Many homeowners may confuse these terms (Furnace or Boiler), but there is an easy way to remember: a boiler uses hot water (think of “boiling” water) to heat your home, and a furnace uses warm air (also referred to as forced air).
Boiler: A hydronic system uses water or steam to heat your home. In a hot water system, the boiler heats the water to approximately 180 degrees. A circulator moves the water through the pipes that lead to baseboard heaters, radiators or radiant tubing. In a steam system, the boiler turns the water into steam, which then rises through the pipes to radiators. Unlike a furnace, boilers are silent while they are producing heat. If you have a boiler that is making a bubbling or gurgling noise, it means that something in your boiler is broken. Boilers do not blow air as furnaces do, so there are less allergens in the air. Boilers can also be controlled by zones, so you control where the heat is going to go in your home.
Furnace: A warm air system uses a furnace to deliver the heat throughout your home. The air is heated in the furnace and a blower forces it into a duct system. The warm air is then released into your home, through vents or registers in your walls, ceilings or floors. Furnaces do not use convectors to produce heat making them less expensive. Furnaces also provide a way to cool your home while a boiler does not. Purchasing a furnace for your home will cost less than purchasing a boiler; however, boilers are considered to be better for your home.