Furnaces and Boilers: What is the Difference?

Jan 11, 2017 | Wood Pellets, Wood Pellet Heat

When we talk about modern, high-efficiency pellet heating systems, we are talking about both boilers and furnaces. Which is the best for your home?


The answer to that question is often dictated by your existing heating system – the inefficient one you are upgrading.


Basically, a boiler uses water to heat a building and a furnace uses air. They both create heat to keep you warm, but in different ways. Let’s take a look at how each appliance works.


A boiler is an appliance that heats your home by heating water, though not quite to the boiling point. That water is then circulated throughout your home via a series of pipes.


These pipes can look different in different houses. Some homes have metal registers at baseboard height around the perimeter of the rooms, through which the hot water flows. Houses that have radiant floor heat have tubing running under the floorboards where the hot water circulates. In old houses, you might see cast iron steam radiators. Take a trip to Europe and you’re likely to see flat panels on the wall that perform the same function.


All of these different systems operate on the same principle—convection. Hot air is lighter than cold air. When the air around the heat emitter warms, it rises, while the cooler air sinks down to the floor to be warmed, creating an ever-refreshing cycle of warm air.


After the water circulates through the pipes, it returns to the boiler, where it’s reheated so it can circulate again.


A furnace, on the other hand, warms air instead of water. This hot air is then forced through a series of ducts and released into the rooms, usually through hot air registers found on the floor or in the walls. The warm air rises, the cooler air falls.


Modern wood pellet systems can be either boilers or furnaces. There is little difference from the outside of the appliance—it’s the mechanics inside that are different. For the customer, the heating system and pellet storage will all essentially look the same.


modern pellet heat boiler


When you decide that wood pellet heat is the right choice for you, our technicians at Lyme Green Heat will investigate your existing system and make a recommendation about which to use, boiler or furnace. Often, a boiler system is the better choice when burning biomass, but there are exceptions, and we’ll let you know if you’re one of those.


Regardless of whether you invest in a boiler or furnace, making the switch to modern wood pellet heat will mean you’re helping the environment, helping the local economy, and probably helping your wallet. Studies have shown that burning wood pellets reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 54 percent compared to oil and 59 percent compared to natural gas. That’s starting on day one. After 50 years, the differences are even more extreme.


Plus, wood pellets are harvested and processed right here in New Hampshire. Our supplier, New England Wood Pellet, is located in Jaffrey, and this means that the dollars you spend on purchasing wood pellets are kept in the local economy instead of being funneled to various stops on the fossil fuel pipeline, many of which are nowhere near where you live.


Speaking of fossil fuels, yes, we know that right now, oil is cheap. But what about next year? The year after that? Oil prices can fluctuate wildly from year to year, while pellet prices are stable.


There are plenty of good reasons to choose pellet heat, and we’re here to make the choice even easier by providing our expert opinion as to which system will better serves your needs. We’re not only your wood pellet providers, we’re also your neighbors, and we care that your happy.




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