Are Boilers Better?


In the boilers-versus-furnaces debate, which comes out on top? There’s no one clear winner, and both are (literally) hot contenders to consider. It’s expensive to trade a boiler for a furnace, or vice versa, so many homeowners simply accept whatever heating system their home features. However, if you’re custom-building a home or undertaking a massive remodel, don’t rush through this decision. You’re in a unique position to be able to cherry pick the best heating method for you, so make your choice carefully.

What’s the biggest difference between boilers and furnaces? Simply put, boilers use water for heating and furnaces use air. You can probably already guess what kinds of differences these methods result in. With a furnace, you’ll need a motor to blow hot air throughout your property’s ductwork. Water boilers use hot water to heat up radiators, baseboard heating elements or (most desirable) radiant heat coils, which allow your floors to be temperature controlled.

Steam boilers use piping to send heat to radiators. No matter what type of boiler you have, these “hydronic heating systems” might operate on electricity, gas, oil or even alternative fuels.

Not All Heat is Created Equally

Obviously, when you’re heating your home with warm air from a furnace, you’re going to notice that drier heat. Air-based HVAC systems can feel great in the warmer months when you use your A/C, but they can be dry, annoying and even stir up allergies when you’re using heat. Boilers, on the other hand, especially with radiator and baseboard/radiant heat, offer steadfast heating and proper temperature consistency. Some homeowners consider the lack of allergens stirred up reason enough to choose boilers.

It seems like boilers are the clear winner, but of course there’s a catch. Boilers have higher upfront costs, sometimes to the tune of several thousand dollars. Is it worth the extra money? That’s something only homeowners can decide. However, to make things even more difficult, boilers are more cost-effective in the long haul. Radiant heat in particular can drastically lower your utility bills, since it keeps heat close to the floor where you can actually enjoy it instead of letting it quickly rise to the ceiling.

The Final Round

Finally, it’s important to consider maintenance cost and trouble. In some homes, it’s recommended you change furnace filters once a month to keep air quality high. Most boilers, especially oil boilers, demand annual inspections. However, a gas boiler that’s cast iron can easily go for years with little or no maintenance. Still, both furnaces and boilers should be inspected at least annually, just to stay on the safe side.

When it comes down to it, your budget and how you’ll use the house (For yourself? Investment property?) will likely dictate which heating system you choose. If you have severe allergies, this might also be a deciding factor.

If the price of installation and maintenance were the same, the majority of homeowners likely would choose a boiler in a snap, which may make you think twice about your next move. Is it worth saving money right now for potential discomfort and higher utility bills in the future? No matter what you decide, make sure you have a reputable HVAC professional in your corner. Get in touch with Roberts Mechanical today and decide the boiler-versus-furnace debate with the help of an expert.