The Differences Between Boilers and Water Heaters

Ever wonder about what makes a water heater different from a boiler? A common misconception among people is that a boiler and water heater are the same things. And they’re right, to an extent. While both may have the same functionality, which is heating water, they do it in different ways and are used for different for purposes.Quail Services is here to teach you about the differences between boilers and water heaters.

What is a Boiler?

A boiler can do a lot more than just simply heating water. It boils the water and turns it into steam. After the water is done heating and turned into evaporation, it will come out of the boiler to be used in various ways.

A boiler can be used for:

  • Cooking
  • Cleaning
  • Central heating

Boilers are also extremely energy efficient because they have a feature known as a closed loop system. Here’s how the system works; after the heat is removed from the steam, the steam itself is turned back into warm water. The water then goes back into the pipeline and can be heated again. Furthermore, it will be a lot quicker to heat up as it will already be warm.

What is a Water Heater?

Even though the purpose of water heaters sound pretty simplistic, it’s actually a bit more complex than you might think. As the name implies, the purpose of a water heater is to heat your home’s water supply. Upon heating the water, the next function of the heater is to supply the home’s fixtures and appliances via the supply pipes.It’s important to keep in mind that despite there being multiple types of water heaters, they all work in similar ways.There are three types of water heaters:

  • Conventional water heaters
  • Tankless water heaters
  • Hybrid water heaters

Each of these water heaters requires different sources of fuel, which include gas, electricity and even solar energy.

Boilers vs. Water Heaters

Now that you understand how both appliances work, here’s a quick rundown of what makes them different.


  • Can heat up an entire complex
  • Generates heat
  • Turns water into steam
  • Has rather complex controls
  • Can run on sources like propane, natural gas, and heating oil

Water heaters:

  • Stores heat
  • Heats up water and supplies it to a household
  • Has rather simple controls
  • Can run on gas, electricity and solar energy

Signs Your Water Heater Is On It’s Way Out

A broken down water heater could cause a lot of misery to your household, especially right now in the dead of winter. That’s why it’s important to be aware of signs that your water heater needs to be replaced soon or it may stop working properly.

Shower Head

The following are signs that indicate it’s time to start shopping for a replacement water heater and schedule an installation:

  • Strange Noises

If your water heater is starting to make a rumbling, popping, or banging noises, it could be time to get a new one. If your water heater is making noises that it didn’t make before, you probably want to call a technician and have your unit looked it. Then, your technician can recommend whether or not it’s time to buy a replacement.

  • Leaking or Malfunctioning Pressure Relief Valve

The pressure relief valve of a water heater is an important part of any unit. It is responsible for releasing the pressure that builds up as the temperature rises in the water heater. This pressure release helps to prevent explosions, so it’s very important. Over time, corrosion and mineral salt deposits can develop around the pressure relief valve and cause it to malfunction.

Because the pressure relief valve is so important to safe and proper water heater functioning, it’s important to pay attention to this part of the unit and make sure it’s not malfunctioning or leaking. If you’re not sure where your pressure relief valve is located, you can have your technician check it during periodic inspections.

  • Leaks Are Coming From The Water Tank

If water starts to gather underneath your tank, it could be because corrosion has become so far developed that cracks have formed in your unit. Leaking water tanks means it’s definitely time to have your unit replaced. Leaks tend to get large over time and will definitely negatively impact the efficiency of your water heater. Use a flashlight from time to time to look around the back of your tank if it’s backed up to a wall.

  • There’s Rusty Residue in the Water Produced from Your Tank

Over time, sediment and rust can build up in a hot water heater. Any such residue that’s present can discolor the water that is produced. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to adequately repair a badly rusted water heater that’s full of sediment.

Obviously, you don’t want to be bathing or showering in discolored water. It’s therefore good to completely replace your water heater when rusty colored water starts coming out when you turn on your hot water.

  • Your Water Heater is Over a Decade Old

A water heater will naturally wear out as the years go by and need to be replaced. Generally, a water heater should not be expected to last much longer than ten years.

With an older water heater, it’s often best to just replace the unit rather than wait until it starts malfunctioning. This will save you of the inconvenience of living with a hot water heater that’s not working quite right. Tankless water heaters do last up to 20 years, it may be something to consider when it comes time to replace your decade-old water heater.

  • Water is Dipping In and Out of Hot to Cold Constantly

One of the most common signs that a hot water heater is on its way out is it stops producing as much hot water as it was capable of producing previously. This can start to happen because of a variety of reasons. It could be a result of a thermostat that hasn’t been adjusted properly. It could also indicate that one of the heating elements is broken. A malfunctioning thermostat could easily be replaced, and a broken heating element can be repaired. However, it might be best to just replace the unit entirely if it is older than 10 years old.

Need a New Water Heater? Call Quail Services Today

You rely on your water heater to do a lot of things, such as wash dishes, take a shower, and do laundry. If your water heater breaks down or functions inefficiently, it can be very inconvenient. You need to contact our experienced Dudley plumbers at the first sign of a problem. At Quail Services, our water heater installation professionals can help you decide on the right type of water heater to fit your needs and budget. We’re available 24/7 for emergency services, so if your water heater fails, you won’t have to suffer through a freezing shower.