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The subject of home heating systems is not clear to many, as many folks still confuse furnaces for boilers. Boilers and furnaces do the same job of heating our homes, but they are entirely two different entities. The most significant difference is how the systems work. 

Furnaces heat and distribute hot air to our interior spaces through the home’s ducting via a blower motor. Boilers heat water to produce steam and circulate the hot steam throughout the house.

Boilers and Furnaces: How they Work

Both heating systems are conventional heating systems widely used in commercial and residential settings. Both systems run either on natural gas, heating oil, electricity, or propane.

Boilers use panel radiators, baseboard radiators, in-floor radiant, fan coil units, or cast iron radiators to heat our interior spaces. Furnaces use forced-air electric or gas-powered heating elements to heat and distribute air to interior spaces.

Furnaces have powerful blower fans that push and circulate heated air to your home interior through your home’s ducting system.  Boilers distribute the hot water or steam through pipes to the target endpoints in your interior spaces.

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Differences in Maintenance

One difference between boiler and furnace every property owner should know is in the maintenance work. Boilers are heavy-duty heating solutions that, once installed, can last for years with minimal maintenance and repairs. Yearly tune-ups by a professional HVAC maintenance technician will be enough to keep your boiler working optimally.

Maintaining furnaces cost more and demand more work. Besides the annual inspection and tune-ups, you have to replace the air filters every month or after three months. Filters get clogged faster in areas with more dust, so keep that in mind.

If you’ve got a gas boiler or furnace installed, more maintenance input is required. Poorly maintained systems can have gas or carbon monoxide leaks. And so, you need a professional HVAC maintenance company to check and repair issues as they arise.

Boilers and Furnaces: Differences in Pros and Cons

The fundamental differences between furnaces and boilers are in the pros and cons.

Advantages

  • Versatility.  Boilers can be added to floor pipes to heat modern heated floors.
  • Easier to maintain. The costs of maintaining boilers are lower than other heating systems.
  • Boilers distribute heat through piping systems. Therefore, they won’t introduce allergens or ducts to your home.
  • Operate quietly and efficiently. Boilers don’t make the extreme noises familiar with furnaces.
  • Long-lasting. With proper yearly tune-ups, boilers can serve you for up to 15 years.
  • Boilers are more energy-efficient than furnaces.

Disadvantages

  • Initial boiler procurement costs are high
  • Boilers are susceptible to leaks and pipe bursts
  • The water in boiler pipes can freeze if the temp doesn’t hit the recommended level for an extended period.

Furnace pros

  • Furnaces don’t experience issues with freezing when there is a prolonged power outage in winter
  • The costs of buying and installing furnaces are a bit lower
  • Evenly distributed heat.

Furnace cons

  • More energy to heat interior spaces
  • Nosier when operating
  • These systems can introduce dust and allergens to interior spaces.

The Cost Differences Between Furnaces and Boilers

Boilers and furnaces have significant cost differences. As a homeowner, understanding the critical differences in the costs of owning a boiler or furnace is crucial. The first cost difference is in the purchase and installation. 

Boilers are pricier to buy and more costly to install compared to furnaces. They don’t need ducting systems but require lengthy and expensive installation of piping systems. Furnaces aren’t cheap, either, especially if you’ve to install new ductwork from scratch. The high installation costs are probably the reason not many homeowners are going for boiler systems.

While boilers are costly to install, they are cheaper to maintain and operate. Boilers are more energy-efficient and reliable as there is minimal heat loss. On the other hand, furnaces lose heat as the hot air passes through cold air and ducts. 

If you’re low on budget but can manage to pay higher heating costs over the long run, furnaces are your best deal. If you’ve got a higher budget but wouldn’t wish to spend a lot on your long-term heating costs, install boilers.

Difference between Boiler and Furnace – Which is Better?

If you feel it’s time to install a new heating system or replace your aged one, here are things you should know.

Size differences

Boilers are tall, cylindrical water heater systems installed in our garages or basements. As per regulations, professionals install these systems along the wall, which begs everyone to be careful when installing them.

Furnaces are small rectangular units with versatile installation requirements. You can install your furnace in your utility closet, garage, or attic.

Repair differences

Boilers installed underground are less likely to have leakages or damages. These systems can serve you for years without needing frequent repairs. HVAC technicians install furnaces in the open as they are more likely to require repairs. 

Homeowners are required to replace air filters at least once every three months. If you want a heating system that won’t increase your home maintenance costs, go for a boiler heating system.

Safety differences

Heating systems expose your family and friends to several health hazards if not properly maintained. Furnaces can leak, exposing your loved ones to hazardous carbon monoxide.

However, with regular repairs and maintenance, such issues are less likely going to happen. Boiler piping systems could as well freeze and burst during cold weather. However, that’s significantly less likely to occur if you regularly get the systems checked by a professional.

Difference Between Boiler and Furnace – Conclusion

The boiler and furnace topic has been debated for years but concluded favorably of these systems. The most heated debates ended with a conclusion clause that recommended homeowners going for systems they think will serve their best interests. 

Both systems have their unique benefits and drawbacks. You can draw your decision on which systems to buy from the differences and similarities we mentioned above.

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