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What Is a Boiler?

What is a boiler, and how is it different from a furnace?


A boiler is a hydronic, or water-based, system that heats your home using hot water as opposed to warm air, like a furnace. A furnace burns fuel to create heat, but a boiler burns fuel to heat a liquid, which then serves a central heating system. Therefore, all boilers are technically furnaces, but not all furnaces are boilers.

Boilers burn fuel (in our area, usually natural gas) to heat water. The water is heated to between 140 to 170 degrees Fahrenheit and distributed to devices that release heat. These devices are usually baseboards, tubing buried in floors, or iron radiators. The advantages of these radiant heating systems are stable room temperatures and comfortable humidity levels. On the other hand, one disadvantage of using this form of hydronic heating is the lack of air filtration.

The cost of operating a boiler is about the same as a furnace, but installing a boiler is usually a more expensive option because the pipes and radiators must also be installed. However, boilers tend to last many years longer, provide more even heating, and are capable of providing more heat – which is ideal if you live in a particularly cold climate.

Some boilers also produce steam, but these are a different category of boiler altogether. We will cover steam boilers in a future post.

Have any additional questions about boilers, or their installation and maintenance? Feel free to give us a call at 815-458-5425. RCM Heating and Cooling, Inc. is located in New Lenox, Illinois.
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