Furnace Vs. Boiler: 20 Questions According to Missoula Heating Contractors

Are you building a new home and unsure what type of heat to have installed?  Maybe you are renovating your home and want to know if you should keep your current heat source or upgrade to a different type.  For whatever reason, if you are trying to decide between a boiler system or a furnace system, we are here to help!  We are going to play a version of “20 Questions” guided by Missoula heating contractors to figure out which will work best for your situation.  We will cover different aspects of furnace vs. boiler costs, as well as other considerations.  But before we start, let’s do a quick rundown of how these two heaters maintain a home’s comfort.

A Furnace Heats Air. – A furnace pulls air from inside the home, warms it up, and sends it throughout the home. This system has a network of ducts throughout the home that are necessary to circulate the warm air.  These ducts are usually hidden in basements and attics and can be individually controlled by multiple thermostats for a multi-zone system.  In this type of heat, you can stand over a heat vent register and feel hot air blowing on you. 

A Boiler Heats Water. – A boiler has a closed system in which water is heated, used to heat a home, and as the water cools, it is reheated.  The hot water can be pumped around the home or the steam from the water can be sent through the pipes.  Many homes have baseboard radiators through which the water flows. However, the hot water tubing can be inlaid on floors or other radiant methods. 

Now, Let’s Play 20 Questions: Missoula Heating Contractor Edition!

 1.       Which Unit is Cheaper to Purchase According to Missoula Heating Contractors?

There are a number of factors that will determine what size and necessary output your home requires, including size and age of home.  For ease of comparison, we will assume you need a mid-range boiler.  Most mid-range boiler cost between $3,500 and $8,000.  Most mid-range furnaces cost between $1,500 and $2,500.  FURNACES take the point.

2.       Who Wins the Comparison of Furnace vs Boiler Cost of Installation?

Furnaces often cost much cheaper to install than boilers because the job can be done so much faster.  Furnaces can be fully installed in a few hours while some boilers can take days to be fully installed. FURNACES take the point. 

3.       Is a Boiler Cheaper to Run than a Furnace? Which Has a Lower Monthly Cost?

Specific monthly cost comparisons vary depending on type of energy source.  For example, electric is often more expensive than natural gas.  In order to decide which type of energy source is right for your home, you will need to find out if your property has natural gas hookup or if you can have a propane tank stored on your property.  Overall, BOILERS tend to be cheaper to keep running on a monthly basis, and therefore, take this point.   

4.       Are Boilers or Furnaces Cheaper to Maintain According to Missoula HVAC Contractors?

Regular maintenance is an important factor to consider.  Both furnaces and boilers require yearly tune-ups by an HVAC professional.  Furnaces also need regular filter changes.  BOILERS get this point.

5.       Are Furnaces Cheaper to Repair than Boilers in Missoula, Montana?

Furnace system repairs tend to be fairly simple and contained to the unit.  Because boiler systems hold water, repairs may be required to the system itself as well as the home itself.  Because of this, boilers systems can be much more expensive when a repair is needed.  FURNACES take the point for cheaper repairs.

6.       Is a Furnace or Boiler Easier to Repair?

Boilers are simpler machines than furnaces, so there are fewer parts that can go bad. However, a leak in a boiler system can cause water damage in various parts of homes that use them.  Boilers typically require fewer repairs, but when a leak occurs, it can wreak havoc on a home.  When a furnace needs repair, it is often pretty simple and contained within the system.  Overall, FURNACES are going to get this point.

7.       Which Type of Heating Unit Usually Lasts Longer according to Missoula Heating Contractors?

Furnaces can last between 15 and 30 years, with electric furnaces lasting much longer than gas furnaces.  Boilers last, on average, between 8-15 years, with gas boilers lasting longer than electric boilers.  FURNACES take this point!

8.       Does a Furnace or Boiler Create a More Comfortable Living Space?

Because of how furnaces heat, they have a tendency to dry out the air in a home.  This can be combated with a humidifier if desired.  For people with allergies, furnaces can cause irritation. BOILERS do not cause either of these problems, so they take the point.

9.       Which is Easier to Retrofit into a Historic Property?

When it comes down to it, neither a furnace nor boiler retrofit will be easy on a historic property.  Many homes from the early 1900s have a boiler and radiator system.  Homes built in the 1950s and later typically have a furnace system.  We recommend giving us a call at 406-728-5550 to find out what your options are. This question will be considered a TIE

10.   Are Furnaces or Boilers Safer to Use in My Home?

Both heating systems are considered safe to have in homes across the country.  Boilers have a lower rate of fire incidents than furnaces.  Boilers have the potential to cause water damage if there is a leak, but this is not generally dangerous, aside from a slipping hazard on some floors.  BOILERS get this point, but both are overall safe to use in homes.

11.   Which works better with an auxiliary heat source?

This question depends on what you have in mind.  If you want radiant in-floor heating in your bathroom, a boiler system with baseboards in the rest of the house can work effectively in combination.  If you are thinking about installing a mini-split system in your enclosed porch or garage, it really does not matter whether you have furnace or boiler heat in the rest of your home.  If you have a heat pump as your main source of heat, your auxiliary heat source is ERH strips.  This question will be a TIE

12.   Furnace vs. Boiler: Which is quieter, according to Missoula Heating Contractors?

Because of how they work, boilers create less noise than furnace systems.  BOILERS get this point.

13.   Are Boilers or Furnaces More Efficient?

The “Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency” or AFUE is the rating that the Department of Energy uses to rate products and data is available for every heater currently being sold in the United States.  Older units, often with a continuous pilot light, have an AFUE rating between 56%-70%.  Mid-efficiency options, with electric ignition, compact size, and a flue have an AFUE rating between 80%-83%.  High-efficiency options with sealed combustion and a second heat exchanger have a 90%-98.5% AFUE rating.  All heating units currently being sold in the US must have an AFUE rating of at least 80%. The most efficient option is not a question of furnace or boiler, but of energy source.  Electric, natural gas, or fuel have varying levels of efficiency.  So, this question is a TIE for the boilers and furnaces.

14.   Furnace vs. Boiler: More Environmentally Friendly According to Missoula Heating Contractors?

This question has a lot of facets. This requires a comparison of energy sources instead of boiler and furnace stats. Electric-powered boilers and furnaces are among the most efficient options, but electric energy can be dirtier than gas. If you have access to solar or wind-sourced electricity, this can be the cleanest heat source.  Modern furnaces and boilers powered by natural gas, oil, or electricity generally have an efficiency percentage of between 87% and 100%.  High-efficiency boilers and furnaces are available to help your home.  Overall, boilers tend to use less fuel, so BOILERS get this point.

15.   Do Boilers or Furnaces Creates Better Air Quality in Home?

Furnaces are known to dry out the air in the home.  Furnaces also can blow dust around, bringing you into more direct contact with allergens.  Boilers warm a home without moving the air around and will not create these air quality issues.  BOILERS take this point.

16.   Will a Furnace System or Boiler System Work Better with Central Air conditioning?

Furnaces use a system of ducts to pump warm air around the home. These same ducts can be used to pump cool air around the home.  If you have a boiler system heating your home and want to install central air conditioning, you will need to install ductwork throughout your home.  FURNACES get this point because you can take care of two birds with one set of ducts. 

17.   Will a furnace or boiler work to heat my home and water for use in my home?

Furnaces work entirely separately from your water heating system.  A combi-boiler can be used to both heat your home and heat the water you will use in your home.  A regular boiler can only be used to heat your home and does not have this dual functionality.  A combi-boiler is your only option for heating both your home and the hot water for use, so BOILERS get this point.

18.   My home does not have a gas hookup, is a furnace or boiler powered by electricity available?

Both boilers and furnaces are available with electricity as the power source.  This is a TIE.

19.   Will furnaces or boilers be legal longer than the other?  

This is a loaded question.  While gas boilers cannot be installed British homes past 2025, they are not outlawed in the United States.  The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 has an incentive for installing new heat pumps in homes, but nothing has been outlawed. Please do your own research and contact Garden City Plumbing and Heating to see what is available for your Missoula, Montana home.  This question will count as a TIE

20.   Should I get a furnace or a boiler in my Missoula home?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question and it will count as a TIE. Your local Missoula heating contractor can help you decide what type of heater will work best for your home.  Taking the size and age of your home into account, as well as your budget, will help you decide what will work best for your home!  Whatever you choose, Garden City Plumbing and Heating will be there to get your home set up and running smoothly!

Final Tally

Our game of 20 questions gave boilers 8 points, while furnaces received 6 points.  6 questions resulted in a tie score.  This does not mean that you absolutely should decide on a boiler before doing more research.  What works for your home may be different than for other people. Give Garden City Plumbing and Heating a call at 406-728-5550 or check out the heating options online and schedule your furnace or boiler heat installation on your new home!