If you are considering investing in a new heating system for your home, you’ll want to explore your options carefully. The type of heating unit you purchase will determine how much energy you consume, how balanced the air is, and what kind of energy source you use.


Today we explore the differences between the two main heating systems that homeowners use in Central Wisconsin: a furnace and a boiler. If you have any further questions, we are happy to help you choose the right product for your home


A furnace transfers heat to the air. A blower distributes the heat through ductwork and then out a vent where the air enters a room. The furnace is one of a two-part system that also consists of an air conditioner.


Furnaces generate heat using two types of energy sources.

Natural/Propane Gas Furnace

In a natural gas furnace, a pilot light ignites a series of burners inside a combustion chamber. The burners produce heat that enters a heat exchanger where it is converted into the air. A thermostat sets the temperature of the air once it exits the chamber. The blower sends the air through the ducts.

Electric Furnace

In an electric furnace, the ignition activates heating elements that contain a set of conductive coils. The coils heat the air. As in a gas furnace, a thermostat controls the temperature once the air leaves the chamber. The blower distributes the air through the duct system and out the vents. The number of coils that turn on depends on the thermostat setting.


A boiler heats water or steam inside a chamber. The boiler channels water through a radiator or a radiant floor system. Once the water cools, it flows back to the boiler to repeat the process. The thermostat does not control the temperature of the water. Instead, it turns the boiler on or off depending on the temperature in the room.


The boiler heats the water to a certain temperature every time and operates when the thermostat senses the temperature in the room is falling below the setting. Boilers utilize gas or electric energy source to operate.

Understanding the AFUE Rating

The Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating determines how energy-efficient a heating system is. Although the AFUE rating is not the only determining factor in assessing a heating system’s efficiency, it is the primary rating system and trusted by entities such as ENERGY STAR and the Energy Department.


The rating works like this: For every dollar you spend on energy, you lose a certain amount in wasted energy costs. For instance, if you spend a dollar on a heating bill, you might spend 78 cents on heating, but lose 22 cents in wasted energy. Thus, the less you spend on wasted energy, the higher the efficiency rating.


The rating is stated in a percentage with 100% being a perfect rating. A heating system with a rating of 85% means that you spent 85 cents and lost 15 cents.

Furnace vs. Boiler: Which is Better?

It’s difficult to determine which system is more efficient due to a wide range of factors. Here are some quick facts that you need to know:



●        are more expensive to purchase and install.

●        produce more consistent heat, but consume less fuel.

●        require less maintenance, because they contain fewer moving parts.

●        blow no air, so you don’t have to worry about air quality.

●        are quiet.



●        are less expensive to purchase and install.

●        are easier to install.

●        leak air and not water. You will not have to repair your home from water damage.

●        will not freeze up during the winter.


The AFUE rating on boilers and furnaces is about the same. A standard system has a good rating of 78% to 85%. If you opt for a high-efficiency system, you will pay more money but benefit units that have as a high as a 98% rating.


Note: The AFUE rating only accounts for energy usage and lost. It doesn’t account for maintenance. You need to take other factors into consideration such as proper installation, the size of your house, your home’s overall efficiency (windows, doors, insulation, siding, etc.), and ventilation system.

Furnace and Boilers Installation for Your Home

To find out more about the features and benefits of boilers and furnaces, contact Steve’s Plumbing & Heating today. We offer complete installation, repair, and full system replacement.


To find out more about our plumbing and heating services, call us at 715-421-1800.