How Boilers Differ from Furnaces

Unsure whether your home has a furnace or boiler? Heard suggestions that you might prefer a boiler, but not sure what makes it different from a furnace? Don’t worry, we’ve put together this simple blog post to elaborate on the basic differences between the two, the benefits and drawbacks of a boiler as compared with a furnace, and how you might decide between the two if you’re on the market for new heating.

Boilers vs. Furnaces

To put it as simply as possible, a boiler is a heating system that heats water and then pushes that water through pipes. The pipes heat up and radiate heat into your home, sometimes with the aid of fins or other designs to spread the heat.

A furnace, by contrast, heats air and then pushes that air through ducts to the various rooms of a building. Incidentally, a heat pump might also push hot air through ducts, but it doesn’t have to, as the main transference of heat happens through smaller refrigerant pipes.

Benefits of a Boiler

There are quite a few strong benefits to a boiler over a furnace.

  • Radiant, moderate heat. The heat that radiates off your pipes with a boiler is much more diffuse and less intense than the heat from a furnace. Most people find it more comfortable, and it’s less likely to simply gather at the ceiling.
  • Energy efficiency. A boiler is, under most circumstances, more efficient than a comparable furnace, thanks to water’s ability to carry heat efficiently.
  • Longer life span. There are fewer moving parts in a boiler, so you can expect it to last longer — as much as 30 years with good maintenance.
  • Reduced maintenance and repairs. Speaking of maintenance, a boiler also requires less frequent and less intensive maintenance, and it’s far less likely to need repairs over the course of its lifetime.

Downsides of a Boiler

Of course, boilers aren’t all upsides.

  • Leaks. While leaks are rare, they can happen with a boiler, and like any water damage, this can be a serious issue.
  • Additional space requirements. If you want central air conditioning, you need ducts either way. This makes boiler pipes an additional space user, not an alternative.
  • Slower to heat a home. It takes a boiler longer to adjust than a furnace might when you change your thermostat.
  • More expensive installation and repairs. A boiler is usually going to cost more to install than a furnace, and if something does break it will likely cost more to fix.

Making the Right Choice

As boilers and furnaces both have their own set of pros and cons, neither is always superior to the other. Instead, it’s your situation and your preferences that will shape your decision. If you’re comfortable with what you already have, it’s going to be cheaper to stick with it in 99% of cases.

However, if you need the benefits unique to one or the other, such as the more moderate heat of a boiler or the quick, intense heat of a furnace, you may find it’s worth the investment to switch from one to the other, even if it’s more costly and time-consuming. Depending on your specific needs, adding a heat pump system to either might make sense, though if you lack ducts you’d need multiple interior units or to install them.

Want to Learn More?

To find out more about the differences between boilers and furnaces, and for help deciding which makes sense for you, the team at ComforTemp Heating & Air Conditioning can help. We’re intimately familiar with the ins and outs of all common heating systems, and we can offer unique insight into each.

Reach us via our contact page to learn more about boilers, furnaces, heat pumps, and other HVAC technology and what it might do for your home.