Burners Vs. Furnaces: Which One Is a Better Heating Source?

Burners and furnaces are two popular home heating options. Both have unique advantages and disadvantages and significantly impact the home’s plumbing or HVAC system.

Because burners and furnaces are typically major investments and have a long-term impact on systems, homeowners and contractors should know which is better for heating a home.

Burners Vs. Furnaces: Key Differences

Burners Vs. Furnaces: Key Differences

Burners and furnaces work differently enough to offer their benefits, utilize different home systems, and have unique maintenance needs and space requirements.

The best boiler uses fuel or electricity to boil water, generating heat that can be distributed through a home through a series of pipes and radiators. Combination boilers heat water to provide heating and a source of hot water.

Various radiators exist, including familiar cast-iron versions, baseboard radiators, and radiant floor heating systems. Fuel-powered boilers can use different fuel sources, including heating oil, natural gas, or even biomass like wood pellets. 

A furnace heats air and uses a blower to distribute it through the house using the building’s ductwork. They generally burn natural gas to create hot air, but homeowners can purchase home heating options that use propane, heating oil, or electricity. Unconventional furnaces that rely on power sources like biomass are also available but can be somewhat harder to find.

Generally, the homeowner’s preference for a power source won’t need to be the deciding factor when choosing between a boiler or furnace. They can likely source something that meets their needs, whether they want to use gas or prefer green energy sources.

Important Advantages and Disadvantages of Burners Vs. Furnaces

Important Advantages and Disadvantages of Burners Vs. Furnaces

Homeowners have many things to consider when choosing between burners or furnaces. Each option has its pros and cons.

Price

As a rule, home heating options aren’t cheap. However, furnaces are comparably less expensive than boilers. 

A new warm air furnace will generally cost between $4,000 and $8,000 to install, though the specific price may vary depending on the homeowner’s location, model choice, and existing home ductwork.

By contrast, a boiler will generally cost between $6,500 to $11,000 to install. As with a furnace installation, these prices may vary depending on the homeowner’s location and unique situation.

Ongoing supply chain shortages mean homeowners and contractors should expect price volatility regarding the cost of installation and the furnace or boiler itself.

Installation

Furnaces are typically easier to install than boilers — part of why they are cheaper to install or replace. The average furnace can be installed in a few hours, but it may take several days to fully situate a new boiler. 

The complexity of a boiler installation is partially due to the boiler’s pipe system. A plumber will need to flush it out, sometimes using a power flush that ensures the pipes are free of debris that can damage the new boiler. The plumber may need to upgrade the home’s pipework or install accessories to ensure smooth operation.

However, furnace and boiler installations can be complicated by a homeowner’s choices and the house itself. A new furnace may need to be connected to a natural gas line or another fuel source — a potentially dangerous task that should be handled by a professional. 

A homeowner may also want to use a combination boiler with a home solar water heater, which may require a complex installation process. Depending on where they live, it may be illegal for a homeowner to attempt a boiler or furnace installation on their own, provided they don’t already have the right licensing.

Maintenance

maintanance of Burners Vs. Furnaces

Boilers are more expensive and tricky to install, but they are generally easier to maintain than furnaces. They require little more maintenance than an annual service tuneup in most cases. 

Furnaces require annual inspection and servicing. The homeowner must replace or clean the filter regularly, generally every month or quarter, even in the summer. High-quality filters can be expensive, and skimping on quality may lead to poor performance or lower indoor air quality. Homeowners may need to replace filters more often if their homes are particularly dusty or open doors.

Thicker filters may last longer before needing to be replaced. Sometimes, homeowners may be able to wait as long as six-12 months before a replacement is necessary. However, furnace filter changes will typically be a monthly or quarterly chore, which only takes 15 minutes.

However, service can quickly become expensive when a boiler fails or needs major repairs. Pipe or radiator replacements can also be time-consuming, costly, and disruptive. Furnace repairs aren’t likely cheap, but they may be less expensive than boilers.

Boilers and furnaces will likely need repairs eventually, even with effective maintenance. Each will generally have a refractory lining that will wear out over time due to abrasion, thermal cycling, corrosion, and similar operating conditions. This is essential for the proper functioning of a boiler or furnace, meaning that its replacement will be necessary — potentially meaning an expensive maintenance call.

Other Differences Between Boilers and Furnaces to Consider

Other Differences Between Boilers and Furnaces to Consider

It requires less energy to keep a home with water than with air, meaning boilers generally consume less energy than furnaces. As a result, boilers will typically be cheaper to operate.

High-efficiency furnaces and boilers are available. These home heating options will consume less energy than less efficient choices, though they’ll generally be more expensive and require special accessories.

Older low-efficiency furnaces and boilers may have a fuel-use efficiency of just 56%-70%, while modern systems may have a fuel-use efficiency of up to 98.5%.

Boilers are generally quieter than furnaces because residents won’t hear hot air blowing through the home. Unusual noises are often a sign that something is wrong — like a leak.

Boilers and furnaces will generally last around 20 years before needing replacement. Regular maintenance can help extend the life span of any home heating system.

How to Choose Between Home Heating Options

Boilers and furnaces can be suitable for heating a home — however, there are important differences between the two. 

Furnaces are generally cheaper and easier to install than boilers but may be more expensive to maintain in the long run. Boilers are often more efficient than comparable furnaces, though a high-efficiency furnace will probably outperform a less expensive, mid-efficiency boiler. 

Final Words

Repairs are generally expensive, but boiler repairs can be particularly costly, especially when pipes and radiators need to be replaced.

It comes down to personal preference, cost considerations, and time constraints regarding installation and repair. 

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Nishant Desai
Nishant Desaihttps://architecturesideas.com/
Nishant Desai has over 8+ years of experience in SEO and blogging. His blogging expertise can organically increase online visibility and traffic for blogs and websites. With his SEO expertise, he has already contributed to iGeeksblog, Firstsportz, and Firstcuriosity. In addition, he can create content strategies, conduct keyword research, publish optimized blogs, and resolve technical issues.

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