Most homes in the United States are heated with either furnaces or boilers. The primary difference between the two is that furnaces heat air while boilers heat water. Furnaces are limited to heating air that is then distributed through the home using air ducts. The heated water that boilers produce can be delivered through radiators, piped into radiant flooring systems, used to heat domestic hot water or moved through a heat exchanger to heat air circulated throughout the home with duct work. The following information can help you choose which type of heating system is best for your Michigan home.
How Furnaces and Boilers Work
Although electrically operated models are available, most furnaces and boilers are powered by burning natural gas, oil or propane. Fuel is mixed with air and burned in a sealed combustion chamber. For homes with forced-air heating systems, a heat exchanger draws the heat that is generated during the combustion process to warm air for household distribution. For homes with hydronic heating systems, the generated heat is used to heat water or produce steam.
Boilers: Pros and Cons
When comparing boilers and furnaces with similar energy efficiency ratings, boilers require less fuel. Boilers generally provide a more consistent level of heat than furnaces, particularly when the heat is delivered through radiant flooring systems. Hydronic systems operate more quietly and cause fewer issues with indoor air quality than forced-air systems. Although boilers generally cost less to maintain, they’re upfront cost is significantly higher than furnaces. Because boilers are essentially plumbing systems, even a small leak can quickly lead to a flood of problems. It’s a good idea to have boilers regularly serviced by qualified plumbers.
Furnaces: Pros and Cons
Furnaces cost less to install than boilers and efficiently deliver the kind of forced-air home heating that many homeowners in Michigan and around the country prefer. While they require regular maintenance to keep them operating safely and efficiently, they’re generally easier and lost costly to repair when malfunctions occur. Furnaces with advanced features like variable-speed fans are capable of maintaining consistent temperatures. Because forced-air heating systems deliver blasts of warm air, problems with indoor air quality, too-dry humidity levels and uneven heating can arise.
Radiant Flooring Heating Systems
A radiant floor heating system consists of loops of tubing installed below flooring that are heated with hot water delivered by a boiler. Radiant flooring systems supply gentle, even warmth to living spaces. Because the heat is delivered under your feet instead of blowing up towards ceilings, hydronic radiant flooring is substantially more energy-efficient than forced-air systems. The invisible system also allows you to arrange your furnishings in any configuration.
For those who prefer forced-air systems, both furnaces and boilers present viable options. For homes where duct work systems aren’t feasible, hydronic systems like radiators and radiant flooring offer comfortable solutions. While more expensive to install, boilers offer flexible and versatile heating systems that can accommodate the comfort needs of any Michigan home. Quality plumbing companies are a good source for more information for hydronic heating systems. A professional consultation can help you determine whether the cost of a boiler installation is worth the investment.