Boiler vs. Furnace: What’s the Difference?

Oconomowoc boiler system with control panelWhich is Better—Boilers or Furnaces?

Determining your preference in terms of home heating is a balancing act of cost and quality.

In broad strokes—boilers are a greater investment providing a greater quality return, and furnaces are a cost-efficient option with less overall effectiveness.

Read on for more details on the major differences between boilers and furnaces. 

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Heat Distribution

A boiler uses hot water or steam running through pipes to distribute heat throughout your home. Pipes can be run along the walls, ceiling and floor to radiate heat from every surface in your home. Your home retains heat very well, as the surfaces in your home keep heat longer than the air.

Furnaces used forced air pumped through ductwork to distribute heat. Forced air furnaces use a blower motor and a heating element to heat the air and pump it out through air vents around the house. Forced air furnaces, however, tend to work very hard in extreme cold temperatures, as one door left open for a few seconds can drop the air temperature significantly.


Let there be no doubt: boilers are pricier than furnaces. The overall cost of installing a boiler system is significantly higher. Because a boiler uses water, gas or oil for heating as opposed to air, you will still need ductwork installed if you want air conditioning. A furnace can utilize the same ductwork as your air conditioning, eliminating the need to set up a pipe system for heating. The added installation expenses from setting up an entire boiler system is a huge deterrent for many buyers.

However, the benefit you receive from installing a boiler system in your home has huge upside. Boilers are more efficient in the long-term than furnaces, as boilers lose less of their generated heat. Furnaces lose more heat due to passing hot air over cold ducts and air.

When it comes to boilers, the cost is higher, but the reward is much greater. Furnaces are more cost-efficient, particularly in the initial installation, but the long-term reward isn’t as desirable.

Air Quality

Boilers have no effect on air quality. Because heat is generated through the piping beneath the walls, ceiling and flooring in your home, the air around you is unaffected.

Furnaces, on the other hand, utilizing forced air, spends literally 100% of its working time blowing air all over your home. The effect can be rather drafty and may spur up allergens and other airborne contaminants.


Boilers operate silently, and furnaces make frequent noise from the fan and blower motor. Furnaces may be fit with variable speed blowers to reduce noise, but it can’t be eliminated. Boilers win out here.


Furnaces require more regular preventive maintenance than boilers. While boilers certainly need monitoring and require at the very least an annual inspection, furnace filters must be checked on a monthly or quarterly basis.

Forced air heating systems blow around allergens, dust and other contaminants which inevitably find their way into your furnace filter. Air registers may be clogged with pet hair, food crumbs or other debris. Furnaces, on the whole, require a bit more attention when it comes to preventive maintenance.

Oconomowoc Boiler and Furnace Repair Professionals Help You Weigh Your Heating Options

If you’re struggling to decide whether to invest in a boiler system for your home or install a furnace system, our HVAC repair professionals can help you find a solution making the most sense for you.

We will quote you on a price for your boiler or furnace installation, and it will be the final price for the job. No matter what happens on the jobsite, we promise to stand by our initial quote so you know the exact price of the installation before we begin. Trust in the best boiler and furnace repair experts in the greater Waukesha area to help you determine the best solution.

Contact Oconomowoc boiler and furnace installation specialists at Hot Point Heating and Air Conditioning for a great deal on HVAC services.