Boilers vs. Furnaces: What’s the Difference?

Boiler or Furnace?

We’re starting to see signs of winter here on the Cape. Is your heating system up to the challenge of another New England winter? Whether you are considering upgrading to new heating equipment or you are happy with your current heating system, it is important to understand that contraption in the basement. After all, your family depends on it to stay safe and warm nearly six months out of the year!

We’re breaking down the basics of boilers vs. furnaces so that Cape Cod homeowners can know exactly what type of heating system they have, or what type of heating system they’d like to invest in.

What Is a Boiler?

A boiler is a heating system that uses hot water or steam to heat a living space. Boilers can be powered by propane, heating oil, or natural gas. In order to heat your home, your boiler heating system distributes hot water through pipes that radiate heat. There are several radiant heat options, like baseboard radiators, cast iron radiators, in-floor radiant heat, and more. Here’s how you can tell if you have a boiler:

  • Heat created by hot water or steam
  • Heat delivered through radiant heating, like baseboard radiators
  • Does not use ductwork

What Is a Furnace?

A furnace is a heating system that uses hot air to heat a living space. Furnaces are also commonly referred to as forced air heating systems, and they can be powered by either propane, heating oil, or natural gas. To heat your space, the furnace distributes hot air through the duct system of the building.  Here’s how you can tell if you have a furnace in your home:

  • Heat created by hot air
  • Heat delivered through air ducts
  • Does use ductwork

And What about High Efficiency?

Are you thinking about replacing your furnace or boiler with a newer heating system model? Once you’ve decided that you need a new residential boiler or furnace, talk to your local HVAC company about heating efficiency ratings. Standard-efficiency equipment provides 80% annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE), while high-efficiency equipment provides 90% or higher. There are several major things to consider that affect each furnace or boiler’s efficiency:

  • Installation Location
    How is the space vented? This could affect which model type is safest for your space.
  • Exhaust Output
    If your current heating equipment exhausts into your chimney, you may want to consider a model with a new exhaust vent.
  • Stages of Heat
    Regardless of efficiency rating, furnaces with two stages of heat will typically be better for your energy bills than a model with only one stage.

We hope this helped you learn a little more about your home’s heating system! And if you’re looking to upgrade to a new high-efficiency furnace or boiler, remember that Snow’s Fuel Company is here to help. Our experienced service department is available to recommend the right boiler or furnace to meet your unique budget and home heating needs. Contact us to get started today!