Boiler vs. Furnace: Pros and Cons

When it comes to heating your home, there are two popular options: boilers and furnaces. While each has its unique advantages, it’s their way of delivering heat that is the primary distinction between the two. Below, we’re highlighting the pros and cons of each to help you make the best decision for your home setup, heating needs, and budget.

How Does a Boiler Work?

Boilers use heated water or steam to distribute heat and provide hot water throughout the home, delivering it through radiators, baseboard heaters, in-floor systems, and water faucets. Because it both heats the home and delivers hot water, it combines the functions of both a water heater and a furnace.

A boiler is connected to the home’s natural gas supply. When your thermostat triggers a new heating cycle – or you turn on a hot water faucet – the fuel is burned within a combustion chamber to generate heat. The heat transfers to the water within the boiler to then be circulated throughout your home.

Boiler Pros and Cons

Boilers do not require ductwork, which gives them several distinct advantages over furnaces, including:

Energy Efficiency

Air ducts are known to lead to heat loss. Because boilers don’t require ductwork, they provide more precise temperature control and even heat distribution. They also allow for zoning, letting you heat different areas of your home independently, meaning you won’t waste energy on unused parts of your home. Both of these factors keep energy consumption – and utility bills! – much lower.

Consistent Heat Distribution

Boilers provide radiant heat, which produces a steady distribution of warmth throughout the home – no cold or hot spots!

Built to Last

Boilers require fewer parts than furnaces and will typically require less maintenance and last longer than a furnace, with an average lifespan of 15 years.

Additional advantages include smaller size, easier installation, silent operation, and less dust and allergens.

Disadvantages of a boiler versus a furnace include:

Installation Costs

Because boiler installation involves heavy plumbing work to integrate it with the heat distribution system, they often have a higher upfront cost than furnaces. While this is typically offset over time by the associated energy savings, it could make a difference if you’re not sure you will be in the home long enough to see that offset.


It’s important to maintain a regular schedule of inspections and cleaning to ensure optimal performance over time.

Limited Cooling Options

Boilers are strictly for your heating needs, and will require investing in a separate air conditioning system.

Slower to Heat

Because it takes time to heat water or steam to the desired temperature, a boiler doesn’t heat a home as quickly as a furnace does.

How Does a Furnace Work?

A furnace uses forced air to distribute heat through your home, through ductwork and vents. The fuel burns to generate heat within the unit’s burner before passing through a heat exchanger. Air from the ductwork is then blown over the exchanger to warm the air before it is forced into the ductwork through the furnace’s blower.

Furnace Pros and Cons

Furnaces have several distinct advantages over boilers, including:

Lower Initial Cost

Because furnace installation is simpler than that of a boiler, the initial costs to set up the system are often lower.

Cooling Options

Furnaces can be integrated with a home’s air conditioning system to allow for year-round heating and cooling functionality within a single system.


A furnace heating system can be powered by electricity, natural gas, or oil, providing flexibility based on your location and energy availability and costs.

Disadvantages of a furnace versus a boiler include:

Less Efficiency

Heat loss is a common concern of a forced air distribution system, especially if ducts become leaky over time.

Inconsistent Heating

Forced air systems make it difficult to keep temperatures consistent across different areas of a home. Rooms could be cooler or warmer than others based on their distance from the furnace.

Air Quality

Dust and allergens can build up in ductwork, and circulated throughout a home when the furnace is running. Regular cleaning of ducts will be required to lessen this occurrence.

Comparing Boilers and Furnaces

When deciding between a boiler or furnace for your home heating needs, it’s important to consider fuel availability, installation costs, and maintenance requirements. Your unique needs and budget will be the key to determining whether a furnace or boiler is the right fit for you and your home.

Boiler Installation and Repair in Northern Virginia

Need a boiler system installed or repaired? Our highly trained experts at Kiddco Plumbing have decades of experience installing and repairing boilers and are familiar with all of the leading boiler manufacturers. For 24/7 service for boilers, or any Northern Virginia emergency plumbing needs, call us at 703-435-4441.

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