Boiler Vs. Furnace: Basic Operation and Sources

For those with the means, modern HVAC and plumbing technology allows for multiple different options when it comes to home heating. Two of the most common and well-known here are the furnace and the boiler – what exactly are these two heating types and how do they compare?

At My Buddy the Plumber, our heating specialty lies in furnace installation, furnace repair and related furnace issues. However, we re always here to provide tips and expertise to our clients on any heating or air solution they have questions about, including those who are looking to compare a furnace to another heating type for a variety of reasons. This multi-part blog series will take some time to go over everything you should know about both furnaces and boilers, from their basic operations to several important variables you should be considering if you re choosing between the two for a new heating installation.

boiler furnace operation sources

How a Furnace Works

A furnace, which is known in the HVAC world as a forced-air system, is one that uses hot air to heat the home on a regular basis. The system is made up of the furnace itself, plus a system of ducts throughout the home that send the warm air the furnace creates to every room.

This is a fairly simple process when it s broken down in steps. First, the thermostat, which is connected to the furnace through wiring, detects the temperature is lower than where it should be. Next, the furnace activates – either through a gas or electric startup format. Incoming air in the furnace passes through its heat exchanger, which adds heat to the outgoing air as it enters your ducts. Finally, the air is dispersed from your ducts to every room, allowing them to be warm while cool air from the room flows back into the ducts and eventually is cycled back through the heat exchanger to warm up.

How a Boiler Works

A boiler, on the other hand, is a system that works based on the use of hot water to heat the home, and can be considered a plumbing item for this reason. A boiler system uses no ductwork; instead, the delivery system is some kind of baseboard, radiator or radiant floor setup depending on the home in question.

During boiler operation, a heat source like natural gas or electricity heats water in a tank, similar to your hot water heater. Either steam or hot water itself will then be moved through pipes, circulating through the radiant heating system in the home. This system also expels hot gases outside the home to maintain pressure, plus circulates cold water back into the boiler so it can be heated as the cycle starts over again.

For more on how boilers and furnaces work, or to learn about any of our plumbing or HVAC services, speak to the staff at My Buddy the Plumber today.