Furnace vs. Boiler: Which is the best home heating system?

Furnaces and boilers both spread heat through your home, but they do so is very different ways. From efficiency to comfort to overall cost, it’s essential to know the differences to make the best decision for your home when it’s time to replace your heating unit.


A furnace uses a blower and system of ductwork to channel hot air throughout the rooms in your home, while a boiler distributes hot steam through a network of pipes that deliver heat to radiators installed in each room.


With improvements in technology, today’s furnaces and boilers are between 80-95% efficient, meaning only 5 to 15% of your energy is wasted. However, because ductwork tends to absorb heat, furnaces are prone to greater heat loss than boilers.


Boilers allow for greater temperature control throughout your house. While furnaces distribute hot air to heat all your rooms uniformly, boilers feed multiple radiators to adjust the temperature independently in each room.


Furnaces tend to have a drafty, drying effect on the air in your home that can cause chapped skin and cracked woodwork. Boilers help maintain stable humidity levels. Many homeowners with a furnace heating system opt to install a whole house humidifier to offset the dryness.

Air Quality

The air currents created by forced air furnaces not only circulate heat, but can also circulate allergens such as dust, pollen, and dander, which can compromise your indoor air quality without proper filtration.


To prevent dust and other allergens from building up in your furnace and causing poor indoor air quality, you’ll need to change your furnace filter on a regular basis. Most HVAC professionals recommend changing your furnace filter once a month. Boilers usually require just one annual inspection to ensure they’re still running properly, but when they do spring a leak or break down, they are more costly and complicated to fix.


Perhaps by now you’re thinking that boilers sound pretty swell—they provide more regulated warmth, don’t cause air pollution, and require very little maintenance. However, the deal-breaker for most people is cost. Boilers are significantly more expensive to install and operate.

If you’re thinking about installing a new furnace or boiler, Bonfe can help you decide which is the better fit for your needs and your home. One of our experienced technicians will visit for a detailed in-home consultation and leave you with an accurate estimate.

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