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Do I Have a Boiler or Furnace?

A man checking a system

Are you unsure of which type of heating system your home uses? If you’ve never gone and hugged your boiler, that’s okay. After all, we often don’t think about our heating system, or provide the love it needs, until something breaks down. But it’s really important to know a little more about your heating system to make sure the right person comes out to service the special equipment you have in your home. Two of the most common types of heating systems you can find are furnaces and boilers.

The main difference between a furnace and a boiler is the way in which they generate heat. A furnace burns fuel such as natural gas, propane or oil to create warm air that is then circulated by a blower throughout the home. Boilers, on the other hand, use hot water or steam to heat the home. Additionally, boilers can be used to provide hot water for showers and sinks.

How to Tell Whether You Have a Boiler or Furnace

There are a few key signs that can help you determine whether your home has a boiler or furnace for the heating system. Check out the table below to compare.

What are they connected to?Furnaces are connected to ductwork that winds through the entire home to evenly disperse heat.Boilers will be connected to piping, which is most often copper or iron. In some cases it may also be covered in insulation. Boilers are typically shorter in height than furnaces.
How do they deliver heat?Furnaces blow hot/ warm air through ductwork in a cycle known as a “forced air system.” Small gaps and flaws can lead to noise and dust circulation.Boilers are known as a hydronic system. These systems utilize radiators or baseboard heaters, so the presence of one is a telltale sign. If you have radiators or baseboard heaters in your home, you likely have a boiler.

Just to add to the confusion – there is also a hydro-heating system, which utilizes a boiler for the heating system while also connected to an air handler with ductwork! This one is really tricky, so if you figure this out, you are a superstar!

Which Is Right for Me? A Furnace or a Boiler?

Depending on the size of your home, your family’s heating needs and other important information, it can be a tough choice when deciding between a furnace or a boiler. Review the table below for an in-depth look at the differences and similarities between these two heating systems.

OverallFurnaces are usually less expensive to install, and they can generate heat more quickly and evenly compared to boilers.Boilers can be more expensive than furnaces to install. And because they store water in tanks, there are risks associated with problems like tank leaks or broken pipes.
Noise levelsThey’re noisier than boilers.Boilers are quiet.
Energy efficiencyOlder furnaces are not particularly energy efficient, but newer natural gas models can be quite efficient.Boilers can use radiant in-floor heating, which is extremely energy efficient and convenient.
Indoor air qualityThe ductwork can collect dust and other debris, which can aggravate conditions like asthma.Boilers don’t rely on forced air systems and ductwork, so they’re less likely to lead to allergy issues or dust buildup.
Common problemsFurnaces can be made as electric only, which means they don’t use combustible fuel. This sidesteps the risk of carbon monoxide that there is with combustion appliances like boilers and furnaces.As with any piping system, there is a risk of freezing and bursting in extremely cold temperatures.

Call Aspinwall for Boiler Replacement in Quincy

If you think a new boiler is just what your home needs, the expert installers at Aspinwall Plumbing & Heating can help. Give us a call at (617) 539-7672 to request an appointment for boiler replacement or contact us online.

Our expert furnace installers are also happy to offer their services if you’re confident a new furnace is the way to go. We can ensure quality installation of your preferred make and model, so don’t hesitate to give us a call for furnace replacement.

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