Boiler v. Furnace, What’s the Difference?

Boiler v. Furnace, What’s the Difference?

The terms “furnace” and “boiler” get thrown around a lot when talking about heating a home. There’s a distinct difference between these two forms of heating. Here’s what you need to know about each.

boiler vs furnace

What is a Boiler?

A boiler uses either hot water or steam to heat your home. A boiler is very versatile, as it can supply heat for baseboards, radiators, and radiant heating systems. 

There are several types of boiler systems:

  • Hot water boilers - Hot water is distributed through a network of pipes that are connected to baseboards or radiators.
  • Steam boilers - Similar to hot water boilers, a steam boiler uses just steam to accomplish the same task, though these are becoming less common due to their inefficiency.
  • Oil boilers - This water-based heating system is fueled by oil, which can be very energy inefficient and environmentally unfriendly. Many who have these systems are converting to natural gas.
  • Natural gas boilers - Fueled by clean-burning natural gas, these modern systems are a convenient, affordable, and far more eco-friendly alternative to old oil-fired boilers.
  • Electric boilers - These systems do not rely on fossil fuels, but they generally cost more to run and will not work in the event of a power outage.
  • Condensing boilers - Utilize two separate heat exchangers to preheat water returning to the boiler, making them very energy efficient.

Potential Drawbacks of Boiler Heating

A downside to boiler heating is that it presents a challenge when the warmer weather rolls around. You’d either need to rely on window or wall air conditioners or a ductwork system connected to central air conditioning. The latter means you’d already have the ductwork and vent network required for a furnace. This is something to consider when looking for a heating option.

What is a Furnace?

Unlike boiler systems, which heat water, the medium of choice for furnaces is air. The unit will heat air using gas, oil, or electricity. A blower will then direct the air through ducts around the home, where it will exit through vents.

Potential Drawbacks of Furnace Heating

The biggest downside to furnace heat is the draft that moving air creates. These systems can make your home more vulnerable to dust and other allergens, as well as dry air. They also require air filters, which need changing to catch particles and keep the system running efficiently.

Which Heating System is More Affordable: Boilers or Furnaces?

There’s no definitive answer to which system is more cost-effective or efficient. It depends on your home setup and your needs. Both furnaces and boilers need maintenance and require a professional to set up. The cost of running either system will depend on your air conditioning choices, how well insulated your home is, the cost of fuel in your area, and more.

The Intelligent Choice for Heating

Einstein's Plumbing & Heating, Inc. is Brooklyn’s premier choice for boiler and furnace repair and installation. Call us at (718) 215-9664 to learn more about how we can keep you warm all winter.


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