Furnace Fun

IMG_2681When we bought the house we were well aware that the furnaces were old and eventually we will want to replace them.  They are original to the house which means they were installed in 1966.  Here’s a shot of one of the units.  It’s a  Model A made by Beckett Corporation in Ohio.  The furnace is actually the greenish box, as its sitting on the AC condenser unit.  That tiny black thing at the bottom with a red cap–that’s the fuel filter canister as our furnaces are so old they burn oil.  That’s right oil, but not the black gold that comes out of the ground: instead they burn heating oil which is just another name for diesel.

Here’s a shot of the identical second furnace.  Because we have two furnaces we have a primitive “zone” heating setup.  One furnace handles the south side of the house and the other handles the north.
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We also have a large diesel tank outside of the house that feeds these monsters, and back in November I had oil “delivered”.  This means a driver from Valley Oil trekked up to our place, inserted a gas nozzle just like you use when you fill up your car at a regular gas station into the intake pipe of our 500 gallon exterior fuel tank.

We know based up on the previous settings on the thermostat that the previous owners kept the house pretty chilly.  52F at night and then just 62F for a few hours in the mornings and evenings.  Valley Oil also let me in on the fact that the POs usually only used about 300 gallons of diesel a year.  It was a chilly winter this past November through January and even though we only fired up the north furnace we managed to burn through about 350 gallons in that time, so a few weeks back I placed a call and we had a bit more “oil” delivered.

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Since taking ownership of the house we’ve poked around a bit to get some baseline quotes for what it would take to modernize the heating setup.  It’s not an easy solution as we do not have propane and we’re too far out in the boonies for natural gas like people have in more urban area. I’ve also been trying to find someone who could actually service the furnaces and make sure they’re running as best they can.  After lots of searches for local options that turned up nothing, I called the manufacturer since they are still in business.  They didn’t have any names for me, but they do have a distributor out here and they gave me that number.  A call to the distributor gave me the name and number of a guy who might be able to help me, so I followed that bread crumb and got in touch with him.  I hit the jack pot though, as it after I explained what furnaces we had and that they were running ok but we wanted a tune-up, I gave him our address and he recognized it immediately, for up until a few years ago he’d been servicing our furnaces for the POs.

So the Good Furnace Guy came out here a few weeks back with his trainee.  He’s one of the very few people who work on such antiquated units so he’s got an apprentice.  Not only did I find out a lot about our setup from him, as he taken care of the units for close to 20 years, but he was the one that installed the AC about 12 years ago.  He had his apprentice clean out the aerators and they put in new filters.  Here’s a shot of the filters he took out and you will notice they’re not the same size.  If you’re guessing the PO used some random filter in place of the correct one in order to save money, have a cookie.

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They had a bit of trouble getting the south furnace to fire up but eventually it ticked over so we can if we want, heat that side of the house.  It’s rather wasteful to do so right now though as we have no way to manage the vents in the great room and filling a giant 26’x26’x24′ cube is not a great use of resources.

The Good Furnace Guy and I did talk about options for moving to propane, as that will probably be our best future option. A new system would then take us from 65% efficiency to about 96% and if we really wanted to we could do things like hybrid water heaters, a gas stove, etc.  Right now though, we’re sticking with diesel and electricity.  Once the great wall here at Purgatory has been rebuilt, we’ll probably start window shopping for a furnace.

In the meantime, now that the blue room is done and my overalls are broken in, one of my next projects will be getting familiar with the underside of the house.  Who knows what treasures and how many corpses are there.