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First Choice Heating & Cooling Blog

What Separates How a Boiler Heats From How a Furnace Heats

red-thermometerThe two most common types of heating systems found in local homes are furnaces and boilers. Each has advantages and disadvantages, but we want to use this post to explain the basic differences in how these two systems generate heat and distribute it. You can use the information to help you understand how your heating system works as well as decide on what type of heater you want if you’re planning on a new installation.

Gas Furnaces and Gas Boilers

These are the more popular types of heating systems because natural gas is a less expensive form of energy than electricity. Gas-powered boilers and water heaters have greater heating capacity and speed as well. They’re recommended for any homes that have a natural gas line connection.

Both gas boilers and furnaces start from a similar place, which is gas burners and a heat exchanger. When a thermostat request heat, the control board for the heating system opens up the flow of gas to a set of burners and triggers an electronic ignition system to light the burners. The hot combustion gas from the burners enters into a metal chamber called the heat exchanger. The heat exchanger’s metal surface grows hot, and this is the heat used to then warm up the heat transfer medium.

This is where boilers and furnaces go separate ways. A furnace uses air as its heat transfer medium. A blower fan pushes air around the heat exchanger so the air warms up. The air continues into the ductwork of the ventilation system and reaches the rooms where it raises the room temperature through convection heating (heat by air movement).

In a boiler, the heat exchanger heats up the water at the bottom of the boiler tank. The hot water rises to where a circulator pump removes it and sends it into a manifold. The manifold separates the hot water to different pipes that move to the rooms, where they enter radiators, baseboard heaters, or in-floor piping. The hot water raises the temperature of these objects, which then radiate heat waves into the room, i.e. radiant heating.

Electric Furnaces and Electric Boilers

The operation of these heaters is simpler. In an electric furnace, voltage flows into a series of coils called heating elements. The coils grow hot from electrical resistance. The blower moves air over the heating elements to warm up, and then goes to the rooms through the ventilation system.

An electric boiler also uses heating elements, but they are placed inside the tank where they directly heat the water. The water is then pumped to the standard terminal points in the house. The heating otherwise works the same as a gas boiler. 

Call Us for Your Heating Needs

We offer both furnace repair and boiler repair in Brighton, MI, and you can trust that our technicians have the experience necessary to solve problems with whatever type you have. 

First Choice Heating & Cooling serves Fenton, Linden, Holly, and the surrounding areas. If your home had a voice … it would call First Choice.

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