In the boiler vs. furnace debate, many people don’t really know the difference between these types of systems. In fact, they often use the terms “furnace” and “boiler” interchangeably without understanding how each one works or their pros and cons. Here are the basics that can help you evaluate for yourself which is better between boiler vs. furnace.
The difference between a boiler and furnace starts with how they work and that affects operating costs, upkeep and efficiency.
Boilers heat water:
Furnaces heat air:
Considering a boiler vs. furnace for energy efficiency in your home, here are some of the main boiler pros and cons:
You can also understand the difference between a boiler and a furnace through furnace pros and cons:
When considering whether to go with a gas furnace vs. boiler – or a unit using a different type of fuel – the purchase price matters. The difference between a boiler and a furnace is a factor in the price tag for buying and installing one.
First considering boilers, a gas-fueled boiler will cost between $4,000 and $9,000. Propane units cost between $2,800 and $7,500 with oil running $3,300 to over $9,000. Electric boilers cost between $1,000 and $8,000.
Furnaces can be less expensive, depending on the fuel type. A propane furnace costs between $2,200 and $5,700. Those running on natural gas range between $2,000 and $5,200 and oil between $2,500 and $6,000. Electric furnaces are the least expensive type, running between $1,900 and $5,600.
Installation can be costly, particularly if you are changing fuel types and need to haul away old equipment.
The longer term consideration is the boiler vs furnace monthly cost. Looking at average costs is not helpful because of the wide variations across many factors.
The best way is to specifically estimate your fuel costs with your location, fuel costs, home size, and needs in mind. Calculate the amount of energy you will use and multiply that by the cost of each unit of energy. Propane and oil are measured in gallons, natural gas by therm, and electricity by kilo-watt hour. If you are in a competitive energy market, you can select among energy plans for the best prices.
The amount of energy you will use depends on the specifications of each unit you are considering, the size of your home, and how often and for how long you will run your system.
Knowing your costs will help you make the right choices to heat your home efficiently.
Your boiler vs. furnace monthly cost partly depends on the cost of fuel and partly on the heating efficiency of your system. Newer systems are dramatically more efficient than older models, with new boilers being more efficient and less expensive to operate than new furnace systems.
The U.S. Department of Energy measures heating efficiency by the annual fuel utilization efficiency or AFUE percentage. For a given amount of fuel consumed in the system,the AFUE is a percentage for how much goes to heating your house. A unit with a 70% AFUE uses 70% of energy for heat and the rest is lost through exhaust, duct work and pipes, and the mechanics of its operation.
Older furnaces or boilers have an energy efficiency AFUE measurement in the 56-70% range. Today’s systems have an efficiency rating that is as high as 98.5%. In new and highly efficient systems, practically all the energy they consume goes directly toward heating your home. Look for units with an ENERGY STAR® rating.
Upgrading your furnace or boiler to one with an AFUE in the 90%+ range can cut your heating bill almost in half. You can reduce your carbon dioxide emissions by that much or more, depending on the fuel your system uses.
Innovations that increase the efficiency, boiler vs. furnace, no matter what your fuel choice, include:
This chart compares boiler vs. furnace energy efficiency at a glance:
Regardless of whether you have a furnace or a boiler, you need to take care of it to maintain its optimum operating efficiency and to extend its useful life. Money invested in system upkeep will keep your heating costs as low as possible.
For all systems:
For forced air systems:
For hot water systems:
For steam systems:
It’s a mistake to take your furnace or boiler for granted. As one of the most energy-intensive systems in your home, it pays to make sure you have the most efficient system and that it runs optimally. If your furnace or boiler is in need of a tune-up, repair, or replacement, our Constellation Home team will be happy to help you. Performing the recommended routine maintenance on your furnace or boiler is one of the heat-saving tips that trim your costs and prevent needless headaches.
In the boiler vs. furnace debate in heating your home and the all-important choice of fuel to operate it, regular maintenance is the key. It is one of the best ways to keep whatever system you are using efficient and extend its life.
Maintenance does not have to be a chore. Constellation has a reliable Home Services team that can maintain your furnace or boiler, along with other key home systems. Now is the ideal time to perform an annual tune-up. Consider a full protection plan to make maintenance effortless and effective.
Whatever your energy needs are, we've got a plan for you