What Is The Difference Between A Boiler and A Water Heater?

Plumber adjusting temperature of electric boiler

It’s easy to mistake a boiler and a water heater for tools that do the same thing. For example, they both contain water, and they look similar, with a long cylindrical tank making up most of their body. They both heat their water supply and send it through your home.

However, not only is there a difference between boiler and water heater systems but trying to use them interchangeably is impossible.

If your home uses either or both, or if you’re considering installing one, it’s crucial to know their essential functions and what sets them apart. Here, the plumbing experts at Aquamanz Plumbing & Heating break down what you should know about this equipment. We’ll cover the different types of water heaters and boilers, their differences and similarities, and whether you even need both devices.

What Is a Water Heater?

Water heaters warm the water in your home or business for bathing, washing your hands and dishes, and in your appliances. Water heaters connect to your property’s water supply line, absorb the cold water from the source, and warm it up before distributing it through your pipes. The heating process doesn’t use chemicals or bacteria, making the water safe to handle and drink.  

Every water heater has a built-in heating source that warms the water supply until it reaches the right temperature. Then, it stores the water within its tank and keeps it warm until you turn on one of your plumbing fixtures. 

Water heaters will mix their heated water supply with cold water depending on how much heat you request. For example, if you turn your sink’s hot water handle halfway, the water heater slightly dilutes the heat with cold water. On the other hand, you won’t receive any dilution if you turn the hot water on all the way.

Different Types of Water Heater Systems

Homes either have a tank or tankless water heater system. While both perform the same essential function, experts consider tankless water heaters the better option for their efficiency and strength.

While tanked water heaters need time to heat cold water, tankless water heaters distribute warm water instantly. Tankless water heaters also don’t need to store water to send it out. Therefore, your home will always have enough warm water to go around, no matter how many plumbing fixtures you run. 

Additionally, your home will have more space with a tankless water heater since they are more compact than traditional ones.

What Is a Boiler?

Boilers are home heating systems that create warmth by turning water into steam through rapid boiling. These devices have a built-in thermostat that kicks in when you turn on your boiler. The thermostat tells the boiler how much moisture to create and when to distribute it.

The steam then cycles through your pipes to heat your floors and walls. After the steam cools, it reverts to water and flows back to the boiler. Therefore, it reheats and goes back through the pipes as steam.

You can also use boilers to power a radiant heating system.

Different Types of Boilers

One big difference between boiler and water heater systems is that boilers come in several sizes and styles. However, water heaters have only two primary designs.

We looked closely at steam boilers, which boil water into steam and use it as a heating source. However, a water boiler is another popular device that distributes hot water through the pipes rather than steam for a similar effect. There are also oil boilers that use renewable oil as a heating source.

Critical Differences Between Boilers and Water Heaters

The most significant difference between boiler and water heater systems is that boilers heat water to warm your home. Conversely, water heaters give your plumbing fixtures hot water.

This difference also means the two devices heat their water to different points. For example, water heaters never warm their water past 120 degrees to keep it safe to use.  However, boilers exceed the boiling point because they need extra heat to warm your living space.

Because people won’t interact with the water from boilers, it’s also not safe to drink or handle. On the other hand, water heaters produce sanitary water that’s safe to clean with and consume.

Another difference between boiler and water heater systems is their design. While boilers circulate water for consistent heat and minimal water waste, water heaters only send water one way. 

Additionally, boilers can use oil as a heating source. On the other hand, water heaters are limited to gas and electricity.

Similarly, some water heaters use additional water as a power source. These devices are called heat exchanger water heaters. Boilers don’t have a comparable equivalent. 

Similarities Between Boilers and Water Heaters

Water heaters and boilers store water in a tank (or tankless equivalent) and distribute that water across an entire property. Additionally, they heat the water before sending it out using gas or electricity. 

The tanks on water heaters and boilers are also both pressurized.

Are Boilers and Water Heaters Necessary?

Heating and warm water are essential for comfortable home life. You especially need them in Massapequa, NY, where the weather regularly dips below freezing.

However, a big difference between boiler and water heater systems is that you need a water heater to produce warm water. Yet, you don’t need a boiler to heat your home.

In most locations, your home must have a reliable heating source. You can choose from a boiler, a central HVAC system, or another alternative. The law is the same for heated water in most areas, but water heaters are the only acceptable option.

Solar water heating has become more popular recently. It is a verifiable alternative to water heaters in some areas. However, they aren’t as reliable or energy efficient as water heaters, making them fringe alternatives to the standard.

On the other hand, you have several home heating options in addition to boilers. Each produces roughly the same quality results. 

Warranty Information on Boilers and Water Heaters

Most home warranties cover water heater repairs and replacements at least partially. So if your water heater breaks, you can call your warranty provider. They’ll send a certified contractor to examine the damage.

The technician will fix or replace your device according to the warranty terms if your device is still under warranty. 

On the other hand, most home warranties don’t cover boilers because they’re not as standard as water heaters. That rarity also makes it more difficult to find a repair team that can service a boiler.

Fortunately, Aquamanz Plumbing & Heating provides reliable Massapequa, NY, boiler repair services that will restore your home’s heat with or without a warranty.

Another reason boilers aren’t often on home warranties is that they’re more common in commercial spaces than residential ones. Furthermore, most warranty providers don’t cover shared appliances.

Combination Boiler and Water Heater

Water heaters and boilers are both valuable, but having both wastes water and space. You don’t have to install two separate devices to have both; you can install a combination boiler and water heater instead. 

The difference between boiler and water heater systems and a combined boiler and water heater is that you’ll receive both benefits—water and home heating—in one device. Combination boilers and water heaters work as effectively as standalone units. However, they use the same water supply to cut down on utility expenses.

When you turn on the hot water from a plumbing appliance, your combination boiler and water heater will send it down a track that reaches a faucet. Similarly, when you turn on your thermostat to heat your home, the water will go down its dedicated path to reach the correct pipes. Even though traditional boilers don’t produce sanitary water, the combination devices send you clean water when necessary.

Additionally, even though combination boilers and water heaters are more oversized than their standalone counterparts, they take up less surface area than having two separate devices.

Call Aquamanz Plumbing & Heating for Professional Boiler and Water Heater Installation

You need a water heater to live comfortably and power your appliances. Additionally, there are several HVAC alternatives for boilers; they’re still one of the most effective residential heating tools.

Aquamanz Plumbing & Heating is the team you need if you want to install a combination unit or repair an existing one. With our boiler and water heater expertise, your unit will last for decades without issues. Once problems arise, we’ll be back to repair the damage.

We pride ourselves on delivering quality fixes that permanently address the issues rather than temporarily patching them. We understand the difference between boiler and water heater service. We leverage that experience to ensure our clients have what they need to stay comfortable through the coldest days.

We’re ready to bring that expertise to your home next!

Call Aquamanz Plumbing & Heating today at (516) 613-2812 to schedule a service. We can also advise you about your plumbing, including the signs that a pipe burst in the wall.