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Old 11-06-2011, 01:38 AM   #1
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Is this old Furnace Able to be Serviced?


It just got cold by California standards as the temperature dropped to around 48 degrees F. I know you East Coast folks might laugh but when its 75 -80 degrees for 280 days a year, 48 degrees is uncomfortable.

Anyways, every year, it seems like my heater does not always start-up easily once the temp drops below my thermostat set-point of approximately 65 degrees. Yesterday evening it finally started up when I jostled the wires that were connected to the Thermostat. I got lucky again but I'm getting concerned. I cannot afford to replace this unit right now even though it is not efficient by modern day standards, it still works great when it finally starts and its a beast. I think a large replacement unit will cost a few buck$.
I would like to know what i can do to service this furnace and where I could find replacement parts for those that are likely to fail. I think it was installed in the 1950's but I don't have any dates on it to know for sure. I would love to find a repair man who knows about these things but its been my experience that I if I call a guy from the yellow pages, he is just going to try to sell me a new one. Another problem is that the fan runs 24 x 7 365 on this unit. I'm afraid to kill the power to it in the summer because maybe it was designed to run all the time. Also, the pilot light is huge. It looks like a mini torch so I was thinking the fan running 24 x 7 helps to dissipate the heat generated by the pilot light. I haven't been turning off the pilot in the summer because I'm worried that I won't be able to start it in the winter. Oh joys of having an old house with old appliances. Thanks in advance, VC
Controller and Valves


Controller Close-Up



Furnace with Cover Opened


Manufacturers Tag



Thermostat



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Old 11-06-2011, 05:31 AM   #2
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Is this old Furnace Able to be Serviced?


Nice unit.......... any chance getting that black cover off that round controller there that is your fan control and hi limit...picture...want to see the inside.maybe a new stat and we'll keep it simple will give you more consistant cyclying..so you don't have to talk to it.....it's 40F in NYC this morning and the model numbers off that black cover .there should be a adjustable slide bar within there set it up to 150F for now if its not there...just saw the first pix its at 95F go to 150F 2 wire stat is easy to change no service guy needed we'll help http://www.bestbuyheatingandaircondi...gory_Code=T-MV

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Old 11-06-2011, 07:20 AM   #3
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Is this old Furnace Able to be Serviced?


Old furnaces really need to be inspected and serviced every year. That scorch mark over the burners could be a really bad sign.

Way back in high school I had a car with a big V8 and 4 barrel carb. Driving nice it got 8 mpg and when you got on it the gas gauge would drop before your eyes. Didn't take too long to realize 60 gallons a week burnt up was a car payment on a nearly brand new car,gas was around $1 a gallon then. Bought a nice car, drove the same miles and had an extra $50 a month in my pocket even with the car payment. The same lesson applies to 50-60% AFUE furnaces and 6-8 SEER AC's out there. You're spending the payments on a brand new system in energy usage and getting nothing for it.

PS... I'm a fix it tech, not a salesman. It's 100% up to you on how to spend YOUR money. Just be wise in making choices.
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Old 11-06-2011, 07:33 AM   #4
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Is this old Furnace Able to be Serviced?


tension on that supply fan belt(has to have one at that age) and a clean filter is a definite items to maintain metal fins on the fan squirrel cage or clean and no dirt build up...little oil in the motor if it takes it..leaking duct work even the return where it comes back if the filter is exposed slipping into that duct cover the opening if the basement isn't heated
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Old 11-06-2011, 08:44 AM   #5
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Is this old Furnace Able to be Serviced?


The black scorch marks indicate heat AND smoke which can contain CO Carbon monoxide ARE spilling into your house. INCREDIBLY dangerous for small children and adults. More so for kids as the concentration is higher in their bloodstream. I would replace the thermostat as those stick when they get old. At 120,000 BTU that is a monster of a unit and unless you have a 3-4000 sq ft house it is WAY oversized. I can heat a 1200 sq ft house in Winnipeg where it drops to -40 with that unit. A new furnace will DEFINITELY pay for itself and there may be rebates from your utility co and levels of government. Get 2 new CO detectors if you plan to keep it. One by your bedroom and the other in the basement.

In your climate and if you want air conditioning a air handler and heat pump may be a VERY efficient setup instead. Google "air to air heat pump" or heat pump for more info. We also have some heat pump guys here to help if you want more info.

http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca/publications/...ump/whatis.cfm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat_pump
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Last edited by yuri; 11-06-2011 at 08:54 AM.
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Old 11-06-2011, 07:00 PM   #6
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Is this old Furnace Able to be Serviced?


Quote:
Originally Posted by biggles View Post
Nice unit.......... any chance getting that black cover off that round controller there that is your fan control and hi limit...picture...want to see the inside.maybe a new stat and we'll keep it simple will give you more consistant cyclying..so you don't have to talk to it.....it's 40F in NYC this morning and the model numbers off that black cover .there should be a adjustable slide bar within there set it up to 150F for now if its not there...just saw the first pix its at 95F go to 150F 2 wire stat is easy to change no service guy needed we'll help http://www.bestbuyheatingandaircondi...gory_Code=T-MV
I have attached a photo of inside of the controller. There is one set screw underneath that just needed to be loosened. See the attached photo. I didnt want to fool with that slider since I did not know what it was for. What will raising it to 150F do and what is that purpose of the slider. There was no model number on the controller but it did read type # L401A3X5. Thx, VC

Inside of Controller



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Old 11-06-2011, 07:49 PM   #7
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Is this old Furnace Able to be Serviced?


Quote:
Originally Posted by yuri View Post
The black scorch marks indicate heat AND smoke which can contain CO Carbon monoxide ARE spilling into your house. INCREDIBLY dangerous for small children and adults. More so for kids as the concentration is higher in their bloodstream. I would replace the thermostat as those stick when they get old. At 120,000 BTU that is a monster of a unit and unless you have a 3-4000 sq ft house it is WAY oversized. I can heat a 1200 sq ft house in Winnipeg where it drops to -40 with that unit. A new furnace will DEFINITELY pay for itself and there may be rebates from your utility co and levels of government. Get 2 new CO detectors if you plan to keep it. One by your bedroom and the other in the basement.

In your climate and if you want air conditioning a air handler and heat pump may be a VERY efficient setup instead. Google "air to air heat pump" or heat pump for more info. We also have some heat pump guys here to help if you want more info.

http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca/publications/...ump/whatis.cfm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat_pump
Thanks for the info. Does the black marks indicate that CO is spilling into the house for sure? I have CO monitors installed through out the house and have never had them go into alarm. Could the black marks also be the result of this heater being 50+ years old and its just the result of normal firing-up wear and tear?
My house is only 2000 sq ft. I knew this unit was big but I didn't know that it was WAY oversized. I just figured that it was from an era where all American products were built strong and stout.
I'm planning on getting a new furnace but not now. I just got a new water heater and re-piped the house so I need to save my money for the next job. Also, please note that we only heat the house from November to February so most of the year the temperature is very mild.
The heat pump sounds interesting. I still don't understand it and I don't know if anyone around here has one but I would love to get an estimate. I gotta take a little more time and carefully read the links that you gave. I don't understand where the warm air comes from during the winter.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marty S. View Post
Way back in high school I had a car with a big V8 and 4 barrel carb. Driving nice it got 8 mpg and when you got on it the gas gauge would drop before your eyes. Didn't take too long to realize 60 gallons a week burnt up was a car payment on a nearly brand new car,gas was around $1 a gallon then. Bought a nice car, drove the same miles and had an extra $50 a month in my pocket even with the car payment. The same lesson applies to 50-60% AFUE furnaces and 6-8 SEER AC's out there. You're spending the payments on a brand new system in energy usage and getting nothing for it.
I understand the economics of my scenario but I can afford the monthly payment for now. What I cannot afford right now is the $5000 one time payment for installation of the new system. The only exception that I would make is if I was in any immediate danger of CO poisoning. Then I would go to Home Depot and get on the payment plan. I just need to make it until next summer and I should have the extra cash by July. I'm just starting my research early and I love the advice and conversation that arises at the DIY chatroom. You guys collectively really know your stuff. Here are a couple more photos for reference.
When I get the new unit, I would want to re-use my existing ducts. They seem huge compared to the modern stuff. Based on the pictures below, do you think I can use the same ducts with a new heater. Also please let me know any good brand furnaces that are recommended. I also included a couple more pics of a few areas of the furnace.

Side View


Pilot Light and Thermopile


Close Up of Burn Damage


The Bottom with the Cover Off
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Old 11-06-2011, 07:58 PM   #8
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Is this old Furnace Able to be Serviced?


Consumer CO detectors cost $50. The Pro unit the gas co has costs $1000 and can pickup 1 ppm guaranteed 99% or more of the time and is calibrated yearly. My Pro unit is $200-500 and a bit less accurate. Cannot get that reliability and accuracy for $50. See where I am going? The consumer model is designed for catastrophic failures where chimneys collapse, get plugged or large amounts of CO spill. You could be breathing 10-50 ppm for weeks B4 some of them alarm. Some fire depts and agencies recommend you replace them every 5 yrs as they lose their sensitivity. Looks like an old GE unit we had here and I am sure I can find cracks in it. It is GROSSLY oversized. Your ducts are huge and fine and they will build sheetmetal adaptors to fit a new unit in.
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Last edited by yuri; 11-06-2011 at 08:05 PM.
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Old 11-06-2011, 08:24 PM   #9
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Is this old Furnace Able to be Serviced?


nice pix ...before i say push the fan temp up how HOT is the air coming out of the rgisters with a hand over them...i'll guess 87F and hw s the air coming out slightly... forceful...pick a word.you might want to bump that top dial up a bite like to 125F and if your short on air out of the register shut the furnace power OFFtake an allen key sitting in frontor kneeling and reaching in to the sheave/pully on the motor loosen the outer plate and ONE full turn away from were your sitting follow the allen key screw...and end up right back from where you started.. you just sped up the RPMs on the motor....this will bring in the sheave... speed up the motor and give you more air.tighten it down on the flat part of the threaded piece there....if the belt was a little loose this will actually tighten the belt up without adjusting the motor mounts....this is just info but easy to do but get back with quetions if you leary of doing this...but definitly bump that dial up a bit...it will give you hotter air and might solve the fan being on all the time.....with the unit off run your index finger inside th squirrel on the fan fins to see if you have any dirt dropping off them dust is OK but any dirt will cut down on the air being thrown up the duct to heat....do you have a good percentage of wood floors or carpet..pets dogs cats...just wondering always used 1" pleeted filters there.if you want to scent the house up for the hilidays a solid air freshener in the fan section will scent the entire house...thats freeeee

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Old 11-06-2011, 08:42 PM   #10
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Is this old Furnace Able to be Serviced?


wanted to add this on the soot situation seperate from my last ramble....the cycle when the stat calls is the gas valve and the main burner comes up what we need for you to see is with the flames just as the fn comes on if your heat exchanger is tight no cracks the flame shouldn't waver as if you were blowing on them...if they wave bigtime just as the fan comes on and contiue to wave and swirl...you need to shut it down and have somebody in to do a test on it....Southern Cal gas might have a program for changing out a furnace thru them and their contractors and paying it off thru a monthly blling so you won't take a hit...exhaust that option and ask around about heating contractors...watch yourself.....and if you go for a new furnace tell them you want a new digital stat for FREEEEEEEE
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Old 11-06-2011, 08:51 PM   #11
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Is this old Furnace Able to be Serviced?


Only a tech on site can check the safety of your furnace. Roll out like that often happens from a big crack in the heat exchanger or soot build up in the exchanger. Sooted up and roll out together is as dangerous as it gets. The pictures sure look like black soot on the center burners and the big tan spot along with burnt off paint is from flame roll out. Don't mess around, get it checked ASAP!
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Old 11-06-2011, 09:48 PM   #12
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Is this old Furnace Able to be Serviced?


To test for a possible exchanger crack and a possible safety concern for spillage being the reason the paint is falling off.

Turn up the thermostat, lay down on the floor and watch the flame from the burners, don't breath towards the burners or disturb the dust in the area. Wait until the blower comes on to see if the flames change with the
start up of the blower. Do this for 10 minutes because some cracks only open up after the exchanger fully heats up. Make sure that a heating outlet is not blowing directly towards the burner area which will mess up your results.

Do this test again but this time turn down the flames on the burners as low as you can without them going off. This is done with a carefull partial tuning down of the main gas cock to the right of your gas valve. This makes the flames very soft and more suseptable to the air disturbances that a cracked exchanger can cause. Once again you are watching for the flames to wave around when the fan starts.

Return the gas cock to the normally "on" position, close up all the windows and doors in your house, turn on your clothes dryer and use the smoke of an incense stick to make sure that the products of combustion are not coming out by the burners where the paint is now coming off. The smoke from the incense should be drawn into the furnace when the incense is brought in close between the inside and outside of the furnace just a 1/2 inch above the burners.

Let us know what you find.

Ps My other concern is that your present motor is dangerously ungrounded but it's easy to fix that by attaching a ground from the motor it to the furnace body.

Last edited by how; 11-06-2011 at 09:51 PM.
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Old 11-06-2011, 09:50 PM   #13
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Is this old Furnace Able to be Serviced?


Quote:
Originally Posted by yuri
Consumer CO detectors cost $50. The Pro unit the gas co has costs $1000 and can pickup 1 ppm guaranteed 99% or more of the time and is calibrated yearly. My Pro unit is $200-500 and a bit less accurate. Cannot get that reliability and accuracy for $50. See where I am going? The consumer model is designed for catastrophic failures where chimneys collapse, get plugged or large amounts of CO spill. You could be breathing 10-50 ppm for weeks B4 some of them alarm. Some fire depts and agencies recommend you replace them every 5 yrs as they lose their sensitivity. Looks like an old GE unit we had here and I am sure I can find cracks in it. It is GROSSLY oversized. Your ducts are huge and fine and they will build sheetmetal adaptors to fit a new unit in.
Thanks Yuri. I actually work in the gas detection business so I think I will order a commercial monitor from one of my suppliers. I mainly work with highly toxics and flammables but I think I will get a personal sniffer and I'll verify it's calibration with 50ppm gas standard. I appreciate and respect the advice that I get from you guys. I have to admit that this furnace has always made me a little nervous but I have felt safe with all of the CO monitors all over the place. I also keep a window slightly cracked.
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Old 11-06-2011, 10:01 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marty S.
Only a tech on site can check the safety of your furnace. Roll out like that often happens from a big crack in the heat exchanger or soot build up in the exchanger. Sooted up and roll out together is as dangerous as it gets. The pictures sure look like black soot on the center burners and the big tan spot along with burnt off paint is from flame roll out. Don't mess around, get it checked ASAP!
I gotta find an honest tech who can will show me if the exchanger is cracked. Please tell me what is dangerous about soot and roll out. If the exchanger is not cracked and soot and roll out are the problem, can the soot just be cleaned out?
Where is the heat exchanger anyways? Is it visible from my photos? Thank in advance, VC
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Old 11-06-2011, 10:07 PM   #15
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Is this old Furnace Able to be Serviced?


It is understandable that joselling the thermostat wires near this thermostat could cause problems because this thermostat/gas valve system operates on just 1/2 a volt which needs excellent contacts to work properly. What I don't get is purpose of the double mercury bulbs in the fan controller. I am assuming that this contoller has a spiral bymetal contol within the exchanger that turns as it heats or cools. The schematics seem more suited to an old oil furnace than a gas furnace. I wonder if the fan controls have been adjusted to a 24/ 7 operation because they were working so badly.??????

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