Boiler vs Furnace

What’s the Difference Between a Boiler and a Furnace?

Whether you’re looking to upgrade your existing heating system or you’re building a new home, you’re going to want to choose the right heating system for your family’s needs.

Make an informed decision by knowing the difference between boilers and furnaces.

If you're unsure of what system to have in your home and want to understand each system's functionality, you've come to the right place.

By the end of this blog, you’ll know what’s right for your home’s heating needs.

What’s a boiler?

Boilers generate warm air by using heated water in a tank. The hot water is circulated using pipes, which means that ducts aren't required to deliver warm air throughout the house, unlike furnaces.

How does a boiler work?

Your water pipes bring heated water throughout the home and to different endpoints. These endpoints are usually baseboard heaters or radiators. Due to these specific endpoints, boilers rely on radiant heating to heat your home.

Electric boilers have heating elements inside them to heat up the water, whereas gas heaters use jets beneath the tank to do the same.

The heat from boilers is moved through the endpoints and into the living spaces of your home through what’s known as radiant heat transfer. This is the delivery of heat by increased surface temperature. This surface temperature allows your boiler’s endpoint to warm the nearby area or room it’s located in.

What’s a furnace?

Both gas and electric furnaces use a forced-air system.

How does a furnace work?

Furnaces combust fuel or generate heat through electricity to warm the air. This heated air is then blown through ducts and into your home.

Forced systems heat the air through heat exchangers, and the heated air is circulated around your entire home by blower fans. These fans propel the heat through the ducts and into the different living spaces in your house.

With an electric-powered furnace, the heating elements present create warm air, but with fuel-powered furnaces, gas jets create the warm air.

What are the differences?

Here are the main differences between furnaces and boilers.

Furnace Boiler
  • Heats air.
  • Distributes hot air through ducts.
  • Runs on natural gas, propane, oil, or electricity.
  • Heat is transferred by a heat exchanger.
  • Heated air is distributed throughout your home by ducts.
  • Heat a fluid.
  • Distributes the fluid through pipes.
  • Runs on natural gas, propane, oil, or wood.
  • The fluid is pumped through your heating system to radiators, in-floor heating loops, etc..
  • Boiler heat doesn’t require ductwork and is usually seen in older homes.

The pros and cons of a boiler

Pros Cons
  • Boilers don’t use as much fuel to heat your home, so they generally cost less to run.
  • They provide a consistent amount of heat.
  • Boilers are usually quieter than furnaces as they don’t make a lot of operational noises.
  • Boilers require less maintenance as they don’t have any filters.
  • They provide better air quality as they don’t blow dust and allergens into your home. They also don’t dry out the air as much.
  • Boilers are slower to react and take longer to change with the temperature on the thermostat.
  • They’re more difficult to install than furnaces.
  • Converting from a boiler to a furnace later is nearly impossible.
  • Boiler leaks are a serious hazard, and they can do serious water damage to your home.

The pros and cons of a furnace

Pros Cons
  • Furnaces are a lot more common than boilers which means they’re a lot cheaper to install.
  • If a furnace leaks, it will leak air which means it won’t do as much damage to your house as a boiler leak would.
  • Furnaces don’t contain any water therefore they won’t freeze and break during a cold winter.
  • Furnaces are easy to install and only take a couple of hours compared to a couple of days with a boiler.
  • Furnaces aren’t as efficient as boilers and will use a lot more fuel to heat your home.
  • They’re quite loud and you’ll hear a furnace every time you turn it on.
  • The heat that comes from a furnace isn’t very consistent meaning that some rooms in your home will be colder than others.
  • Furnaces blow hot air, which means they can also blow dust and allergens into your home, affecting your air quality.


Which is better: a furnace or a boiler?

Both types of heaters have their own pros and cons, but a boiler tends to produce cleaner heat. It also has a lower repair and operation cost – making it cheaper to run.

Boilers are also more energy-efficient. There is less heat wasted through radiant heating compared to the forced-air heating of a furnace. This is probably the biggest difference between the two.

If your home isn’t set up for a boiler, you’ll find that the cost of installing one could be potentially double what it would cost to install a furnace – especially if you already have the ductwork in place for a furnace.

Many homeowners prefer radiant heating if they're undergoing a major remodel or are building a new home. Still, if you're installing a new heating system, a furnace would be a lot less hassle to install.

Here at Nichols and Phipps, we want to make sure that you get the right heating system for your home.
If you still can't decide what heating system is right for you, call us at (730) 670-8619. If you've already decided what system you want for your home, book an appointment right away.