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Furnaces And Boilers: What’s The Difference?

furnace or boiler new hampshireSome people refer to their heating system as a furnace when it’s actually a boiler. Sometimes the opposite is true. So, what’s the difference between these two pieces of equipment, and how do you know which one you have?

The easiest way to tell if you have a furnace or boiler is to consider how the heat is delivered into your home: if you have vents, you probably have a furnace (though you might also have a heat pump…more on that in a future blog!) If you have radiators or baseboards, you have a boiler.

But let’s not stop there with that simple explanation—Here are some important differences between the two heating devices and the systems they work with:

The Basics About Furnaces

A furnace is the heart of a “forced air” system: the furnace burns fuel (such as propane or heating oil) to heat the air, then uses blowers to push that warmed air through ducts and into your living space. Air is recycled to the furnace via return ducts to keep temperatures at the setting designated by your thermostat.

All forced air systems use air filters to reduce dust and other pollutants in your indoor air; it’s important to check this filter about once a month when your system is in use, cleaning or replacing the filter (depending on your model) as needed. It’s also critical to have your furnace maintained by a professional every year to maintain efficiency and spot potential problems before they turn into costly heating repairs.

And What About Boilers?

There are two basic types of boiler: hot water and steam. A hot water (hydronic) boiler burns fuel to heat water, then pumps that water through pipes and into your baseboards or radiators. Eventually, the water returns to the unit to begin the cycle again. A steam boiler operates more or less the same way as a hot water boiler but converts water into steam before sending it through to your radiators and baseboards.

If your baseboards have cold spots, check to see if the damper is open, and make sure the bottom of the unit isn’t blocked by heavy carpeting. If you still get cold spots, your radiators probably need to be bled to release trapped air in the pipes. For steam systems, check the boiler’s water gauge; low water levels can shut down your boiler.

Steam boilers should also be flushed when the water in the gauge looks rusty; if you don’t know how to do this, contact us for service. As with a furnace, annual heating tune-ups from a licensed professional are a must for a boiler.

Getting the most from your heating system starts with expert heating installations and heating maintenance in New Hampshire and continues with reliable heating oil and propane deliveries in NH. Get all three with the experts at Pemi River Fuels – contact us today to learn more!