Boiler or Furnace

How to tell which one is in your home

Very often people are either not sure or think they have a different heating system than they really have. We'll outline the primary differences and how to quickly figure whether you have a boiler or furnace without even looking at your system.


Boilers come in two varieties of steam and hot water. A boiler either heats up water or creates steam that travels through pipes in your home to radiators in older homes or baseboards in newer homes. Water is then returned back to the boiler once the steam cools or the hot water has traveled through the pipes. It is then heated up again and the process repeats.

Radiators are usually found in older homes and have been for the most part phased out by more efficient baseboard. Radiators resemble metal tubing bunched together in usually tall and wide constructs. They can be covered to blend in with your home decor as well. Most radiators look similar to the image below.

what does a radiator look like

Baseboards are radiators that are spread out along the floor of the room that is heated. They allow for the heat to evenly heat a room instead of being centralized in one area like a radiator. Baseboards look similar to the one pictured below.

what do baseboard look like


A furnace uses hot air to heat your home. Using ductwork throughout your home the furnace heats the air which then travels to the room or floor in need of heat. The heat is delivered through registers that can be found either in the ceiling or high on the wall in older homes or through registers on the floor in newer homes. Registers are small rectangular metal grates that can be opened or closed using the lever on the grate. Furnaces also have a return grate in the same room to allow for the undesired air to be removed from the room. The register in most homes will look something like what is pictured below.

furnace register