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What is the Difference Between a Boiler and Furnace?

No, boilers and furnaces aren’t the same.

That’s the simplified answer to the common question, “Are furnaces and boilers the same heating system?

Many homeowners and residents aren’t aware that, while furnaces and boilers are similar in the fact that they are central heating systems that heat the living space, they are completely different in how they heat the home.

At WM Buffington, we want to help educate homeowners so they can be better equipped when answering questions from HVAC professionals. When you’re having heating problems and the HVAC technician asks you, “Do you have a furnace or a boiler?”, you should know the answer.

This article will not only help you to understand the difference between boilers and furnaces, but will help you in troubleshooting heating issues in your home due to the type of central heating system you have.

What is a Boiler?

A boiler (aka hydronic heat system) uses hot water to pump heat into your living space through small pipes. These pipes are connected throughout your home. The hot water pumped through the pipes is distributed to baseboard heaters, cast iron radiators, or radiant flooring systems. This is how the boiler system heats an entire house through proper heat distribution.

Boilers are more expensive than furnaces since they are a better year-round heating system. What makes boilers better than furnaces?

  • They efficiently pump heat into your home, not leaving any area cold.
  • Boilers can run on gas, oil, electricity, or other alternative fuels.
  • Boiler systems tend to only need annual maintenance rather than regular repairs. Repairs and maintenance are more affordable.
  • Your energy bills are lower.

What is a Furnace?

Again, a furnace (aka forced air furnace) is also a central heating system, however, furnaces blow hot air into the living space.

Gas, oil, and electric furnaces force air to come into the living space through air ducts. Essentially, the furnace uses a heat exchanger to heat the air. The heated air is then disbursed throughout the house using blower fans to push the air through the ducts. This can leave the air dry and prompts allergies, but can be a great central system to heat up the house during the cold seasons.

Maintenance for furnaces is a bit more regular as it’s recommended to replace the furnace’s air filters every month or yearly quarter. Other maintenance fees could be more expensive than that of a boiler system, but it depends on the maintenance project.

What’s the difference between boilers and furnaces? Boilers use a network of pipes throughout the home to pump heated water, mediating the proper temperature in the home. Furnaces push hot air throughout the home through blower fans, causing bursts of hot air to come into the home.

Choosing Between a Boiler and a Furnace

We’ve listed some pros and cons to boilers and furnaces above, and each central heating system serves a purpose. If you already have a furnace installed in your home and you’re looking at installing a boiler system, this can become very spendy.

Homes that weren’t built with a boiler system need the boiler and piping installed throughout the home. Heated floors, baseboards, or cast iron radiators must be installed for proper heating. If your home was already designed with an air duct system, then it’s probably best to get your furnace repaired or to install a new furnace.

Installing a new boiler system could prove difficult and would take some time in the case that the house doesn’t have a boiler system already.

If you’re really looking to choose between a boiler and a furnace, contact WM Buffington. We can assess the proper central heating system for you or recommend a ductless mini-split system depending on your needs. If you require an installation of a furnace or boiler, come to us and we’ll install it right the first time.

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