Furnaces and boilers are the same ... or are they? Both heat homes, but they do it differently. Learn how they differ and the pros and cons of furnaces and boilers.
A heater is a heater is a heater, right? So is a boiler a furnace — are the names interchangeable? Or are they two different types of heaters? If so, what is the difference between a furnace and a boiler? Read on to find out.
How do boilers and furnaces heat your home?
Among all the heating options available for a home, “boilers” and “furnaces” are likely the most recognizable terms. Most people tend to refer to their heating units with the term “furnace,” but a furnace is, however, totally different from a boiler. The main difference between the two? How they heat your home. While a furnace heats air and then circulates that air throughout the home, a boiler, conversely, heats water that is then circulated throughout the home. Often, after a furnace heats the air, a blower then forces it through ducts. The warm air is then released through vents or registers throughout the home. With a boiler, a circulator pumps the heated water through pipes throughout the house that heat baseboards or radiators The water eventually returns to the unit and the cycle begins again.
Is one heater generally preferred over the other?
Just like any other major home appliance, there are many pros and cons to consider when choosing a heating system. It all boils down (no pun intended) to what makes the most sense for you and your household. For instance, although a furnace may be louder and may not retain the warmth as long (causing it to turn on and off more frequently), initial installation is much less expensive than for a boiler, and the forced-air heating system is often compatible with central air conditioning. Likewise, although a boiler may be more expensive initially, it provides more energy efficiency, comfortable humidity levels, even temperatures and better indoor air quality (since it doesn’t blow air around and require a filter).
Which heater is more costly: a furnace or a boiler?
When comparing maintenance costs and energy efficiency of furnaces and boilers, it appears that boilers are the better choice. Although they're usually more expensive to install, they typically use less fuel, saving you money on your monthly bills, and they don’t require the purchase of filters. However, two major drawbacks of boilers are the possibility of leaks and frozen pipes. Since the pipes are full of water, if a leak occurs, it could cause significant damage to your home, resulting in costly repairs. Likewise, if your power goes off and the temperatures are freezing outside, the water could freeze in the pipes, causing them to burst and cause extensive damage, as well.
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What is hydro air?
Want the best of both heater worlds? Consider a hydro air system: a system that combines hot water and hot air. Here’s how it works: first, a hot water boiler generates heat. Then the water is pumped into an air handler unit. From there, a blower passes air over the then-heated coils and distributes that air through a duct system. The best part? You get pros from both types of heating units and that same ductwork can be used for an air conditioning unit.
Thinking about protecting your home, including the system components of your heating unit? American Home Shield® can handle that. Check out AHS’s available heating home warranty options.