Difference Between a Heater, Furnace, and Boiler

Knowing the difference between these heating systems for your home is important!

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Winters in many places can be freezing cold, so you have to be wondering, what can keep your living room at 68 degrees Fahrenheit in the middle of December. Although most homes have a central heating system installed, it can be confusing to understand the various parts.

In the following article, we’ll go through three of the most used heating systems: heathers, boilers, and furnaces. We’ll explain the difference between the three of them and what heating system can be the best choice for you.

The Definition of a Heater Is Broad

It can be difficult to define the term heater. It is a generic term that refers to a device that heats up an area. The Roman Empire was the first to develop the central heating that we know of today. Romans had an underground source for combustion, which was distributed through holes in the ground and pipes running along walls.

Today, we have a more modern approach to central heating as the unit has a place for the heating device, usually in the attic or basement. This is where heat is generated and distributed throughout the building. This method is common in commercial buildings, apartments, and houses.

Because of the broad definition, many devices can be called heaters. Here are just a few examples of home heating options:

  • Gas or wood-burning fireplaces
  • Solar heating systems
  • Portable heating devices
  • Radiant heat systems
  • Boilers
  • Furnaces

What Is a Furnace?

A furnace is an enclosed space that has electric or gas heaters. The heaters are used to generate warmth and distribute it throughout the space. The air in a furnace gets heated up by the heaters and then blown across the room through ducts or vents.

A lot of people most commonly use furnaces to efficiently heat up their place. However, proper installation is essential for the furnace to work as it should. That’s why you’ll need to find the right local services for installation and maintenance. For instance, if you live in a big city like Ottawa, Canada, you should look for a reputable furnace installation Ottawa company that will install your furnace and offer services such as repairs and maintenance. 

Furnaces are economic and efficient which is why people use them so much. They can be used in living and commercial spaces. Their main job is to provide a warm and comfy environment in winter, but can also be used as a way to regulate room temperature. Typically, you can find them in both residential and commercial settings. Furnaces come in different styles and sizes, depending on your needs, such as how much heat you need or the type of fuel you use.

What Is a Boiler?

Boilers are similar to furnaces, in that they create and distribute thermal energy from one central location. However, boilers heat your home with water and not air.

There are two main types of boilers and they can run on gas, electricity, or wood. 

  • Hot water boiler. The water flows through the vessels and it gets warmed up, but not boiling hot. The warm water goes through the pipes in your floors, radiators, and baseboards, heating them in the process.
  • Steam boiler. They warm up the water to a degree where it evaporates and turns into steam. The steam is sent to the pipes across your house, and as it cools down it turns liquid again. Once the steam is back to liquid again, it is sent back to the boiler and the process is repeated. 

How Do I Know Whether I Have a Furnace or a Boiler?

There are several differences between furnaces and boilers, and thanks to this article, you’ll be able to differentiate between the two of them.

  • Radiators or vents. If you have cast-iron radiators, then you have a boiler. If you have a furnace, then your home has vents on the ceiling or walls, and warm air blows through them.
  • Location. Boilers are placed in your bathroom, kitchen, or laundry room, while your furnace is typically placed in your basement or attic.
  • Size of the pipes. Boilers are typically attached to smaller pipes, while the furnace has a large, round pipe that comes straight out of it.
  • Size of the object. Boilers are normally measured in kilowatts. But the size of a furnace can extend all the way up to your ceiling.

Bottom Line

Modern central heating systems use a furnace, boiler, or a combination of both in order to create warmth. Without them, a central heating system wouldn’t make much sense. As winter approaches everyone must think about how to keep their home warm this winter. So, make sure you choose the right solution for you and your home.