When people talk about their home’s heating system, they often will just say “the furnace,” even though that may not be what they have. They may actually have a boiler.
But, knowing exactly what the equipment heating your home is essential when you’re looking for ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency and lower your home heating costs.
So let’s take a closer look at furnaces and boilers and find out what makes them different so you can maximize the efficiency of whichever one you have:
A furnace is the foundation of a forced-air heating system. A furnace burns fuel like heating oil or propane to heat air. That heated air is then pushed through your ductwork to heat rooms and spaces in your home through vents, which are also referred to as registers. If you have those vents or registers for home heating, you have a furnace.
Because air is constantly circulating into the furnace when it is running, the air filter is essential to protecting your furnace and keeping it running at its best possible efficiency. Check your air filter every month and make sure to change it as needed.
Be cognizant as well: You may be forcing your furnace to work harder and not even realize it. Obstructions like curtains and furniture can get in the way of the heated air coming from the registers, so it doesn’t properly circulate around the room. Go around your home and make sure to address any obstructions.
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. 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.
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.
Whichever type of heating system you have, professional maintenance every year is essential to keep it running in peak condition and at its best possible efficiency.