differences furnace boiler HVAC

Differences Between Furnace and Boiler HVAC Systems

At Action Plumbing, Heating, Air & Electrical, we’re proud to provide a variety of heating services to all our clients. Not only do we offer common furnace repair and installation services, we also cover everything from duct cleaning to boiler system repair and service for homes that utilize these systems.

If you’ve never spent time in a home or building that used a boiler heating system, you might be wondering what it is and how it compares to the furnace you’re more familiar with. Today’s blog will dig into the basics on each of these items and how they compare, plus which to choose if you’re considering a brand new heating system in your home.

Furnace Basics

The most common heating method out there today, furnaces utilize air movement to heat your home. In fact, they are often referred to as a forced-air heating system. The process for their operation is as follows:

  • Your home’s thermostat detects that the temperature is dropping below desired levels, and signals the system to begin heating.
  • The furnace begins to heat – with gas options this will mean lighting natural gas or propane in the burner, while for electric furnaces this involves a heating element beginning to warm itself.
  • Air entering the system passes through a heat exchanger, which picks up the heat from the burner or electric heating element before passing it back out.
  • The blower component forces the heated air into your ducts, moving it throughout the home.
  • Located near the floor (since hot air rises), return registers collect cold air and bring it back into the furnace, where the process repeats itself and the air is warmed.

Boiler Basics

Boilers, on the other hand, utilize hot water rather than air to heat the home. They use some form of radiant heat to do this, whether it’s a cast iron radiator, ceramic option or even a baseboard or floor system. The process is simple:

  • Gas, oil or electricity is used to heat water in a tank.
  • Either steam or hot water moves through pipes and circulates to the radiant heating system.
  • Hot gasses are vented outside for pressure maintenance.
  • Cold water at the end of the system loop is circulated back into the boiler to repeat the process.

Choosing the Best Option

So which is right for you? This all depends on the kind of air you want in your home, the costs you’re prepared to pay and several other factors. Furnaces are more common in large part because they’re cheaper to install, though many modern boilers are actually more efficient and may recoup these funds in the long run. If you don’t already have ductwork present in the home, in fact, a boiler installation might actually be less expensive. Boilers also avoid risks of dry air and cold patches, though these can also be avoided with proper furnace maintenance.

For more on the differences between boilers and furnaces, or to learn about any of our HVAC or plumbing services, speak to the staff at Action Plumbing, Heating, Air & Electrical today.