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Boiler vs. Furnace, Which Is Better for My Buffalo Home?

In the market for a new heating system? If so, you have the choice between getting a new boiler vs. furnace installed. You’ll want to weigh your options to determine which is the better fit for your home and budget.

Ask yourself these four questions to help you decide between a boiler vs. furnace:

Read on to get answers to these questions so you can make an informed decision about your heating system investment.

Know what you want already?

Or, do you want to talk with an expert about your unique needs? Contact Roy’s for a worry-free furnace or boiler installation.

Question #1: What’s the difference between boiler vs. furnace systems?

First things first: How exactly do these two types of heating systems work?

Boilers use water and pipes. A boiler works by heating water and turning it into steam. The steam then moves through the pipes and releases this heat through radiators or radiant floor systems. This heating process requires boilers to run for a longer time, which provides an even heat disbursement. But, it comes at a price. Because the boiler needs to run longer, it can take a little more time to adjust your home’s temperature. If you prefer consistency over timeliness, you may prefer a boiler.

Furnaces use air and ductwork. A furnace works by heating the air. It then blows the heated air through a duct system and releases the heat through registers or vents. This heating process allows furnaces to work quickly to disperse heat and adjust to temperature changes. However, this heating process may result in inconsistent temperatures, making certain areas of your home warmer than others. If you prefer timeliness over consistency, you may prefer a furnace.

This difference in the heating process can heavily affect Buffalo homeowners’ preferences.

Question #2: How much do they cost?

When comparing the two heating systems, you’ll want to look at the total cost for installation and operation for both.

Below, we’re going to compare two cost factors for boilers vs. furnaces:

  1. Upfront costs
  2. Maintenance costs

Upfront costs

When it comes to upfront costs, what you pay may vary depending on whether your house currently has a boiler or furnace. That said, boilers tend to be the most expensive of the two.

Boilers can cost anywhere between $5,000 - $14,000+ in the Buffalo area. Your costs may depend on factors like:

  • Size: If your house needs a larger boiler, you may wind up paying more.
  • Efficiency: The price of boiler installation goes up the more energy efficient your system is.
  • Permits and licenses: Some states require local permits and licenses for a new boiler, which come with a price tag. Your HVAC technician will obtain these for you (so you don’t have to), but they will add the permit and license costs to your overall installation price.

Furnace costs can range from $2,000 - $8,000+ in the Buffalo area.

  • Extended warranties: Warranties can help you save money in the long run, but purchasing an extended warranty adds to your installation costs.
  • Efficiency: The price of furnace installation goes up the more energy efficient your system is.
  • Ductwork modifications: Your costs increase if your home doesn’t have ductwork installed or if your current ducts need repairs or replacements.

Maintenance costs

Overall, furnaces tend to be more expensive when it comes to maintenance costs. Why?

Duct systems (AKA what furnaces use for moving heat) are typically less insulated than pipes (AKA what boilers use to move heat), which means more leaks—and higher energy bills. Leaky ductwork results in wasted energy as your furnace system goes into overdrive to heat your home.

But, keep in mind that your maintenance costs could depend on factors such as:

  • How energy-efficient your boiler or furnace is
  • How well insulated your home is (e.g., is heat escaping from ducts into an attic?)
  • Whether you opted for an extended warranty

Question #3: Which one is more energy efficient?

How energy efficient are boilers and furnaces? To find out, you need to look at these heating systems’ AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency). AFUE measures how efficiently your furnace or boiler turns its fuel into heat.

First, let’s break down what kind of fuel these two systems use:

  • Boilers: Gas, oil, or wood
  • Furnaces: Gas, propane, or electricity

The higher your system’s AFUE percentage (with a maximum of 100%), the better job your furnace or boiler does at converting fuel into heat and limiting waste. For example, a furnace with a 95% AFUE is more energy efficient than a furnace with an 80% AFUE rating.

Keep in mind that AFUE doesn’t include heat loss through ductwork or piping. This is why you can’t compare a furnace to a boiler with the same AFUE. Furnaces tend to lose heat more than boilers, especially if there are ducts in an attic or garage (which can be as high as 35% heat loss).

The bottom line? Although they can vary, boilers tend to be more energy efficient than furnaces.

Question #4: What are my preferences?

Choosing between a furnace or boiler system tends to come down to personal comfort preferences.

To help you get an idea of which heating system would be a better fit for your preferences, consider the following:

Air quality: Because furnaces blow air, they can circulate allergens and dirt if you don’t use an allergy-friendly air filter. Boilers, on the other hand, do not.

Heating time: When you adjust your thermostat, do you expect instant temperature changes? Boilers take longer to adjust your house’s temperature than furnaces.

Zoning: Do you prefer sauna-like temperatures while your household prefers the tundra? With boilers, you can set separate temperatures for different areas of your house. Keep in mind that furnaces have this capability, too, with upgrades.

Noise levels: As your furnace runs, it makes a dull background noise as it pushes air throughout your house. Boilers, on the other hand, generally make a quiet whirring noise that’s more subtle than a furnace.

Freezing pipes: If you opt for a boiler, you might have to deal with frozen outdoor pipes at some point. Although you can typically fix this by pouring a little hot water (or adding insulation!) on the pipes, it’s worth considering whether you’d want to undertake the effort in cold winter months

Call Roy’s for all of your boiler or furnace needs

Whether you decide on a boiler install or furnace install, one thing is for certain: You can count on Roy’s for a smooth process from start to finish. We’ve been servicing Buffalo homes since 1974, making us one of the most experienced and trusted installers in the area.

Let us take the stress out of boiler or furnace shopping.