What’s the Difference Between a Boiler and a Furnace?

What us the Difference Between a Boiler and a Furnace

March 12, 2018 ____ Propane Answers

What’s the Difference Between a Boiler and a Furnace?

Most people refer to their heating equipment as a furnace, but that’s a totally different system from a boiler. Knowing the difference can be helpful when it comes to some money-saving do-it-yourself tips, or if you need to explain to us a problem you’re having with your system.

What is a furnace?

A furnace refers to the heating unit in a warm air, or forced air, system. After air is heated in the furnace, a blower forces it through ducts. The warm air is then released through vents or registers in your home.

Tips to get the most from your furnace

  • All warm air systems have filters to screen out dust and other impurities. If you have a standard throwaway filter, replace it about once each month throughout the year. Make sure the furnace is off before changing the filter. After you’ve changed the filter, make sure the furnace door/panel is properly closed. Higher efficiency air filters require less maintenance and can be taken out and cleaned as needed.
  • If you have a whole house air cleaner connected to your furnace, get the most out of it by keeping the thermostat setting to “on” instead of auto. This provides continuous circulation and filtration of indoor air and helps maintain a balanced temperature throughout your home.

What is a boiler?

If you have a hot water (hydronic) system, water circulates around your boiler’s combustion chamber. A circulator pumps the hot water through pipes to heat baseboards or radiators. Eventually, the water returns to the unit to begin the cycle again. If you have a steam system, the boiler turns the water into steam, which then rises through pipes to radiators.

Tips to get the most from your boiler

  • If you’re not getting heat from a baseboard, check to see if the damper is open. Make sure the bottom of the unit isn’t blocked by heavy carpeting.
  • For steam systems, check the boiler’s water gauge periodically. Low water levels are a leading cause for shutdowns. Steam boilers should also be “flushed” when the water in the gauge looks rusty. Contact us if you’re not familiar with this procedure.
  • A radiator valve has only two positions, on and off. Keeping the valve’s handle in between does not regulate the temperature but can strain the pipes and produce a hammering sound.

Important tips for all heating systems

  • Keep the area around your system as clean and clutter-free as possible.
  • Never store anything flammable near your system.
  • Keep registers, baseboards or radiators clean and unobstructed to ensure maximum air flow.

Keep your heating equipment running safely and efficiently by contacting us to schedule your annual tune-up. Read more about this service here.


  1. Thanks for explaining that a boiler’s circulator is responsible for pumping the heat to the radiators. Ever since the weather started getting colder last month, I’ve noticed that my boiler hasn’t been able to heat the house to a comfortable level. I’m glad I read your article because now I feel a lot more prepared to talk with a boiler professional about the needed repairs!

  2. Thanks for helping me understand the difference between a boiler and a furnace. My mom told me to purchase a boiler for our house but I keep on confusing it between a furnace. What you said about how a furnace uses air to heat the home is news to me. I’ve always thought that they have been using the same technology.

  3. I didn’t know that boilers use a hydronic system to circulate water. My boiler has been broken for 3 months now and our house is freezing. I’ll have to consider getting a contractor to check to see if we need replacement parts for the rotator.

  4. I didn’t know the steam in a boiler rises to the radiator. I like to learn how different systems work before buying them. Knowing how a boiler works helps me make the right decision.

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