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Boiler vs. Furnace: Understanding the Differences

June 08, 2022


When it comes to heating a home in the Queens area, it’s either a boiler or furnace that gets the job done. If you are a new homeowner or just unfamiliar with heating equipment in general, you might be wondering what the difference is between a boiler vs. a furnace. Both systems have pros and cons, and it’s hard to say which one is better compared to the other. It comes down to your preferences in how they are different.

To help you understand this, we’ll examine the following factors:

  • How they heat homes
  • How they can provide comfort
  • Their energy efficiency
  • Their impact on air quality

Read on to learn more about these factors and the role a boiler and furnace plays for each example.


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How they heat homes

Both a furnace and boiler provide the same result, heat, and comfort for your home and family. However, the way they produce heat is fundamentally different. Here’s how:

Boilers heat your home with water and pipes.

Once the boiler heats water and turns it into steam, the steam moves throughout your home in pipes and releases the heat from the steam via radiators or radiant floor systems.

Furnaces heat your home with air and ductwork.

Furnaces heat your home by sucking in and heating the indoor air. The system then blows the heated air through the duct system and releases it through registers or vents.

Why does the method matter?

Boilers need to run for a more extended period of time to heat water. However, because it runs longer, it takes more time to adjust to your home’s temperature, allowing them to dissipate heat evenly throughout the home. If you prefer more consistent temperatures over faster heating, a boiler may be your heating system of preference.

On the other hand, furnaces can quickly turn on, warm the air, disperse the heat throughout your home, and then turn off. However, they tend to lead to more inconsistent temperatures, with some rooms hotter than others. Furnaces can quickly respond to any changes you make to your thermostats and heat your home fast whenever you change the temperature. If you prefer instant temperature control to more consistent temperatures, you may want to consider a furnace.

How they can provide comfort

Beyond heating time and temperature consistency, boilers and furnaces also vary in the different ways they provide comfort to your home, like:

Zoning: If you prefer temperatures reaching very warm levels, but the rest of your household prefers cooler temperatures, boilers allow you to set different temperatures for different areas of your home by using the radiator in each room. Furnaces can as well, but only with multiple thermostats and other modifications.

Noise levels: A furnace produces a dull background noise while running as it pushes air throughout the home. Boilers have more subtle noise levels and make a quiet, whirring sound.

Frozen pipes: Having a boiler can lead to frozen outdoor pipes at some point. Frozen pipes can burst and cause major damage to your home. With a furnace, there are no pipes; hence, there is never a risk of costly flooding.

Drafty rooms: Dislike drafty rooms? Since boilers don’t use heated air, there is no draft while your home is heating, unlike a forced-air system such as a furnace.

Their energy efficiency

Both boilers and furnaces use AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) ratings to judge their energy efficiency and see how well they turn fuel into heat and reduce waste, with a maximum rating of 100%. Furnaces use gas, propane, or electricity for fuel, while boilers use gas, oil, or wood.

The higher the AFUE rating, the more efficient the heating system. For example, a 90% AFUE boiler converts 90% of its fuel into heat and wastes the other 10%.

However, boilers and furnaces with the same AFUE rating are not totally comparable. For example, a boiler with an AFUE rating of 90% is more efficient than a furnace with an AFUE rating of 90%. Boilers are more efficient because AFUE ratings do not take into account heat loss through ductwork.

According to the Department of Energy, up to 35% of heat is lost through the ducts. Boilers tend to be more efficient and waste less heat than furnaces as the heated water travels through insulated pipes and not ductwork, and there is little to no heat loss for a boiler as the water travels through your home.

Their impact on air quality

Both heating systems have the potential to help improve your indoor air quality.

Boilers don’t kick up dirt and other pollutants.

Forced-air systems like furnaces heat your home by blowing air through it—and potentially also circulating allergens and dirt. On the other hand, boilers do not circulate things that could worsen respiratory conditions because they use steam to heat your home.

Furnaces with high-quality air filters can remove allergens.

Boilers don’t circulate pollutants, but they also can’t eliminate them. While furnaces can stir up pollutants, they can also work to eliminate them from your home with a high-MERV air filter. With high-quality air filters, furnaces can improve your air quality more than boilers can.

If you have a furnace, make sure to use a high-quality air filter to get the most out of your equipment’s ability to provide better air quality. If you have a boiler, it might also be a good idea to install a whole-home air purification system to eliminate pollutants if air quality is a concern for you.

Do You Have an Old Heating System You Are Looking To Replace?

Ranshaw arrives at your home with fully-stocked trucks and can finish your installation job in 1-2 days.

We have over 60 years of experience installing boilers and furnaces. Contact Ranshaw. While switching from a furnace to a boiler and vice-versa is not a practical option, we can help you install the best type of replacement for your current heating system. Our trained technicians can install your new heating system in just 1-2 days, and we always back up our work with a 100% satisfaction guarantee and 1-year labor warranty.

Call us at (718) 767-0707 or schedule online to see why we have hundreds of 5-star Google reviews.


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