Boilers and Furnaces : The two different central heating systems

Boilers and Furnaces : The two different central heating systems

In different heating systems, have you ever thought which one is better? For making the right choice for you and your place it is important to know what the difference between a boiler and a furnace is. People think that boiler and furnace is one and a same thing but that’s just a wrong assumption. There is a huge and big difference between these two which makes them different from each other.

Let’s understand both heating systems in detail

One easiest way to remember and understand the difference between the both is that a furnace uses air and a boiler uses water to distribute the heat to the entire place.

What is a boiler?

A boiler is an enclosed vessel in which water is heated and circulated, either as hot water, steam or water vapours for the purpose of heating and powering. Different boilers are designed so that it could run with different fuels and suits the different property size accordingly. They can be used to heat the home with wide variety of methods.

What is a furnace?

Furnaces are heavy concentrated combustion in a box which would be applied to the home as more efficient and effective form of heating. Earlier, the furnaces were stone or clay structure that is used to create an intense heat. They are still known as the primary appliance in industrial metal production.

Boiler v/s furnace

The word ‘boiler’ and ‘furnace’ is often used interchangeably by many people all around, however there is a huge difference between the two heating systems. The only similarity between the two is that both use a fuel source to heat a property.

They both operate in different ways. A furnace heats air that is distributed throughout the area via a blower motor or a duct. Whereas, the boiler system uses hot water in place of air to heat the room.

The boiler job is to turn water into the steam as steam is the good medium of transferring the heat wherever required. Boilers were earlier used in the steam experimentation, manufacturing of steam boats. The boiler produced the heat with the help of fuel like wood or coal and then steam is passed through the pipes to create movements.

Nowadays in domestic use the boilers heat the water and once the water hit its boiling water, the heat is distributed through pipes and tubes and thus makes up the central heating system. On the other hand, furnaces tend to run off the gas electricity or the induction. Also they are much safer than the older counter parts. It produces high amount of heat that goes and distributed through the duct and thus makes the central heating system stronger.

With their pros and cons of each system we can get influenced about which is a better option? A furnace use warm air and makes a drafty environment due to air blowing all around. Air movement is great in summer season and thus uncomfortable with the heating. Whereas a boiler system provides air for cooling and is less expensive than the furnaces duct work. Duct work is stretched all way to the ceiling and it couldn’t get wrapped up whenever not in use. Whereas the pipes are comparatively smaller and could be hide in the corners of the home.

Though when it comes to the varieties and choices, boilers has always grabs the attention. As mentioned above boilers can be used and run with different fuels, the variety gets increased with unique styles and designs.

Another difference between the heating systems is there maintenance. The air filter of a furnace requires frequent cleaning in approx. once a month to once a quarter. On contrast, in a boiler it’s totally different process. The boiler need excess air bled, where if the room is not getting properly warm and heated it is a sign that there is a need of maintenance. Whereas the advantage of this maintenance is it can heat various places than a furnace but the disadvantage is that it will cause humidity and to reduce the humidity level, you will need a humidifier to balance the humidity.


For properly functioning oh the heating process, chimney are required. It carries combustion direct out of home. Therefore, it is important for the users to keep an eye on the proper functioning of the chimney. If there will be any fault in the chimney it will put you at risk of having byproducts, such as carbon monoxide.

For proper ventilation chimney is required in both the central heating systems. So, whenever you replace an older furnace or a boiler. The new chimney liner should be sized according to the new heating appliance and the combustion water heater.

Advantages of Furnaces

Less expensive – Furnaces are widely used and is more common than the boilers. Therefore it is less expensive than the boiler.

No risk of freezing – Since furnaces doesn’t contain water, so there is no risk of freezing at the time of power cut.

Reduces the leakage risk – furnaces if get leaks it will release air which is less hazardous than leaking of water. Water leakage can cause a huge damage to your house.

Easy installation – Furnaces usually takes some hours to install unlike the boilers installation.

Disadvantages of Furnaces

Less efficient – heating with air is less efficient than heating with water. Thus, furnace will utilize more fuel which will results in increasing energy costs.

Noisy – furnaces blow air which makes sound. Whenever you will put it on you will hear a sound from it.

Less heat consistency- air heat is not that much consistent like that of steam heat. As a result you will experience less warmth in some rooms.

Low air quality – since the furnace blow hot air, they blow the dust and germs present in the duct as well. Also, in winters the air will get dry in contrary to that of air produced by steam.

Advantages of boilers

Highly efficient – Boiler generally uses less fuel to produce. Thus, is very efficient and will help to reduce the energy bills.

Less noisy – unlike the furnaces, boilers doesn’t produce sound while running. They operate quietly and provide the warmth to your place.

Less maintenance – boilers doesn’t have filters in them, thus cleaning is not required.

Better air quality – Since boilers doesn’t blow air. Therefore they won’t transfer dust or germs to the environment. Also in winters the air produced from the steam will be moist.

Disadvantages of boilers

Risk of leakage- if there will be any leakage in the boiler, it will cause a big damage as the water leakage is more disastrous than the air leakage.

React slowly to the temperature – Boilers take longer time to adjust with the thermostat changes. It takes more time to get into the temperature whenever it will heat up or down.

Installation is harder – boilers are more technical and have to be installed more carefully than the furnaces. Therefore, it takes longer time to install.

Features Boiler Furnaces
Efficient 50-90% depending on the model and system’s age 59-80% depending on the unit
Fuel used Natural gas, propane, heating oil, electricity, biodiesel blends Natural gas, propane, heating oil, electricity
costly Slightly costly Inexpensive
Noise Operates quietly Is noisy and produces sound
Life expectancy 15-30 years 15-30 years

These details will surely help you in understanding the difference between the two central heating systems. You should go for the one which satisfies your budget and needs together. Therefore, check all the specifications and certifications mentioned by the manufacturer before taking the decision of buying the particular central heating system unit.

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