New homeowners or those who have never had to service their heating systems before may be a bit unclear on what type of heating system goes in their homes, or what their options are for a heating system replacement. Depending on who you speak to, a heating system may be called either a boiler or a furnace. But the fact is that these are two very different systems.
We want to make sure that you understand the differences between how these systems work and how they are set up in your home. By going over the very basics, you’re much better equipped to determine which system you have in your home, how you should keep up with maintenance, or which system is the best fit for a new home.
The Setup of a Furnace
A gas furnace is known as a forced-air heating system. This means it makes use of a home’s ductwork, the metal ducts that carry air from the AC and heating systems to the vents in many homes. The furnace is installed in a hidden location like an attic or crawlspace, and it connects to the blower fan used by your AC system as well.
Most furnaces use natural gas to ignite a burner (though electric furnaces are common in some parts of the country). Heat moves from the burners through a heat exchanger. The blower fan sucks in air from your home and moves the air over the heat exchanger before moving it
Types of Boiler Installations
Boilers work a lot differently than furnaces. While gas burners are still used, they heat a large tank of water instead of heating the air. This is known as hydronic heating, while the heat exchange process that warms your home is known as radiant heating.
There are two ways for heat to be delivered throughout your home. Underfloor pipes can heat up the floors, which in turn heats the objects and people in a room. Otherwise, heat comes from endpoints installed throughout the home like radiators and baseboard heaters.
Advantages of Boilers
Many people who have a high-efficiency boiler installed say they’ll never go back to forced-air heating again.
- Boilers are highly efficient, as fewer moving parts are required to generate heat.
- Boiler tanks last longer than most other heating systems with less maintenance.
- Heat transfer from radiant heating is considered more comfortable than forced-air heating.
Advantages of Furnaces
Despite the advantages of boilers, there are a couple of good reasons furnaces have remained the most popular systems installed in homes.
- Furnaces tend to cost less upon installation.
- Most homes are already set up for a furnace, which takes up little space if you already have a set of ducts.
- Today’s furnaces can be highly efficient when properly sized and installed.
When deciding between a furnace and a boiler, it’s up to you and your technician to arrive at the final decision. What’s right for one home isn’t right for another. What’s important is that the system is properly installed and maintained and inspected each year.