Boiler vs furnace - what is more efficient for home heating?

efficient home heating

There are two most popular heating appliances in Canada, water boilers and furnaces, When comparing these two, it is important to consider the cost to install the appliance and its energy efficiency. You'll also want to consider the unit size and efficiency features of a boiler and a furnace. While both appliances heat your home, forced air furnaces gain greater spreading across Canada. Thew, water boilers do not lag behind. Both options offer excellent climate control, but they are not the same. Read on to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Home heaters furnaces & boilers main difference 

While the two types of heating appliances offer similar benefits, there are a few key differences between a furnace and a boiler. 

  • Boilers use hot water and can heat a home with high efficiency. The water heated in a boiler tank is then distributed throughout the home via radiators or radiant floor systems. A pump is used to move the water through pipelines. This system is highly efficient but requires piping maintenance from a professional plumber
  • Furnaces, on the other hand, heat air, and are a popular choice for small spaces. They require a duct system installation, therefore they are more expensive if the ductwork is also required. Electricity furnaces operation is quieter than gas or oil-based ones. But the noise from the spread of air can still become an annoyance point. Another benefit of a high-efficiency furnace over a boiler is that it produces heat faster. This means that it can warm up your home more quickly. 
  • Another factor to consider when determining the size of a furnace and boiler is your climate. A house in an icy climate would require a larger heater than a similar-sized house in a warmer climate. Likewise, a house that has proper thermal insulation may not require a large heater.
  • Both systems can be fuelled by natural gas or oil, wood or electricity. The fuel type you choose will determine the cost of installation and operation. The temperature is maintained by a thermostat. 
Boiler heating system vs furnace benefits
Radiant boiler Duct furnace
Great for an old house; Suits for small space;
Works well in an extremely cold climate; Provides fast warming;
Maintains a high level of air quality; Offers better temperature regulation;
Keeps consistent heat; Energy efficient;
Produce hot water; Works as an AC in the summer time.

Heating systems sizes and placement features

boilers sizes and placement features

The size and appearance of your furnace or boiler can be key when it comes to heating your home. You should choose a boiler or furnace that will not hamper you in space and will heat your home effectively. 

Boilers are harder to set up and maintain than furnaces. It must be borne in mind that the central boiler takes up more space since a water tank is needed for sufficient heating of the water. The more square footage you have the larger boiler you should purchase.

Furnaces take up less space, even those that run on fuel or gas and can be customized to your seasonal weather patterns. They can operate at half of the maximum output. Electric furnaces are more expensive than other furnaces, but they offer precise temperature control and don't waste energy shutting down.

While choosing a new furnace or boiler appliance, you should also consider the placement of its chimney. Proper placement will help the vent exhaust air from the home safely and efficiently. 

Proper placement will help create a gentle flow of air in the house, even without working at full capacity. You should consider getting professional heating installation for maximum efficiency and safety. HVAC professionals from Fee4Bee can recommend the best appliances for your home, install the furnace in a proper way, as well as connect the furnace to your home's ducting system.

Boiler vs furnace cost and installation expenses

boiler vs furnace

When it comes to installation, boilers are more expensive than furnaces. An average unit with a capacity of 53,000–79,000 BTU can cost CA $4,500–$7,000. The cost of a boiler installation depends on the type of appliance. Electric boilers installation is easier and costs on average CAD $950, while gas equipment can reach CAD $4200 to install. But since they consume a lot of energy, consider hiring an electrician to check before installing an electric boiler.

The cost of installing a furnace is typically lower than the price of installing a boiler. A typical furnace costs around CAD $3000 to $5500, without installation expenses. High-efficiency models can cost up to CAD $6,000. The average installation labour price reaches CAD $1200, and removing an old furnace may cost as much as $1,000, depending on the difficulty of the project. 

While furnaces are more common, they also come with a wider variety of models. According to Canadian federal regulations, all of them must be at least 92% AFUE - Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. Because there are more models available on the market, prices are typically lower. 

Finally, consider your family's needs. While a lower price furnace may look attractive, it might not be the best choice for you and your family. It's also important to check the warranty of any new heater you purchase.

Boiler vs furnace maintenance cost

When it comes to maintenance, furnaces and boilers are nearly identical in terms of cost. For example, an ignitor in a furnace costs between CAD $150 and CAD $250 to replace during normal business hours. However, emergency repairs can run from CAD $300 to CAD $500. A boiler may be cheaper in maintenance, but in the case of a pipe leak or burst, it will cause significant damage to your property.

Both furnaces and boilers need annual servicing. A heating technician needs to adjust the burners, clean the combustion chamber, and replace the filter. A new filter must be purchased every few months to ensure a clean, efficient unit. 

Hiring an HVAC contractor

hiring a hvac contractor

As both furnaces and boilers can be purchased in electric, oil, or natural gas varieties, the technician who will install the system must be specialized and well aware of the characteristics of the type of fuel on which the heater operates. 

If you're in the market for a new heating and cooling system, you should hire a professional. 

  1. HVAC contractors are required by law to be licensed and insured, and many states have specific requirements for those working in the field. You can ask prospective heating contractors to provide you with copies of their current licenses and certifications, as these documents will protect you if something goes wrong.
  2. It's also wise to ask for a written cost estimate, rather than an over-the-phone one. While most companies are happy to provide estimates for free, you should be aware that cost that is given over the phone are usually inaccurate. If you're unsure of what the heating system installation or replacement rate will be, insist on a written estimation.
  3. Experience is also an important consideration. An experienced contractor knows what to look for in a boiler or furnace, and will know how to deal with tricky situations during an installation. Before hiring a heating contractor, research the company's reputation on the Fee4Bee and talk to former clients. 
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