Boiler vs. Furnace: Which is the Best Heating System for Your Home

Having an efficient heating system for your home is crucial to keeping yourself and others comfortable indoors. Ensuring that your heating system is highly efficient also helps keep energy bills lower. Boilers and furnaces are both worthwhile options for your heating system, but how do you know which one is right for you?

The similarities between boiler vs. furnace can make it challenging to choose the unit that brings the most efficiency to your home. Understanding how these systems work – their differences, advantages, and shortcomings – is critical in knowing the best option for your home. Keep reading to find out more.

Understanding Differences in Heating Systems

Boilers and furnaces have some primary differences that result in different efficiency levels when heating your home. It’s important to know what these differences are and how the discrepancy in performance can affect your energy bills. Both boilers and furnaces last around 15 to 20 years and can be effective and efficient for most of those years with regular maintenance.


A boiler is a heating system that uses hot water or steam to heat your indoor space. There are designated boilers for hot water and steam, and they each work in different ways to heat your home. 

Both use fuels like gas and oil, as well as electricity as a power source.

The efficiency of your boiler depends on multiple factors:

  • Size
  • Age
  • Manufacturer
  • Power source

Hot Water Boiler

Fuel or electricity heats cool water in a hot water boiler. The boiler pushes the heated water through pipes to create heat in a radiant heating system or baseboard radiators in the home. The hot radiators heat your rooms, and the water circulates back to the boiler to repeat the cycle. 

Steam Boiler

A steam boiler creates steam by heating water to its boiling point with a constant stream of fuel. The boiler sends the hot steam through pipes to radiators throughout your home. The steam then condenses in the pipes, cools, and returns to the boiler.

Aside from these methods, homeowners can utilize a boiler to send hot water from the boiler to a coil and heat the air, similar to how an AC unit uses refrigeration coolant in a condensation coil to cool air.


Unlike a boiler, a furnace heating system involves heated, forced air. A furnace pulls cool indoor air through the ceiling or floor vents, which promptly goes through a filtering and heating process. The air is then forced back through different ducts than the ones it first came through and exits through vents in the ceiling, floors, and other places to heat your rooms.

Furnaces use natural gas, propane, solar power, and electricity as fuel. Cost-effectiveness over time may vary with your furnace depending on the type of power source.

Pros and Cons of Boilers


1. Better air quality

  • Water and steam heating involve no air, preventing air contamination during the home heating process. The integrity of your indoor environment’s air is not affected in any way besides temperature.

2. More consistent heating

  • Because radiators have a more strategic placement throughout your home’s layout than random vent placements, a boiler is better than a furnace at heating your home evenly.

3. Quieter than furnaces

  • Boilers heat your home more quietly because they use water and don’t involve any moving air, unlike furnaces that use a loud blower. 

4. Compatible with radiant heating

  • You can connect a boiler to a radiant heating system to achieve targeted warmth with thermal radiation in some regions of your home.

5. More efficient

  • Boilers require less fuel to produce heat than furnaces do, and they heat rooms more evenly. Energy bills are lower long-term despite the high up-front costs of installing a boiler.


1. Slow to adjust

  • The water and room heating process can take a significant amount of time after turning the heat up or down on your thermostat, especially in the winter.

2. More expensive to install

  • A boiler unit and installation together amount to up to three times more than a furnace and its installation. Switching from a boiler system to a furnace system is even more costly.

3. No air cooling function

  • Because boilers only provide heat, you’ll need a separate air conditioning system for cooling your home. A central air system installation is also costly.

4. Risk of leaks

  • Regular inspections are necessary to avoid thousands of dollars in potential damage from leaks.

Pros and Cons of Furnaces


1. Significantly less expensive than boilers

  • Both the furnace unit and installation services combined cost much less than a boiler installation, making furnaces more budget-friendly.

2. No risk of water damage

  • Furnaces involve no water, so leaks are not a threat to your home or other equipment.

3. Quick response to thermostat changes

  • It takes much less time to increase heat indoors because furnaces respond very quickly to thermostat adjustments. 

4. No freezing problems

  • Thanks to the lack of water in a furnace heating system, your heating system won’t freeze if you experience a power outage in the winter.


1. Decreased efficiency

  • Heat loss through air ducts and greater fuel consumption lead to less efficiency and higher energy bills to heat your home in cold weather.

2. Lower air quality than boilers

  • Air ducts and filters hold dirt, dust, and debris. Without regular maintenance, a forced-air heating system pushes those particles into the air and lowers air quality.

3. Inconsistent heating

  • Vent number and placement and heat loss through ducts can lead to inconsistent heating among rooms.

Heating System Services

When you decide between boiler vs. furnace for your heating system in Chicago, IL, A Custom Services can help you save money with a meticulous heating system installation. Our dedicated HVAC technicians have the training and experience to ensure your satisfaction with a new heating system. 

A Custom Services stands as a leader in HVAC maintenance, installation, and repair in Chicago, IL, and the surrounding areas. Give us a call at 773-819-6284 for a free quote on your HVAC problem.

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