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The difference between boilers and furnaces, explained

What is the difference between boilers and furnaces? Or, boilers and water heaters? Many homeowners use these terms interchangeably, but these systems—from the way they work to their very purpose—are all incredibly different. In this article, we’ll review boilers, furnaces, and water heaters, and how to know which system you need for your home.

Do you live here in Buffalo or Western New York? At Reimer Home Services, we offer free in-home estimates on new boilers and furnaces. Give us a call today to learn more about heating installation from our team.

What is the difference between boilers and furnaces?

The majority of homes in the United States have a central heating system. Those that don’t typically have a ductless mini-split setup. But, not all types of central heating systems are the same. The two most common types of heating systems installed in homes today include furnace and boilers. Some people think that the difference between the two is just semantics. However, this is not the case. Sure, both the systems keep the room warm, but the way that the warm air is generated is different.

Knowing the differences between a boiler and a furnace will be helpful when it comes to new heater installation. It will also be of use when conversing with the technician about heater problems. So, what are the differences between the two? You should continue reading the article to find out.

What are boilers?

A key difference between boilers and furnaces is that boilers heat water to be used for radiant heating, while furnaces heat air to be used for forced-air heating.

A key difference between boilers and furnaces is that boilers heat water to be used for radiant heating, while furnaces heat air to be used for forced-air heating.

Boilers generate warm air through the heated water in a tank. They don’t require ducts to circulate warm air throughout the house. Instead, heated water is circulated through pipes to different end points located inside the house that are typically baseboard heaters or radiators. This is known as radiant heating.

Electric boilers have heating elements to heat the water, while gas heaters use jets under the tank for the same purpose. The heat is moved through the end points into the living space through radiant heat transfer—the delivery of heat by increasing the surface temperature so that it warms the nearby area.

What are furnaces?

On the other hand, both gas and electric furnaces are forced-air systems. They combust fuel (gas) or generate heat (electricity) to heat up air, which is then blown through ducts into the living spaces of your home. The forced systems heat the air through a device known as heat exchangers. The heated air is then circulated inside the house through the ducts by blower fans. In electric-powered furnaces, heating elements are present that create warm air, while in fuel powered furnaces the warm air is created by the gas jets.

So, which is better?

Each of the types of the heater has its own advantages and disadvantages. Boilers tend to produce cleaner heat and entail lower repair and operation costs. They also tend to be more energy-efficient: less heat energy is wasted through radiant heating compared to forced-air heating. Ultimately, this is a big difference between boilers and furnaces.

However, if your home isn’t set up for a boiler and radiant heating, you may find the cost of installation to be prohibitive—especially if you already have ductwork, anyway. Most homeowners looking to put in radiant heating do so during a major remodel or new home build so that they can run the water lines underneath floors. This has the added benefit of adding heated floors to your home.

What about water heaters?

Many people confuse water heaters and boilers. After all, the physics is fundamentally the same: both systems are using some form of energy (electricity, natural gas) to heat water inside of a tank, and then using pipes to distribute it out to other areas of your home. However, this is where the similiarities end. For the most part, the water inside of a radiant heating system and boiler exists in a closed loop—its purpose is to transport heat energy.

Water heaters, obviously, disperse water to the taps, faucets, and shower heads in your home. They are considered plumbing, while boilers are considered an HVAC system. If your water heater stops working, you’ll need to call a plumber. At Reimer, we have both HVAC techs and plumbers on our team.

Call Reimer for heating installation in Buffalo and Western New York

Whatever heating equipment you purchase, you can ensure that it continues to operate without a major fault for a long time through regular tune-up. If you want to get in touch with experienced NATE-certified furnace repair technicians in Western New York, you can contact Reimer Home Services.

What is the best time to get a furnace checkup?

Pumpkin spice lattes are coming back into style. Children are back in school, and stores are beginning to carry Halloween decorations and candy. Here in Buffalo, the days of summer are quickly coming to an end as fall enters full swing. Cooler nights are on the way, and your home has to be ready. There’s no better time for a furnace tune-up than right now, before you turn on your furnace for the season.

In this blog post, we’ll review the benefits of scheduling a furnace tune-up with Reimer, as well as what makes the early fall months the ideal time for a professional heating system inspection.

Furnace CheckupWhy should I get a furnace checkup?

In one of our previous blog posts, we talked about the benefits of a seasonal air conditioning tune-up. In fact, many of these benefits are the same for a furnace checkup, including:

  • Increased energy efficiency: A furnace tune-up will make your system more efficient, which could result in significant savings over the entirety of the winter season.
  • Longer system lifespan: Regular maintenance can help your furnace live a longer life, delaying the need for replacement.
  • Less risk of system breakdown: Nobody wants their furnace breaking down in the middle of the night. An annual checkup from a licensed professional can help your furnace make it through the season.
  • Better heating performance: Why even have a furnace if it’s not going to heat your home the way you prefer? A furnace tune-up can remove spotty heating and other performance problems.
  • Warranty maintenance: Many furnace manufacturers offer warranties on their products that come with a small catch: to keep the warranty from year-to-year, you need to schedule annual maintenance from a professional.

What’s the best time for a tune-up?

We recommend that you get your furnace tuned up before the first cold nights of late autumn and winter, when you need to turn your furnace on for the first time in the season. Having a professional technician inspect your system before you turn on your furnace gives them a chance to find anything that’s broken before the situation gets worse.

Furnace Tune-UpPlus, having your furnace inspected before the arrival of the year’s coldest months maximizes your energy savings. An unmaintained furnace burns more energy and pushes your gas or electric bill higher and higher. By having an experienced technician from Reimer inspect your system before you begin using it, you get the best return on your energy investment. That’s more money that stays in your pocket.

However, the question of timing is somewhat of a trick question. There’s no bad time for a furnace checkup. Generally, you should have your furnace inspected by a professional at least once-a-year, but if that inspection happens in the middle of winter or the middle of summer, it’s better than not having your heating system maintained at all.

Why should I choose Reimer for my furnace checkup?

Since 1921, Reimer has been helping generations of Buffalo families with their heating and cooling needs. We’re proud to be a trusted source for HVAC advice, services, and products. Our technicians are not only industry-certified, but have years of experience repairing and maintaining furnaces. If you want to get your heating system ready for the cold winter ahead, trust the Reimer team.

Our technicians have worked with almost every kind of furnace there is, and can maintain any make or model. We work with furnaces, boilers, and heaters. Our team is available 24/7 for repairs and maintenance, and Reimer backs the work our technicians do with a 100% satisfaction guarantee.

Ready to have your furnace tuned up? Schedule service with us online or give us a call at 716-694-8524.