Boiler vs Furnace: How to Decide

Presidential Heating & Air Conditioning

Gaithersburg HVAC Contractors


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boiler vs furnaceDoes your home’s HVAC system eat up your energy bills during the winter and summer, or struggle to adequately heat or cool your home? If so, then you need to know about the differences between the popular systems on the market in order to make an informed decision about repairing or replacing your HVAC system. The main question is: which heating system would be the best fit for your family, home, and budget? To find the answer, the first thing you need to discover is the difference between two common system types: the boiler and furnace.

Difference Between Boilers and Furnaces

Heat Distribution and General Operation

Both boiler and furnace-based systems utilize central heating, but send heat throughout your home in different ways: boilers use water as their primary vehicle for thermal energy, while a furnace directly uses the air itself. There are different types of furnaces, including both those powered by natural gas and by oil.

Additionally, boilers and furnaces operate using significantly different methods. Within a furnace-based system, air is heated within the unit and then forcibly blown through ductwork throughout the building. Boilers, also known as hydronic systems, heat your house by sending hot water through pipework throughout the walls and floors of your home before cycling water back through the boiler for reheating and redistribution.

Maintenance Requirements

Because they operate differently, boilers and furnaces also require different maintenance strategies. With regards to boilers, annual servicing is often required to optimize efficiency and the distribution of heat. Furnaces, on the other hand, can benefit from more frequent maintenance, albeit simple, maintenance— the regular changing of in-system air filters. This can be required anywhere from monthly to seasonally, depending on variables like home usage and pets in the home. The cleanliness of the filter affects the air quality in your home, so it’s good practice to replace it as often as you think about it.

That being said, even with the normal usage, furnaces often carry significantly lower maintenance costs during the system’s lifetime compared to boiler alternatives, which can require professional maintenance every year. Ultimately, you must weigh the costs of the regular filter maintenance and less-frequent professional maintenance that comes with furnaces, or the annual professional maintenance costs of a boiler.

Heating Characteristics of Furnaces and Boilers

boiler vs furnaceHave you ever gone on vacation somewhere with low humidity and noticed the dry heat of the air when you stepped off the airplane? Humid heat, like the heat we have here around DC and Maryland in the summer, has a much different feeling than that of dry heat. Because of the different ways these two systems heat your home, the feeling of the heat they produce can be different as well.

Boilers use water containing the thermal energy through pipes, so you might think that the type of heat produced would be moist or humid, in comparison to a furnace. This isn’t the case, however, as the material used in the piping system is always made of a non-porous material. Therefore, the heat provided by boilers is clean and dry.

A boiler-based central heating system can also have a tendency to produce cooler and warmer rooms depending on the size of the space being heated, windows, and insulation, as the system’s reach and effectiveness is directly determined by the amount of piping you have throughout your house.

Furnaces, on the other hand, produce heat with moving air—due to the forced-air nature of their system hub. Due to the regular air movement, furnaces can be a more noticeable presence in your home than boilers Unfortunately, they can also blow dust and microorganisms if not outfitted with sterilization technology. Despite this small drawback, furnaces often heat a home much more evenly and powerfully than a standard boiler.

Both systems have pros and cons, so it’s up to you to decide what kind of central heating system meets the needs of you and your household more effectively.

Professional HVAC Consultation

With fall creeping closer every day, it’s important to get any HVAC work your home may need done before temperatures begin to drop. Consulting with HVAC professionals like our team here at Presidential Heating & Air Conditioning not only helps you to buy the best system for your home, but also gives you peace of mind through our expertise and comprehensive maintenance agreements.

Stay Warm This Winter

There are several tips for home efficiency in the winter that will boost your heating system’s functionality, regardless of system type. Covering draughty windows, adding extra insulation, and strategically using your cooling and heating devices will all help to keep your home toasty warm in the winter without placing demand on your pockets. Read our blog, Tips for Home Efficiency in the Winter, for more ideas!

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