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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.


Get a free in-home estimate on a new furnace or boiler.

Does your home need a new heater? We’re here to help. At Reimer, we offer free in-home estimates on new heating systems—including both furnaces and boilers. Fill out the form to request an appointment with 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.

If your gas or electric furnace is getting up there in age, it might need to be replaced. Check out this article to learn why you should consider getting a new furnace installed before winter arrives.

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 our team by filling out the form below.

Fill out this form to request a free in-home estimate

Here’s what backflow is, and how you can prevent it from happening in your home

Preventing backflow is important to protecting your home’s drinking and potable water. But, just what is backflow, anyway? In this blog, we’ll break down how backflow works, why it’s an issue for homeowners here in Buffalo and Western New York, and when you should call in the plumbers at Reimer Home Services.

Need Reimer to solve a backflow issue or install a check valve for your home? Contact us online, or give us a call at (716) 694-8524 to get started.

What is backflow?

In plumbing, “backflow” is the word that refers to water moving into the direction it shouldn’t. All water in the home has a set path and direction: for example, your garden hose is meant to distribute water, not take it back into the hose.

However, when backflow happens, that exact situation is possible. When there are problems with pressure, that water from your garden hose can flow back into your potable water supply.

Why is this a problem?

There are many instances in which backflow can be dangerous. For example, you don’t want wastewater backflowing into your potable water supply. This could foul the water and make you and your family very sick.

There are different levels of contamination when it comes to backflow. Because of the way modern homes and bathrooms are designed, most homeowners probably won’t have to deal with foul water. However, there are instances in which check valves—the pressure regulators preventing backflow—fail, or need to be installed in other points of your home.

Where do homeowners often need check valves?

Most homes already have check valves in place to prevent the serious or dangerous contamination of their home’s drinking water. However, even if these are good, your home might still need additional check valves.

Let’s return to our gardening hose example from earlier. Without backflow prevention, excess water from the hose could return to the primary water supply. In most cases, this is going to negatively impact the taste and quality of that water. It’s been sitting in the sun, in a rubber hose.

Take control of your indoor water quality

Just like indoor air quality, indoor water quality matters. You can’t control everything about the water that’s sent to your tap, but—by preventing backflow—you can ensure that your home’s water is at least in the right pathway once it’s in your home’s pipes.

If you suspect that your home is having backflow issues, it’s time to call in the experts at Reimer for backflow testing. We offer a wide variety of plumbing solutions here in Buffalo and Western New York. Contact us online, or give us a call at (716) 694-8524.

Here’s how to prevent your downspouts from clogging

Prevent Downspouts From CloggingMost people tend to overlook the importance of keeping their home’s downspouts cleaned. They are an important component of the house that drains away the rainwater, thereby preventing it from accumulating on the roof.

However, as the water drains through the downspouts, so does debris—including leaves and twigs that can clog the drainpipe. Luckily for you, Reimer offers drain cleaning services in Buffalo and Western New York.

What happens if a drain pipe clogs?

Roofs, especially those with parapet walls, are catchalls for any and all sort of debris, including leaves, twigs, and plastic bags, among others. Drains and debris don’t mix. A drain’s dome lets water flow through while catching debris, which would otherwise clog the plumbing. Unfortunately, this debris builds up around the drain dome, slowing or eventually stopping the water.

Keep in mind that debris and drain is a bad match. If you don’t clean the debris, it will slowly accumulate around the drain dome and slow down or stop the flow of water. A clogged drain pipe can result in accumulation of water over the roof that can cause damage in many ways:

  • As water seeps into the gaps, it can expand and contract due to changing temperature thereby weakening the seams of the roofing material
  • Accumulated water can deteriorate roofing cement, tar, and caulking
  • Build up of water may strain the structural support of the roof due to additional weight
  • Lead to the formation of moss, plants, and slime on the roof deck
  • Create the breeding ground for mosquitoes

So, how can you prevent your home’s downspouts from clogging?  

The answer is simple. You should either regularly check the condition of the downspout yourself, or have the downspouts checked by an experienced plumber. The plumber can inspect the dome of the downspout and clear twigs, leaves, and other debris using proper tools without damaging the assembly or the structure.

Another advice to avoid clogged downspout is to ensure that the correct type, size, and thickness of the drain-dome slot is installed. You must talk with a professional roof drain expert to inquire about the right size and type of downspout for your home. Some of the factors that determine which is the right size downspout for your house include average rainfall exposure and the roof size.

In the end, remember that the best time to inspect and clean the downspout is before the rainiest season of the year. You should have the downspout inspected and cleaned of all debris. Also, after a heavy snowstorm, you should maintain the openings by creating a 12-inch path along the curb for the melting snow.

Call Reimer for drain cleaning of downspouts and other drains

If you to have the downspout checked and cleaned in the area of Buffalo, you can contact Reimer Home Services. You can rest assured that our highly experienced and trained plumbers can expertly perform all kind of plumbing in your home.

Hot water heater types: which should you buy?

You need a new hot water heater in your home. After years of great service from your older one, it’s time to make an upgrade. But, there’s a lot of different water heaters on the market. Not just makes and models, but in terms of hot water heater types. Gas, electric, tankless, solar: what do all these terms mean, and what are the real advantages and disadvantages of each?

In our latest blog post, we’ll run through these hot water heater types and explore what makes each of them different.

Standard Water Heater - Hot Water Heater Types

The bottom of a standard hot water heater.

Standard water heaters

These are, by far, the most common type of water heater in American homes. They have a familiar tank, and are usually placed in the garage or in a laundry room. These systems heat water and then store it in the tank until it’s called out by a faucet or drain in the home. These system regulate the temperature and pressure of the water inside. Compared to tankless water heaters or other models, these are, by far, the least expensive option for most homes.

Standard water heaters do have their downsides, however. Since they heat and store a certain amount of water, they can run out of it, especially during high-demand periods. For example, a family of four that gets ready in the morning for school and work may find that the last person to take a shower “runs out” of hot water. In addition, standard water heaters only last between 10-12 years, and they run the risk—especially near the end of their life—of bursting their tank and causing flooding.

Despite these downsides, standard water heaters remain an affordable way for most families to get hot water in their home. There are two kinds of standard water heaters: gas and electric.

Hot water heater types

The most standard hot water heater setup.

Gas water heaters

The first thing to note, of course, is that your home needs to have both natural gas available and a hookup for a gas water heater. Without either of those things, you’ll want to get an electric water heater.

However, if your home is wired for natural gas, these type of water heaters are probably your best bet. While, on average, they’re a bit more expensive than their electric siblings, standard gas water heaters are more energy efficient. Over the course of years, those savings will likely add up to more than make up the difference in cost.

Electric water heaters

If you don’t have gas connections, you will have to get an electric water heater of some kind. A standard electric water heater uses more energy than gas units or tankless systems, but is the least expensive option.

An additional downside of an electric water heater? If the power goes out at your home, you’ll no longer have access to hot water.

Tankless water heaters

As their name heavily implies, tankless water heaters do not have tanks like standard water heaters. Nor do they hold water. Instead, they pass water through the system, heating it as needed.

This gives them multiple advantages over standard water heaters. First, tankless water heaters can supply an “unlimited” amount of hot water to your home. Since the system is just heating water as it passes through, it’s not limited to what water has been pre-heated in a tank. For larger families with hectic morning schedules, this can make all the difference.

Tankless systems are more energy-efficient than their standard peers—in fact, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that tankless water heaters use 24-34% less energy than a normal, tanked system. For families that use a lot of hot water, those savings can really add up each year. One final advantage of a tankless water heater? They can least between 15-20 years, sometimes doubling the lifespan of a standard system.

Types of hot water heaters - Tankless

Tankless hot water heaters are often wall-mounted, saving you space, as well.

Tankless systems do have a few downsides. The other side of being able to supply limitless hot water is that the amount supplied cannot exceed the amount that can be pushed through the system. So, for example, attempting to run the dishwasher, laundry, and the shower all at the same time will probably exceed the capacity of the tankless system. The other downside, as we’ve alluded to, is the cost. Tankless systems can cost far more than standard water heaters. In many instances, the energy savings from a tankless system can exceed the cost of the system, but only over the total 20-year lifetime. In other words, you won’t see your return on investment for two decades after your purchase.

Other hot water heater types

Other, less common hot water heater types include solar water heaters and condensing water heaters. For more on these systems, be sure to look through this buying guide from Consumer Reports.

What hot water heater types are best for your home?

Every home is different, and every family has different hot water needs. Water heaters are not always a one-size-fits-all purchase. That’s why we recommend that you give our team a call. We’re a trusted hot water heater installer serving Buffalo and Western New York. Our state-certified plumbers and technicians can help you and your family find the right water heater for your home. Give us a call today at (716) 694-8524, or contact us online.

Indoor air quality testing from Reimer

The air you breathe matters, no matter where you are. In this blog post, we’ll discuss why indoor air quality testing is so important to your family’s health, and what it might find in your home’s air.

Invisible, but important

When your air conditioner stops working in the summer, you’ll know it because your home will get hot. When your furnace stops working in the winter, you’ll know it because your home will get cold. However, when your home’s air ducts begin transporting air filled with dust, pollutants, bacteria, and who knows what else, how will you know? It’s possible for your home’s heating and cooling systems to be working just fine, yet the indoor air quality in your home is suffering.

Air Duct Cleaning Can Also Help | Indoor Air Quality Testing

Cleaning your air ducts is one of the most common recommendations from indoor air quality testing.

The good news is that the team at Reimer Heating, Air Conditioning, and Plumbing can help you identify potential problems with indoor air quality testing. This professional assessment of your home’s state will find any major red flags and let you know what’s coming in from the outside. Our report doesn’t just show you what’s wrong and then leave: instead, we take the time to review multiple mitigation strategies for correcting issues, so that your home’s air is clean and good to breathe in. Keep reading to learn more about indoor air quality and what we look for when testing.

Why should you get indoor air quality testing?

Indoor air quality matters. On a daily basis, you likely spend more time in your home than anywhere else: after all, think about all the hours you spend sleeping there alone. That’s a lot of breathing. Now, imagine that your place of work also has questionable indoor air quality. You’re lungs are taking in a lot of bad air.

If your home’s air is full of dust and allergens and you’re sensitive to allergies, you’re going to be a coughing, sneezing, water-running mess in the one place where you should expect some relief. If your home’s air ducts are spewing out bacteria and viruses, your chances of getting sick go up significantly.

This isn’t superstition. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a number of other organizations agree that poor indoor air quality is, at best, a nuisance to your comfort, aggravating allergies and causing more sneezing. At worst, as in the case of radon infiltration (more on that later), it can pose a significant risk to you and your family’s health. Indoor air quality testing is the only way to be sure the air you’re breathing is healthy and free of harmful material.

Ok, what’s in my home’s air?

While each home may have different particulate matter, here are some of the things our indoor air quality test specifically looks for:

  • Allergens: These include pollen, pet dander, and far more. If your eyes are watering and your nose is running with no other signs of sickness, allergens may be to blame. You can probably expect your symptoms to spike when you walk outside, but if you’re miserable indoors, too, it might be a sign that your air filter is insufficiently filtering out particulates. Don’t just treat this with allergy-suppressant medication. Instead, consider indoor air quality testing to tackle the problem at its source.
  • Pollutants: Like allergens, you’d expect to find these outside. Produced by automobile exhaust and industrial smog, this form of pollution can get into your home and linger there. The impact of pollutants may be greater if you haven’t taken any mitigation steps.
  • Bacteria and Viruses: Floating on the wind, airborne illnesses can be carried into your home through your HVAC system and your ductwork, where they can infect you and your family. Instead of taking sick days, consider having Reimer test for airborne contaminants and installing a solution, such as a device that exposes incoming air to cleansing UV rays.

It’s also possible that your air conditioner is to blame for some of the poor-quality air coming into your home, especially is entrances to the ducts are dusty or there’s been a build-up of dirt and grime. Learn more about air conditioning maintenance from Reimer.

What is radon?

Deep within the earth, uranium is very, very slowly decaying—some variations of this element have a half-life of 4.5 billion years. As the uranium decays, some of it turns into a radioactive gas. This gas, the element radon, moves up through the earth into the atmosphere. However, it can often become trapped in sources of groundwater and in homes, where it presents a potential danger to humans and other living things.

The surface of the earth is home to radon, and chances are that you’re breathing a very small amount of it in right now. In this way, radon is present in every home or building and is considered a form of background radiation. However, when the amount of radon jumps from that baseline to an elevated level, it becomes a threat. Highly radioactive, radon attaches itself to dust particles and is readily breathed in by living things, where it can cause cancers to form in the human body. In fact, radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, behind smoking.

Increased radon exposure varies by geographical area and can impact any type of home, ranging from a new home to an older one. However, homes with tight crawlspaces or basements may be especially vulnerable, as they present areas where radon can become trapped and concentrate without much capacity to be released.

Reimer offers radon testing as a part of our indoor air quality tests, and our technicians are qualified to advise you on mitigation methods for removing radon buildup. Give us a call to learn more about this, or check out the EPA’s guide to radon exposure. It’s not a bad idea to get your home checked, just for the peace of mind factor alone.

How can I schedule indoor air quality testing?

Give Reimer a call. Our team can help you determine what’s in your home’s air, and provide you with advice and solutions for removing pollutants, allergens, and other, more serious hazards. Contact us today to learn more!