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Boiler vs Furnace (Cost, Maintenance)

Boiler vs Furnace (Cost, Maintenance)

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“A boiler or a furnace; which heating system will suit me better?” This is a question homeowners ask a lot, and the truth is there is no one answer. It is knowledge of the differences between both that will serve as the perfect guide in helping you make your choice.

  • Cost:  A furnace costs less than a boiler, but it’s costlier to remove an old furnace than it is to remove an old boiler.
  • Maintenance: The cost of maintaining a boiler is higher than that of maintaining a furnace
  • Fuel:  A furnace runs on oil, gas or electricity, while a boiler runs on natural gas, propane, oil, or electricity.
  • Comfort: With a boiler, you get more thermal comfort and quality air than from a furnace.
  • Speed: Heating a house happens faster with a furnace than with a boiler.
  • Installation: It is easier to install a furnace than it is to install a boiler

What is a furnace, and how does it work?

A furnace is a device used to improve the thermal comfort of a home. It works on the principle of maintaining the temperature within a building by constantly pumping heated air into it. It is usually positioned in a central area so that the air that’s force-fed can reach everywhere easily and quickly through the ductwork.

What is a boiler, and how does it work?

A boiler is a heating device, and it also provides thermal comfort for the occupants of a building. Its working principle is that its fuel heats a fluid which is then circulated around the home through a hydraulic heating system.

Boiler vs Furnace – Fuel

Every appliance that does work needs some sort of fuel to run on. Nevertheless, boilers and furnaces don’t run on the same kind of fuel. A furnace works on oil, gas, or electricity. It’s that fuel that then burns to generate the heat that’s transferred to the air through a heat exchanger.

The boiler is slightly different as it runs on natural gas, propane, oil, and electricity. This fuel then heats either water or glycol which is later radiated around the home to transfer heat.

Boiler vs Furnace – Comfort

Furnaces transfer heat through the distribution of heated air, and this sometimes makes your home drafty. This is because, with this system, there is a constant movement of air than natural; and when it comes to heating, this can be a little uncomfortable. The boiler does better in this regard as their radiators and baseboards supply heat at a steadier rate and with a less thermal variation.

The boiler also has an edge over the furnace because it doesn’t dissipate dust over the home, neither does it rid the air of its moisture. The air duct of the furnace, on the other hand, accumulates dust over time. By that, the air flowing within the home gets contaminated.

Boiler vs Furnace – Ease of Installation

To transfer the heat generated by the heated water, the boiler needs some sort of network of pipes around the home to evenly distribute the heat. Now, networking pipes around a home is not unusual, but it isn’t as common as the air duct system used by the furnace. If you are moving into a new home, you’d likely have an air duct system in place because it is generally easier to install. So, in this case, it will be economical to go with the furnace instead of installing a new network of pipes or boiler system.

Boiler vs Furnace – Maintenance

Boilers and furnaces are maintained quite differently. Since the furnace works on heated air, there is a need to maintain the air duct system from time to time. To be more specific, professionals are of the opinion that the air filter should be changed every month or every quarter. This is to ensure a continuous supply of quality air.

On the flip side, a boiler requires way less maintenance. There might be no need to alter or change anything on your boiler for a whole year. In fact, a cast iron gas boiler can keep working for years with no significant maintenance carried out on it. Now, this doesn’t mean that the boiler is perfect. There are still some issues that you can encounter with their network of pipes such as occasional freezing or leakage. This leads to some difficulty as the frozen or blocked pipes are sometimes difficult to locate. A way to do this, though, is to pay attention to the pipes around sections of the house that aren’t as heated as others.

Boiler vs Furnace – Cost

On a general note, boilers are more expensive than furnaces. According to Kompareit, midrange boilers cost $2,500 – $4,000 while the high-efficiency ones go for $5,000 – $10,000.

From the same source, a midrange furnace costs anything around $2,000-$3,500, and the high-efficiency ones start from $5,000.

Clearly, the furnace wins this round. However, it costs about $500 extra to remove an old furnace.

Boiler vs Furnace – Speed

When it comes to supplying heat, a furnace is faster than a boiler. This is because it doesn’t have to first heat water as in the case of a boiler. All the furnace has to do is warm air which is less dense. The variation in the densities of these media is what majorly accounts for the difference in the speed at which these devices supply thermal comfort.


Boilers and furnaces perform the same function, yet they have their peculiarities. Now that you are aware of these peculiarities and even their differences, you can make a good decision regarding which one to install in your home. Just remember that the major difference is that a burner supplies heat through heated water, while a furnace does the same but through heated air. Also, you might want to consider a furnace because it cost less to purchase.

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