What’s the Difference Between a Boiler and a Furnace?

March 12, 2018
What’s the Difference Between a Boiler and a Furnace?

Most people refer to their heating equipment as a furnace, but that’s a totally different system from a boiler. Knowing the difference can be helpful when it comes to some money-saving do-it-yourself tips, or if you need to explain to us a problem you’re having with your system.

What is a furnace?

A furnace refers to the heating unit in a warm air, or forced air, system. After air is heated in the furnace, a blower forces it through ducts. The warm air is then released through vents or registers in your home.

Tips to get the most from your furnace

  • All warm air systems have filters to screen out dust and other impurities. If you have a standard throwaway filter, replace it about once each month throughout the year. Make sure the furnace is off before changing the filter. After you’ve changed the filter, make sure the furnace door/panel is properly closed. Higher efficiency air filters require less maintenance and can be taken out and cleaned as needed.
  • If you have a whole house air cleaner connected to your furnace, get the most out of it by keeping the thermostat setting to “on” instead of auto. This provides continuous circulation and filtration of indoor air and helps maintain a balanced temperature throughout your home.

What is a boiler?

If you have a hot water (hydronic) system, water circulates around your boiler’s combustion chamber. A circulator pumps the hot water through pipes to heat baseboards or radiators. Eventually, the water returns to the unit to begin the cycle again. If you have a steam system, the boiler turns the water into steam, which then rises through pipes to radiators.

Tips to get the most from your boiler

  • If you’re not getting heat from a baseboard, check to see if the damper is open. Make sure the bottom of the unit isn’t blocked by heavy carpeting.
  • For steam systems, check the boiler’s water gauge periodically. Low water levels are a leading cause for shutdowns. Steam boilers should also be “flushed” when the water in the gauge looks rusty. Contact us if you’re not familiar with this procedure.
  • A radiator valve has only two positions, on and off. Keeping the valve’s handle in between does not regulate the temperature but can strain the pipes and produce a hammering sound.

Important tips for all heating systems

  • Keep the area around your system as clean and clutter-free as possible.
  • Never store anything flammable near your system.
  • Keep registers, baseboards or radiators clean and unobstructed to ensure maximum air flow.

Keep your heating equipment running safely and efficiently by contacting us to schedule your annual tune-up. Read more about this service here.