Furnace vs. Boiler: What’s the Best Heating System in Hastings, Minnesota

Furnace or boiler? Which one should you install in your Hastings-area home?

Well, it really depends on what’s most important to you in a heating system. To help you decide, we’ll cover each of these important factors:

  • How well it provides heat
  • Energy efficiency
  • Replacement costs

But first, let’s look at how these 2 heating systems work so you can better understand what makes them different.

The difference between how furnaces and boilers work

A furnace is a forced-air heating system. It sucks in air from your home, heats it and then blows it back into your house via ducts and air vents.

A boiler heats water that is then sent to radiators or radiant floor systems in your home via pipes. At the radiator, the hot water gives off its heat and warms up the air in your home.

So now that you know how they’re functionally different, here are the factors to consider when making your decision.

How well it provides heat

Both a furnace and boiler will be able to heat your home to a comfortable temperature. However, there are a few differences.


Many people prefer the heat that a boiler creates because:

  • There’s no draft. Unlike when a furnace turns on, there’s no noticeable draft while a boiler is heating your home.
  • Zoning is built in. You can control the comfort of each individual room at the radiator with a boiler. While you can zone your home with a furnace, it requires more work and doesn’t come built in.
  • Better indoor air quality. Furnaces can blow dirt and other pollutants through your home. Boilers don’t do that.
  • More even heating. Since boilers run more continuously, the heat has more time to spread out and warm your home. Furnaces are notorious for allowing hot and cold spots in homes (though this can be rectified with proper duct design and variable-speed blowers).


A furnace does have one advantage in this department, though. Furnaces react more quickly to a change in thermostat setting. In other words, if you bump up your thermostat a few degrees, a furnace will make up the difference more quickly than a boiler.

Energy efficiency

Both furnace and boiler efficiency are rated using AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency). AFUE measures the amount of fuel that is actually turned into heat.

For example, an 80% AFUE natural gas furnace turns 80% of the natural gas it uses into heat. The remaining 20% goes up the flue in combustion gases. So the higher the number, the more efficient the furnace or boiler. 


In general, though, boilers are more efficient than furnaces even when their AFUE is equal. This is because the pipes that carry the hot water from a boiler don’t lose much heat since they’re located inside conditioned spaces.


Because air ducts are usually located in unconditioned spaces (like basements and attics), they tend to lose heat as air travels through them (not to mention that 20-30% of the air is lost altogether from holes and loose connections, according to ENERGY STAR.)

Of course, these duct problems can be minimized with proper duct design, sealing and insulation.

Replacement costs

So far it seems like the score is 2-0 in favor of boilers. So you might be wondering why most new houses have furnaces. Well, here’s the reason: replacement and installation costs.


Installing a boiler is much more complex than installing a furnace. Installing a boiler can take days while installing a new furnace can be done in a 4-6 hours. As a result, replacing or installing a boiler in your home costs more: from $3,500 on the low end to over $10,000 for a high-efficiency unit.


Furnaces can be installed much more quickly, assuming you already have the ductwork in place. A new furnace in Minnesota is usually in the $2,500-$5,500 range.

Related: How Much Does a Gas Furnace Cost in Minnesota? It Depends

So which should you buy?

If you’re looking at your decision from purely a price standpoint, a furnace may be your best option. The slight energy efficiency edge a boiler has won’t be enough to make up the high upfront cost of a boiler.

But if you really value the comfort and zoning a boiler can provide, a furnace may never completely satisfy you. So the investment may be worth it for your family.

Want to get a new furnace or boiler installed in your home right now? Get a free estimate from us.

One Hour Heating serves Hastings, MN and the surrounding cities, including Apple Valley, Burnsville, Cottage Grove, Eagan, Woodbury, Lakeville, Rosemount and Stillwater. 

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