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What’s the Difference Between a Furnace and a Boiler?

Posted: August 9, 2021

heating systems rhode island

Most people refer to their home heating system as a furnace, but that’s not always true: it could also be a boiler. Knowing the difference between these two pieces of equipment can be helpful when it comes to finding ways to save money on your energy bills, or if you need to explain a problem you’re having with your system to a technician.

What Is a Furnace?

A furnace forms the core of a “forced air” system. The furnace burns fuel (such as heating oil) to heat air, then pushes that warmed air through a system of ducts to heat spaces in your home. The heat enters each room through vents (also called “registers”); if you have vents in your house, you have a furnace.

Getting the most from your furnace
All forced air systems use air filters to reduce dust and other pollutants in your indoor air. Check this filter about once a month when your system is in use, cleaning or replacing the filter (depending on your model) as needed. Instructions for how to do this are included in your furnace’s owner’s manual; if you can’t figure out how to do it, contact us.

What Is a Boiler?

There are two basic types of boiler: hydronic (hot water) and steam. A hydronic boiler burns fuel to heat water, then pumps it through pipes and into your baseboards or radiators (if you have baseboard heating or radiators, you have a boiler). Eventually, the water returns to the unit to begin the cycle again.

A steam boiler operates more or less the same way as a hydronic boiler, but converts water into steam before sending it through to your radiators and baseboards.

Getting the most from your boiler
If your baseboards aren’t getting warm, check to see if the damper is open, and make sure the bottom of the unit isn’t blocked by heavy carpeting. For steam systems, check the boiler’s water gauge; low water levels can shut down your boiler.

Steam boilers should also be flushed when the water in the gauge looks rusty; if you don’t know how to do this, contact us for service. A radiator valve has only two positions, on and off; keeping the valve’s handle in between can strain the pipes and produce a hammering sound.

Keys for All Heating Systems

Getting the most from your heating system starts with quality heating oil, delivered when and where you need it. Get yours from Vaughn Oil – join our family of customers today.