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Boiler vs. Furnace: Which is More Efficient?

We’re going to cut to the chase: modern furnaces and boilers are both efficient.

The annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) is a performance rating that applies to both furnaces and boilers. The higher the AFUE, the more efficient the system. The federal government mandates that new boilers meet a minimum AFUE rating of 80% to 84%, depending on whether it runs on gas or oil. Likewise, the minimum standard for new furnaces is 78% AFUE.

Ultra-efficient furnaces can achieve a 98% AFUE. That means only 2% of the fuel is wasted to create heat. The AFUE for new boilers tops out at about 90%. That’s a dramatic improvement over the previous generations of heating systems, which operated in the 50% to 70% range.

However, there are factors beyond energy efficiency to consider if you’re deciding between a boiler and a furnace.

Furnace and Boiler: A Side By Side Comparison

Cost: Replacing your furnace with a mid-range model will cost between $2,000 and $3,500. High-end units can fetch upwards of $5,000. Boilers, in contrast, can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars more.

Installation: If you already have ducts in your home, replacing your furnace will take only hours. Boilers are more complex and may take over a day to install. If you’re replacing your furnace with a boiler, the installation will become even more complicated (and more expensive), requiring the contractor to retrofit your home with air ducts.

Comfort: People who have boilers swear by the quality of heat that these units produce. Comfort is more consistent, and they maintain adequate humidity levels. Forced-air systems have the disadvantage of drying out the air. Where furnaces have an advantage is that they can respond to changes in temperature faster.

Maintenance: Both systems should be inspected and tuned-up annually to ensure proper operation. Furnaces, however, will require routine filter changes.

Sound levels: Boilers operate nearly soundlessly.

Bottom line: Upgrading to a more efficient furnace or boiler will slash your heating costs and improve your comfort. If you’re ready to replace your heating system, turn to the experts at AAA Service Plumbing, Heating & Electric. Call (303) 622-3449 to schedule your appointment.

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