The Difference Between a Furnace and a Boiler

Many people use the terms “furnace” and “boiler” interchangeably, but aside from that fact that both are used to heat your home, they are quite different.

When you place a call to a heating and cooling service company, it’s important to know one from the other. For example, if you say your furnace isn’t working but you have a boiler, the wrong technician might show up with the wrong tools to perform the needed repair.

So, what’s the difference between a furnace and a boiler? Read on to find out.  

Heating Methods

Furnaces and boilers send heat through a house differently; a furnace uses warm air to produce heat, whereas a boiler uses steam or hot water.

How a Furnace Works

Furnaces run on gas, propane, or electricity, though much older homes were often heated with wood or coal, and some still are today. If your home has ductwork, you have a furnace. That ductwork is often shared with a central air conditioning system to save space. As a furnace heats up indoor air, its blower then forces the warmed air through the ducts.

Furnaces typically cost less than boilers, but don’t last as long. They also require more frequent maintenance and can produce air quality problems by pushing allergens and dust throughout your home.

How a Boiler Works

If your home has radiators or baseboard units, you have a boiler. A boiler can be powered by oil, gas, electricity, or wood pellets. It heats water that circulates around the combustion chamber, then sends the heated water through small pipes that heat radiators, baseboards, or radiant flooring systems. The water then returns to the combustion chamber, ready to be used again. Some boilers create steam, where the steam passes through pipes and then to radiators which in turn heat a home.

Boilers tend to require less maintenance, have longer equipment life, and produce heat more efficiently than furnaces. Because there is no ductwork involved, they don’t contribute to indoor air quality issues. However, they are more costly to install and take longer to heat up a room. Plus, they can freeze under extremely cold conditions.

If you were building a home today, most experts agree that a heat pump system would be your best bet in that it offers heating and cooling, thus eliminating the need for separate systems. Short of that, contact Air Professionals today to learn which type of heating system might best suit your needs, especially if your home can accommodate a furnace or a boiler.