furnace vs boiler

When temperatures drop, we are simultaneously annoyed and comforted by the sound of the home furnace kicking in or the click and gurgle of the radiator.

This season—instead of staring wistfully at your thermostat—take a few moments to learn a bit more about the trusty, oh-so-necessary equipment that keeps us safe and warm through the coldest months of the year. From furnaces to boilers and combination boilers that heat your home and your water, there are many different ways to heat a home, each with pros and cons to consider. Read on to learn more about how the furnace vs. boiler battle is just starting to heat up.

Home Heating Options

Let’s face it, as long as it’s warm when it needs to be, you probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the type of heating system in your house. However, having a basic understanding of the different options is helpful if you are considering things like adding in-floor heating, heating your garage, replacing your hot water heater, planning a major renovation or buying a home. Here are a few of the main options for home heating:


A furnace heats air, which a blower motor pushes throughout ductwork into the various rooms of your home. Nowadays, new furnaces can be just as efficient (92-98%) as boiler systems (95%) and they are generally cheaper to install compared to a boiler. Furnace installation can range from $4,000 to $10,000. The main disadvantage of a furnace is that it cannot provide heat for other applications, such as in-floor heating and indirect hot water heating.


Whereas a furnace heats air, a home boiler transfers heat through water. It can be used in conjunction with a fan coil to move heat around the house or can provide radiant heat via baseboard heaters or radiators.

Boiler home heating is incredibly energy efficient (95%) and can result in additional energy savings when used for other applications, such as hot water heating. For example, a standard hot water tank is only about 65-72% efficient, whereas installing a boiler and an indirect hot water tank will significantly increase efficiency, and provide a limitless supply of hot water for your home.

Combi Boiler

High-efficiency “combi” or combination boilers are medium-duty boilers best suited for heating a home’s domestic water supply, but can also be used in conjunction with an air handler (coil and fan), baseboard radiators, or in-floor heating system in smaller living spaces.

Compared to boilers, combi units have cheaper upfront installation costs, but their life expectancy is shorter and they do not provide as great a capacity for applications like in-floor or garage heating. Combi boilers are very compact and relatively simple to install. They also provide an unlimited supply of hot water and are much more efficient (95-97%) than standard hot water tanks.

What is the best way to heat your home?

When it comes to boiler vs. furnace efficiency, there isn’t an obvious winner. As long as your heating system is in good working condition and you’ve installed the model with the most appropriate capacity for your living space, either a boiler or a furnace will do an excellent job of heating your home.https://firstcallheating.ca/products/hot-water-systems/in-floor-heating/

For most homeowners, choosing a favourite usually comes down to personal preference. Some will be motivated by the lower price point of a furnace, while others may be drawn to the additional features and applications that a boiler can provide.

This helpful chart breaks down the pros and cons of different home heating options:

Pros Cons

· Efficient (92-98%)

· Less expensive

· No options for additional applications such as in-floor heating or hot water heating

· Efficient (95%)

· Applications galore:

  • On-demand water heating
  • In-floor heating
  • Coil and fan air handler
  • Garage heating
  • Baseboard heaters or radiators

· Some prefer the sun-like warmth of radiant heat

· Zone control for customizable temperature settings in different rooms of your home

· Expensive installation or retrofit ($15,000 to $50,000)

· Efficient (95-97%)

· On-demand water heating

· In-floor heating

· Small-scale coil and fan air handler heating

· Less expensive option with similar functionality to a boiler

· Takes up very little space in your utility room and can be wall-mounted

· Less capacity for additional applications compared to a boiler

· Shorter life expectancy

So, given what you now know about home heating solutions, where do you stand in the great boiler vs. furnace debate? Are you pro-boiler? Or furnaces forever? At First Call, we’re happy to answer any questions you may have about furnaces, boilers, or in-floor heating. Give us a call at 780-464-3337 or book an appointment online.


Download our Quick Guide to Furnaces vs Boilers

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