Most and Least Reliable Boilers

Some brands will keep you warm and cozy all winter

radiators in house GettyImages-483954740

Boilers differ from furnaces in one major way: A boiler circulates hot water and steam to heat your home, while a furnace heats air.

If you have those quaint, old-fashioned radiators or newer baseboard radiators, you probably have a boiler.

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Boilers are far less common than gas furnaces, and that’s reflected in the responses to Consumer Reports’ most recent survey on central heating. Our members installed 2,137 new boilers between 2005 and 2021 compared with more than 36,000 gas furnaces.

But just like a furnace, when a boiler breaks you want it repaired—or replaced—ASAP. In our most recent survey, nearly 60 percent of our members who had their boiler repaired were left without heat for at least one day, and 15 percent had no heat for at least two days.

Our members said they expect their boilers to last a median of 20 years. Based on our last analysis in 2019, we determined that on average, about one-third of boilers are likely to experience a break by the end of the 10th year of ownership, the midpoint in the expected life of the system.

Repair or Replace

Like other central heating systems, boilers can be quite expensive to replace, so the incentive to have one repaired is great. In fact, in our 2021 survey, a majority of members—88 percent—who owned a boiler that broke reported having it repaired. The median repair cost for a boiler not covered by a service contract was $391. Compare that with the $7,938 spent by our members who bought and installed a new boiler during the past five years.

For more information on boilers, including how to maintain yours for maximum efficiency, see our boiler buying guide.

Most and Least Reliable Boiler Brands

We crunched the data on 13 different brands of boilers, from those with a large market share, including Weil-McLain and Burnham, to lesser-known brands, such as Buderus and Williamson. Our members use their boilers to heat their homes a median of seven months a year.

Here’s a detailed breakdown of the winners and losers among boiler brands. Of the 13 brands in our survey, three earned a top rating of Excellent for predicted reliability and three earned top marks for owner satisfaction.

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We investigate, research, and test so you can choose with confidence.