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Boiler Vs Water Heater: What’s the Difference?

July 26, 2023

When it comes to heating your home, understanding the difference between a boiler and a water heater is crucial. Both these systems heat water, but they do it in essentially different ways and serve different purposes.

Boiler Vs Hot Water Heater: Basic Differences

What is a Boiler?

A boiler is a heating device that turns water into steam. The boiler heats water until it becomes hot steam. The unit then distributes this steam throughout the home via radiators or radiant floor systems, providing heat. This process is known as forced air heating.

Some boilers also provide hot water for use in sinks or showers.

What is a Water Heater?

Water heaters, on the other hand, are appliances that heat water for domestic use. Storage tanks store this heated water or supply it on demand, depending on the type of water heater you have. Water heaters heat water to a set temperature and store it for later use. Unlike boilers, water heaters do not turn water into steam.

Boilers Vs Water Heaters: Heating Methods

How Boilers Heat Water

Boilers heat water using natural gas, oil, electricity, or even wood pellets. The boilers send hot water or steam to heat the house, using pipes to radiators or underfloor heating systems.

How Water Heaters Work

Water heaters use either electricity, natural gas, or propane to heat cold water. The tank stores heated water or, in the case of tankless water heaters, supplied directly when needed.

Water Heater Vs Boiler: Installation and Maintenance

Water heaters installation is typically less complex compared to a boiler system. They are smaller and require less space, and are often easier to maintain. In contrast, installing a boiler system is generally more involved and may require a more complicated piping system.

Combined Boiler and Water Heater Systems

In some homes, you may find combined boiler and water heater systems, known as combi boilers. Combi boilers provide heat for your home and hot water for sinks or showers on demand, ruling out the need for a separate hot water heater. They are efficient but may struggle to provide enough hot water for larger homes.

Types of Water Heaters and Boilers

There are different types of water heaters and boilers to choose from:

  1. tankless water heaters,
  2. heat pumps,
  3. traditional boilers with storage tanks.

Tankless Water Heaters

Tankless water heaters, as the name suggests, do not have a storage tank. Instead, they heat water on demand, which can provide energy savings as they only heat water when needed.

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps do not directly heat the water. Instead, they extract heat from the air or ground to heat the water. They are very efficient but may not be suitable for colder climates.

Traditional Boilers

Traditional boilers use a storage tank and can use a variety of fuel sources. They are ideal for larger homes or homes with multiple bathrooms.

Conclusion: Boiler Vs Water Heater

To summarize, the primary difference between a boiler and a water heater is simple:

  • A boiler pushes heating air in the home and heats hot water.
  • A water heater provides hot water for domestic uses like cooking, bathing, and cleaning. Your water heater store will be able to guide through a variety of models.

Your choice between a boiler or a water heater will depend on your specific heating requirements and the size of your home.


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