Why Boiler Radiant Heat versus a Forced Air Furnace?
Understand & weigh all the considerations when choosing.
Whether building a new home, renovating an existing home, or simply replacing your old heating equipment with a new boiler or furnace there are considerations to weigh in your choice of the type of heating system. From up-front costs to potential savings on future repair costs and monthly utility bills.
Understanding boiler radiant heat versus a forced-air furnace.
Boilers provide radiant heat while furnaces use forced-air heat. A boiler heats water to make hot water/steam that circulates through pipes and radiators resulting in radiant heat to heat your home. A furnace heats air which is blown throughout your house through ducts, replacing each room’s cooler air with hotter air.
Years ago, boilers delivered heat as steam to cast-iron radiators. Next generation boilers delivered hot water into pipes that fed baseboard heaters using thin metal fins to radiate heat. Today, boilers can also deliver hot water into radiant heating loops installed in the home’s concrete slab, keeping the floor warm and radiating heat in each room.
Boiler radiant heat versus forced-air furnace heat.
Choosing boiler radiant heat through baseboard heaters or in-floor versus a forced-air furnace consists of multiple considerations.
- Forced-air furnaces typically cost less to install and can share ductwork with an air conditioning system. This means your home does not need both ducts and hot water piping.
- Updating/renovating – existing system often determines what type of heat system is best.
- Homes with an existing, adequate duct system - typically best to choose a new furnace.
- Homes with existing baseboard hot water heat - typically a new boiler is best.
- New construction/complete home renovation - decide without regard to existing system based on the pros and cons of each type.
Pros and cons of boilers versus furnaces:
- Furnaces typically offer a lower install cost – however, equipment cost is determined by many factors like energy efficiency. A high-efficiency, condensing furnace can cost more than a slightly less efficient boiler.
- Radiant heat boilers run almost silently - forced-air furnaces are fairly noisy.
- Boilers are easier to maintain - no filters to change & no ducts to clean.
- Boiler baseboard or in-floor systems – eliminate concerns of blocking vents with furniture or need to keep doors between rooms open for adequate airflow.
- Boilers are extremely reliable and long-lasting, but if leaks occur - can cause damage to home's structure & furnishings.
- Boilers provide better indoor air quality - no air blowing dust & allergens around, plus they do not dry out air in winter like a forced-air furnace.
- No freezing danger with forced-air furnace – boilers do come with concerns of equipment & pipes freezing/breaking with extended winter power outage.
- Zoning is easier in boiler radiant heating systems.
Consult with Covenant to fully understand all the costs and modifications required along with the benefits such as energy efficiency.
- New, high-efficiency boilers (and furnaces) may require replacing existing flues or installing a new chimney liner. If existing furnace was sharing flue with water heater but will now have its own vent, replacing old water heater flue with a smaller one to ensure proper venting may be required.
- Sealed boilers (and furnaces) take outside air in, which is more energy-efficient than drawing air in from structure leaks and/or using already-heated air for combustion. However, sealed systems require installing intake vents from outside to feed the boiler (or furnace).
- Heating efficiency is not the only factor in lowering monthly utility bills - AFUE, annual fuel utilization efficiency, of heating equipment is the measure of amount of energy consumed by boiler (or furnace) compared to amount of heat delivered to system. A heating system with an AFUE of 90% loses 10% up the chimney.
- A forced-air furnace with leaky ductwork or uninsulated ducts running through unconditioned spaces, like an attic, can result in overall heating efficiency well below the furnace's AFUE rating. If attic insulation is not adequate, investing in a high-efficiency boiler may be a waste since heat will be lost through ceilings.
We carry Weil-McLain Residential Boilers – learn more by visiting their webpage:
Interested in discovering if a Residential Boiler is right for your home?
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