Pacific Grove, CA