Don’t Be Full of Hot Air When It Comes to Your Knowledge of Heating Systems
If you’re thinking about updating the way that you heat your home, you have one of two options: a furnace or residential boilers. Although the terms are often used interchangeably — many people will insist that they have a furnace even if they have a boiler — there is a significant difference and both have pros and cons. It’s good to be well informed, even if you’re happy with the current heating system you have. You may not know what you’re missing! You may end up saving money, finding that the heat in your home is better regulated, and other perks. The age of your home may also be a factor in determining which heating system might be best (think about how well your home is insulated, for example. Older houses may be less well insulated than newer homes and require a more powerful heating systems.)
What Do Furnaces and Boilers Do?
The main function of furnaces and boilers is to provide central heating to a home or building. If you’re contemplating a new heating and cooling system, boilers and furnaces are sure to be in the conversation.
Many people these days are contemplating systems that are more energy efficient — the highest energy efficient systems have an AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency) between 90-98.5%. Higher efficiency systems can also cut down on energy use and energy bills. This is important, considering that heating and cooling can be almost 50% of energy use in the average American home. Most furnaces use natural gas — it’s used in almost 60% of American homes. Additionally, new gas furnaces have a minimum of 78% for low efficiency. On the high efficiency end, some of the new furnaces can get up to 97%! That’s almost near-total efficiency!
What’s the Difference Between a Furnace and a Boiler Anyway?
The most fundamental difference between a furnace and a boiler is that a furnace heats the air and that warm air is blown out through ducts in the home. The air is delivered to rooms through grilles or air registers. Boilers heat water instead of air and transmit heat through steam or hot water. Heat is distributed using steam radiators, baseboard radiators, heated flooring, or a coil that heats the air. Furnaces are generally powered using natural gas, electricity, or fuel oil. Residential boilers are powered using natural gas or heating oil.
What Are the Pros of Each Type of Heating System?
Furnaces tend to be less expensive than boilers (they can be half the price in some cases!). Boiler prices can range anywhere from $2,500 to $10,000 depending on their efficiency. However, for the price, boilers tend to last longer than furnaces; the average lifespan of a boiler is anywhere from 15 to 30 years, while furnaces generally last anywhere between 15 to 18 years. Boilers however, do tend to be more energy efficient (using less fuel, which saves you money on your energy bill) and provide a good steady heat with a more consistent temperature. They also tend to be quieter and require less maintenance, although boiler installation can be pricier. Because boiler installation is a more complex process, it stands to reason that the boiler installation itself would be more expensive.
However, furnaces are considerably less expensive than boilers. Additionally, furnace installation is way cheaper than boiler installation, since it’s a less complex process. They’re also easier to repair if problems arise and there’s no danger of them freezing if the weather gets cold. Furthermore, if the furnace leaks, only air is released, versus water when a boiler leaks, so there’s less hazard to your home or any objects you may have stacked around your furnace.
Choosing your central heating system can be a big decision — you want to choose the one that’s best for you in the long run. Of course price is a huge factor, but you may decide that a more expensive option now can save you money in the long run. If you’re hiring contractors or other skilled workers, ask them what they think might be the best option for your home.