What Is the Difference Between a Boiler and a Furnace?

Written on: February 25, 2019


Most people refer to their oil heating system as a furnace because that’s become a generic term for a heating unit. But there is another type of oil heating system that may be keeping you warm right now—except it never gets much recognition. It’s called a boiler, or more technically, a hydronic heating system.

Your oil heating system can either be a furnace or a boiler. Both of these heating units will keep you warm, but there is some information you should know that may come in handy if a problem arises. If it’s something minor, you may be able to correct it yourself. And if you need to discuss something with an oil heat service technician, you will at least have a working knowledge about how your heating system operates.

A furnace heats air

A furnace refers to the heating unit in a warm air, or forced air, system. After air is heated in the furnace, a blower forces it through ducts. The warm air is then released through vents or registers in your home.

A boiler heats water

If you have a hot water (hydronic) system, water circulates around your boiler’s combustion chamber. A circulator pumps the hot water through pipes to heat baseboards or radiators. Eventually, the water returns to the unit to begin the cycle again. If you have a steam system, the boiler turns the water into steam, which then rises through pipes to radiators.

Hot tips for furnaces

Hot tips for boilers

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