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Boiler Guide: Firetube vs. Watertube – What’s the Difference?

Boilers have been around for a long time. In fact, boilers were the first central heating systems available to homeowners. As boilers have evolved, so has the way they heat water. Two of these ways are firetube and water tube. Both types of heat water effectively, but do so in different ways. Understanding the differences in systems is good knowledge to have, but heating repairs should always be handled by a trained professional. For 15 years, Golden Rule Plumbing, Heating & Cooling has offered comprehensive heating services in Des Moines, IA, so call us today if you are in need of heating repair.

Watertube Boiler

In a watertube boiler, metal tubes containing water are set vertically inside a drum that also houses the burner. The burner is lit and the flames, heat, and gases surrounding the tubes heat the water. Once the water reaches the correct temperature, it is circulated through piping via circulator pumps. If the boiler is a steam boiler, the natural pressure created by the steam forces the steam to flow through the piping.

Firetube Boiler

Instead of having vertical metal tubes filled with water, a firetube boiler has horizontal tubes filled with heat from the burner flames. These tubes run through the water vessel and heat the water via convection. Like the watertube boiler, once the water reaches the correct temperature, it is circulated via pumps; steam flows naturally from its own pressure.

Advantages of Both Systems

You may be wondering which type is better – firetube or watertube? The best way to assess this is to review the advantages and disadvantages of each system:

Firetube Advantages

  • Smaller in size as compared to a watertube boiler
  • Fluctuation of steam demand can be met easily
  • Can be less expensive than watertube boiler

Watertube Advantages

  • Adding more water tubes can increase the heating capability
  • The convectional flow in a water tube boiler creates a higher heat transfer rate which can result in higher efficiency
  • Can achieve very high pressure if needed

No matter what kind of boiler you have, Golden Rule Plumbing, Heating & Cooling has the technicians who can fix it. If you are struggling with your heating, call us today!