Should You Choose a Furnace or a Boiler to Heat Your Home?

When it comes to deciding on the best option for heating your home there are several different pieces of equipment that you can choose. Most of us will stick with whatever heating system is in our homes when we first move in and, unless we should choose to carry out some renovations or have trouble with the default system, we never feel the need to explore other options. However, regardless of whether you actually intend on replacing your existing heating system, it is worth understanding the different options available and what their respective advantages/disadvantages are.

Some of you might be surprised to learn that boilers and furnaces are entirely different types of system, most of us never really give this any thought. The difference between the two is much more than just semantics though, as these two different approaches to heating are not only different mechanically, but the results that they produce are also often very different. The key difference between the two is that whereas a boiler uses hot water in order to heat your home, a furnace uses warm air. The way that the heat is generated and then circulated around your property is different.

By understanding the differences between these two heating methods, you can then make an informed choice as to which is the best option for your home and individual circumstances. Here is a brief summary of the differences between using a furnace and a boiler as your primary heating source within your home. Modern advances in HVAC technology have meant that both options are viable for most setups. In fact, the difference in terms of performance between both methods is constantly shrinking as efficiency gaps are closed.

Water vs Air

You may well be wondering just how much difference generating heat via water and air can make to performance, if any at all? After all, heat is heat, regardless of its original source. A boiler will use either electricity, gas, or oil in order to generate heat. This heat is then transferred to the water inside the boiler and this warm water is circulated throughout the home.

Meanwhile, a furnace makes use of a blower to push air over heated coils, The warm air is then circulated through the homes ductwork. Furnaces tend to be a little higher maintenance as they use filters in order to ensure that the air they pump around the home is clean and that dust and other debris isn’t being circulated. However, if a furnace system is properly maintained then it can easily last for a couple of decades.

Boilers Vs Furnaces

The water boilers that are used today are leaps and bounds ahead of their predecessors in terms of energy efficiency. The radiant heating systems which are in use today transfer warm water to either the radiators or the underfloor heaters that some homes now have. One of the biggest appeals of a boiler system is its simplicity, the pipes which will circulate water throughout a property are generally more reliable than ductwork. For those who are looking for a heating system to retrofit into an existing property, if ductworks are not already present in the property then having them put in can be very time consuming and expensive.

Another reason that many people choose the boiler over the furnace is that the boiler gives them a finer degree of control over the temperature and humidity levels within their home. For others it is the simple pleasure of being able to walk barefoot over heated floorboards that appeals to them; the simple pleasures in life are often the most important after all! Radiant heating systems are able to retain and release heat in a more sustained fashion, meaning that they don’t have to be turned on and off so often.

Water tanks usually operate silently these days, and for some situations this is a deal breaker, although modern furnaces allow the user to adjust the speed of the blowers and therefore giving more control over the amount of noise generated.

Because of the difference in how these two pieces of equipment operate, the boiler is a better choice for those who have allergies or who are sensitive to allergens and irritants in the air. A furnace will circulate air around your home which, even when using filters on the system, can cause a deterioration in air quality within your home. However, if this isn’t a concern for you then you might prefer that the air in your home is circulated more often.

A big factor in making these decisions is always going to be the cost. No matter how much you might love the look of a particular heating system, if it’s beyond your price range then you will have to learn to accept it. Boilers are much more expensive than furnaces, and so for situations where the cost is the overriding consideration, an air furnace is nearly always going to be the best option. Boilers are generally cheaper to run once they are installed, but how long it will take for your operating savings to outweigh your initial investment will vary between setups.

Which One is Right for Me?

There is no simple, blanket answer to this question. The best heating system for you will depend on your specific circumstances and what you are trying to achieve. Lets first consider the boiler.

Boilers tend to be more energy efficient, they require less fuel to heat a home of any given size, therefore if you want to reduce your energy bills a boiler is the way to go. Boilers are also more consistent as they allow the user a finer degree of control over things like temperature and humidity. Boilers run silently and require little maintenance or intervention from the user.

However, boilers take longer to reflect adjustments made to the thermostat, they are more difficult to install and nigh on impossible to convert further down the line. If you choose a boiler then you need to be certain about it.

The furnace is the less expensive, and many would argue the safer, option between the two. Should a furnace leak it will only leak air, and there is also no danger of a furnace freezing and bursting, as can happen with the pipes that run from a boiler. Furnaces are much easier to install as well. If you think a furnace would be right for your property then take a look at to get a quote.

The drawbacks to using a furnace system are that it is a less efficient way of heating your home that will cost slightly more to run. It is also noisier when in operation, compared to a boiler which is all but silent. The lack of consistency in heating, as well as the potentially detrimental effect on air quality, also put offs many potential adopters.

Deciding on the right heating system for your home isn’t always an easy decision. You will need to consider your specific setup and requirements when making your decision, in particular you will need to know what your budget is for both installing and running a new heating system.


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BDC 317 : Jun 2024