Are Furnaces and Boilers Different?

Heating system

Most people generally call their oilheating system a furnace, but that’s a completely different system from a boiler. Both systems will keep you warm, but there are some tips you should know to help you understand which type of heating system you have in your home.

What Is a Furnace?

A furnace is the heating unit referred to in a warm air, or forced air, system. Heated air from the furnace is forced through ducts by a blower. Then, warm air is released through registers or vents in your home.

What Is a Boiler?

Water circulates around your boiler’s combustion chamber in a hot water (hydronic) system. Hot water is pumped through pipes by a circulator to heat baseboards or radiators. The water eventually returns to the unit to start the heating cycle again. With a steam system, the boiler converts the water into steam, which then rises to radiators through pipes.

Hot Tips for Furnaces

  • Air filters screen out dust and other impurities in all warm air systems. In general, the filter’s condition should be checked about once a month during the heating season and changed/cleaned when necessary. Contact your heating oil company if you’re not sure how to carry out this procedure.
  • With a whole-house air cleaner attached to your furnace, you can get the most out of it by using the thermostat’s “on” setting rather than “auto.” This will provide continuous filtration and circulation of indoor air and will help to maintain an even temperature throughout your home.

Hot Tips for Boilers

  • Check that the damper is open if you notice you’re not getting heat from a baseboard. Make sure the bottom of the unit is cleared of heavy carpeting or another obstruction.
  • In a steam-type system, check your boiler’s water gauge periodically. A low water level is a leading cause for a shutdown. When the water in the gauge looks rusty, steam boilers should also be “flushed.” If you’re not familiar with this procedure, contact your heating oil company for clarification.
  • A radiator valve has only two positions, on and off. A valve handle that’s kept in between cannot regulate the temperature but it can produce a hammering sound and strain the pipes.

Important Tips for All Heating Systems

  • The area around your system should be kept as clutter-free clean as possible. Anything flammable should not be stored near your system.
  • Keep radiators, baseboards or registers unobstructed and clean, ensuring maximum air flow.

If you suspect it’s time to replace your old boiler or furnace, please contact your heating oil company to find out your options. Oil boilers and oil furnaces today offer homeowners an opportunity to increase their comfort while decreasing their energy usage. Modern equipment heats your home using significantly less energy compared with older systems. Energy-efficient equipment can be installed with controls that use only the fuel necessary to heat your home or a specific part of your home.