What Is the Difference Between a Furnace and a Boiler?

The most common types of heating systems—both of which have warmed homes and businesses for well over a century and a half—are furnaces and boilers. Chances are high that you have one or the other working to keep your home cozy during the winter. The two systems have little in common, however, except that they can use similar energy sources. Otherwise, they have completely different methods of providing heat for a building, and each requires specialists to install, repair, and maintain it.

If you are looking to have new heating system in installation, your choice may come down to a boiler or furnace. The one that will work best for your home heating will depend on many factors, and you should always rely on professionals to handle the installation so you end up with the right heater for your needs. Call ACI Northwest and put your trust in our many years of experience finding heating solutions for the greater Coeur d’Alene and Spokane area.

Furnace: Forced-Air Heating

The principle of a furnace is “forced-air heating,” which means that the system heats up air and then distributes it with a blower through a ventilation system. How the furnace heats up the air in its cabinet depends on its fuel source. The most common furnace type uses natural gas piped into the home. The furnace burns the natural gas to create a hot combustion gas. This gas enters a metal heat exchanger, which then heats the air blown past it and into the ductwork. The cooled-down combustion gas safely vents outside through a flue.

A popular alternative to gas is electricity. In these units, electric coils in a series of heating elements glow hot as current runs through them. The heating elements raise the temperature of the air through resistance heating, and the blower sends the air into the ventilation system.

Boiler: Hydronic Radiant Heating

Boilers do not use forced air or ductwork to provide warmth. Instead, they use heated water—and in some cases, steam—distributed through pipes to various terminal points in a home that then radiate heat waves into rooms. Boilers often use natural gas to create the heat to raise the temperature of the water in their water tanks, although some rely on electrical heating elements within the tank itself. Radiant heating in general is cleaner than forced-air heating because it does not require ductwork that can contain dust and dirt that will mix into the air stream.

Which One Is Best For My Home?

Both systems have advantages and disadvantages: furnaces can achieve high levels of heating, while boilers tend to use energy more efficiently and can last longer. If your home already has a set of ducts, it’s probably easiest to install a furnace. For a newer home without ducts, a boiler is an attractive possibility. The best way to know for certain is to work with a heating professional, who can measure the best way to efficiently and effectively provide comfort for your home.

ACI Northwest has a team ready to help with your needs for heating services in Coeur d’Alene, WA. Call us today to help choose between a furnace and a boiler.

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