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Hot Water Heater Versus Boiler: What’s the Difference?

  • Apr 23, 2020
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The HVAC equipment heating and cooling your home and your water are important parts of your daily life. But many homeowners may not know much about how they actually work. While the systems may seem complicated in many ways, you can understand the basics. As an owner, understanding how your equipment operates helps you choose the right equipment in the first place and helps you detect any problems early.

Consider, for instance, the difference between a hot water heater and a boiler. While these two appliances sound alike, they actually perform different roles for different buildings. Here is a short overview.

What Is a Hot Water Heater?

A boiler and water heater both operate on the same basic premise — heating up water in an enclosed space. The hot water heater, though, does so to generate hot water for your shower, washing clothes, or just warming up your hands on a chilly day.

Most water heaters consist of a large tank — which varies in size depending on your home and family needs — and a heating element. Cold water enters the tank as needed and is significantly heated up. When you turn on the tap, this very hot water is mixed in with the cold water running through your pipes to create a less scalding temperature.

As the heated water leaves the tank, more cold water is brought in to replace it and the cycle starts over again. This tank-based system is why you may experience the unpleasantness of running out of hot water as demand outweighs supply. To combat this, some property owners opt for a tankless style, where the water is heated upon demand in order to eliminate the storage issue.

What Is a Boiler?

A boiler is a more multi-functional tool for home use because it can be used both to heat the house and to heat your water. The reason is that the boiler heats up water and then sends it in one of two directions. You could use it to simply heat up water like a water heater. Or, you can use a boiler to send the heat through a piping system to radiators, forced air heating, or radiant heat systems throughout the home.

When using a boiler to heat the house, the water is either sent in its liquid form or turned into steam. The steam is pushed through the closed pipe network to lend its heat in various rooms before it cools back into a liquid. This liquid is recirculated back to the boiler, where it begins its journey again.

What Should You Use?

Boilers aren’t as common in the United States as in many other countries, and you’re most likely to encounter them in commercial structures. Their energy efficiency, speed, and versatility make them a popular choice for larger spaces. And with their lack of forced air, they are often quieter than a traditional whole-space heating system.

A boiler, though, could be a great benefit to homeowners as well, for many of the same reasons that commercial buildings use them. In addition, if you or a family member have problems with allergens or respiratory issues, a boiler might be a good heating option because it does not blow air through duct work.

Your choice of water heater depends largely on the amount of hot water your home needs. The most common concern is running out of hot water. But with tank versions and tankless versions both available, you may not have much to worry about.

Where Can You Learn More?

Want to know more about options for heating your air or your water? Start with a visit to Lakeside Heating & Air Conditioning. Our HVAC pros can help you assess your needs, your budget, and your goals to find the perfect match no matter what you’re looking for. Call for an appointment today.