What Is The Difference Between A Boiler And A Furnace?

home heating

It is easy to think of boilers as furnaces. After all, both types of systems heat a home or building. But the truth is that while both provide heat, there is a large difference between them. As a new homeowner, you may need to decide between a boiler vs. furnace. Your choice will depend on what you require from your heating system and the setup of your home. You should understand what the differences are between the two systems as well as the advantages and disadvantages.

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The Difference Between a Boiler System And A Forced-Air Furnace System

First, we’ll discuss what a furnace and a boiler are and how each works.

The Boiler System

The main component of the boiler system is of course, the boiler. This is a large container that is filled with water or another liquid. This liquid is heated up to induce steam. The boiler is the essential unit that emits and distributes heat for your home.

When water or another form of liquid is used for heating, the system is referred to as hydronic heating. It can also be a radiator system. A boiler system is comprised of the boiler, a circulating pump, baseboard, radiators, and pipes. These components are installed in different areas for the purpose of distributing heat throughout the home. The system will have a few or several components based on the number of rooms in your home.


The Furnace System

The furnace uses forced air to produce and distribute heat. It circulates heated air to different areas of your living space. Another term for a furnace system is a forced-air heating system. This pulls air from throughout the home and heats it with the heat exchanger. When the air is heated, it is pushed through the ductwork and distributed throughout the spaces of your home. The three type of furnace systems are horizontal, upflow, or downflow. The fuel used will be electricity, oil, gas, or induction.

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What Are The Differences Between A Boiler And A Furnace?

Aside from the components, the biggest difference between a boiler and a furnace system is how the systems operate. A boiler heats liquid inside a tank and then pushes the heated water through the pipe system that is installed throughout the building or residence. The pipes generate heat to warm areas of the home. A boiler system will keep the areas warm as long as it is able to heat water and generate steam.

A furnace system uses a heat exchanger to heat air which is pushed through ductwork and vents to warm up different rooms. It uses a blower motor to push and circulate the heated air.

boiler radiator

Energy-Efficiency Of Boilers And Furnaces

Heating air requires more energy than heating water. Because of this, a furnace uses more fuel for heating than a boiler does. A boiler system costs more to install, but it is known for having more durability than a furnace. However, the durability does depend on the regular maintenance of the boiler unit.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of A Boiler

As with any home system, there are advantages and disadvantages of using a boiler to heat your home. The pros and cons follow.

The Advantages Of A Boiler System

  • Boilers are more energy-efficient because they do not require a high amount of fuel to produce heat.
  • A boiler system tends to be quieter than a forced-air system because it uses steam from heated water rather than a blower.
  • Heat from water or vapor is more consistent than the heat produced by forced air.
  • Boiler systems do not circulate air throughout the home. This means it does not cause the circulation of dust and debris.
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The Disadvantages Of A Boiler System

  • A boiler system is only used for heating. While a furnace cannot cool the air, the ductwork from the system can be used for central air conditioning.
  • The installation of a boiler takes more time and is not as easy to do as a furnace installation.
  • Boiler systems are slower to adjust to changes in temperature. It takes longer for rooms to warm up and cool down.
  • There is a risk of leaking from boilers. An old boiler or one that has been damaged can cause a leak. This can lead to water damage.
  • Replacing a boiler system with a furnace is not as simple as replacing a few parts. Aside from the furnace and other components, ductwork for furnace systems must be installed.

furnace filter

Advantages And Disadvantages Of A Furnace

A furnace system has its own advantages and disadvantages.

The Advantages Of A Furnace System

  • Furnace systems are more flexible. Depending on the model, a furnace may use electricity, heating oil, natural gas, or propane. Some of the latest models use solar or geothermal energy to power the system.
  • When it comes to heating your home, a furnace system is faster than a boiler. It takes less time for a furnace system to generate and circulate heat.
  • A furnace is less expensive. There are more types and models from which to choose, and the vast supply lowers the cost.
  • When a furnace leaks, it leaks air. While this can decrease energy-efficiency, it does not damage the home as a boiler leak can.
  • The system does not freeze as boiler pipes can. When the temperatures plunge, boiler pipes can freeze and burst. This is not an issue with a furnace system.

The Disadvantages Of A Furnace System

  • The furnace blower makes noise when it forces air into the ducts. It produces a sound when it comes on. Depending on age and problems, the sound can be loud.
  • Heating with air is not consistent. This is why it is not unusual for some rooms in a home to be more comfortable than others.
  • Furnaces are more expensive to run because they require more fuel to produce heat.
  • Indoor air quality is more difficult to maintain because dust and debris can be circulated through the air, especially when the air filters are not cleaned or replaced regularly.
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Contact McAllister Energy For Your Home Heating Needs

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In the end, your decision between a boiler or heating system will be based on your specific heating and cooling needs and the structure of your home. If you are replacing an existing system, it is good to know that the latest boilers and furnaces have higher efficiency ratings than those in the past. This will save you money in the long run. If you are unsure of which system to have installed, call your local HVAC company for advice.

As the local leading HVAC expert, McAllister Energy offers superior heating and cooling services. Our technicians are NATE certified and have the experience needed to analyze your needs and provide effective solutions. We offer heating and cooling installations, replacements, repairs, and maintenance services.

Our fast and friendly HVAC technicians have the knowledge and experience it takes to provide top-notch service. We take pride in offering competitive prices and guarantee the work we do. For a free, in-home estimate, contact McAllister Energy today.

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