How to Tell if You Have a Furnace or a Boiler

If you’ve recently moved into a new home and are trying to get a handle on your HVAC equipment, one of the first things you should figure out is whether you have a furnace or a boiler, as this will affect your ongoing maintenance needs.

So, how can you tell if you have a furnace or a boiler? Being able to distinguish between various heater and boiler choices in Duluth, MN comes down to knowing the primary differences between the two types of equipment. Let’s take a look.

Boilers and furnaces

People frequently use the terms “furnace” and “boiler” interchangeably, but in actuality they are two different types of equipment. While both are used to provide heat to a building, the ways in which they accomplish this are quite different.

A boiler is used to heat a building with hot water or steam. The fuel used to power a boiler might be natural gas, heating oil or propane, and the methods through which that heat will be delivered can include radiators in baseboards or floors, standard cast iron radiators, fan coil units or panel radiators. These systems are referred to as “hydronic heating” systems, and are considered to be the most effective and efficient options available to homeowners while also ensuring comfortable temperatures and quiet operation.

Furnaces, meanwhile, are connected to ductwork rather than radiators. They force hot air throughout a home through the ductwork and into occupied spaces to maintain your desired temperature, which you set using the thermostat. Some people believe forced air systems can lead to uneven heating, and they are generally noisier and much more likely to circulate dust than radiant heating.

The easiest way to tell if you have a boiler or furnace, then, is to look for radiators. However, not all hydronic systems use radiators as their primary heating application, so you can head to wherever the heating system is installed. Boilers are connected to copper or iron pipes or tubing that may be covered in insulation, and they’re generally shorter than furnaces. Furnaces, meanwhile, will be connected to ductwork that stretches up to the ceiling. That ductwork may be sheet metal or a reflective fiber board, and may be wrapped in insulation.

Various boiler choices

There are many different types of boilers available on the market, so having an understanding of those boilers can also help you determine what you have in your home and what sort of service needs it has. These boilers can vary widely in size and design.

Cast iron boilers are generally considered to be the longest-lasting, most reliable option for delivering outstanding results for long periods of time with generally little maintenance required. High-efficiency boilers are gaining more popularity as the technology for boilers improves, and are able to ramp up and down their heating based on a variety of factors.

For more information about the differences between your various heater and boiler choices in Duluth, MN and the maintenance requirements of each, we encourage you to contact the experts at ASP today.