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Repairing a 1949 furnace

Cindy1351
Cindy1351 Member Posts: 5
I have a general question about whether heating companies today ever try and work on an older furnace. My parents live in a mid-century modern house that was built in 1949. As of April of 2016 they will have lived there 50 years. My mother takes care of my father (with some help), who is an complete invalid. My mom is 85 and my dad is 87. The home was quite well built, with quality materials. Believe it or not, the original water heater was just replaced last year. If we had been able to find an element for it, it probably wouldn't have needed to be replaced. It was a strange contraption, different from modern water heaters. When I took the element into the biggest plumbing supply company in Modesto, his response was, “what in the world is that?”

My husband and I were visiting at Christmas. On Christmas Eve we smelled gas. My husband ran into the furnace room, which is right in the middle of the first floor, and turned off the gas. We were able to clear the air very quickly since he got to it so fast. The pilot light was out. The fan continued to stay on, even after we turned the thermostat to off. We called the neighbor who had lit the pilot light and started the furnace for several years each winter. They couldn't figure out how to get the fan to go off, so they decided to just try lighting the pilot light again. They turned the gas back on and lit the pilot light. The fan ran and ran, but it was obviously not heating, so I went in and looked and saw that the pilot light was out again. Though the gas was on, there was no gas smell this time though. My husband turned the gas off and found another panel and found a way to turn the fan off.

All of this background to get to my question – should my mother bother spending time to find someone to try and fix it. The one person she called came out, looked at it, called it a dinosaur and insisted it needed to be replaced, including the expense of asbestos removal. He made no effort to diagnose the problem. This may have been the correct action, but I thought I would check to make sure. My mother had had my father in a nursing home until every penny they had was gone, so replacing it isn't an option. They have been getting by with space heaters, but it isn't working that well. They are in Central California (Ceres), but it has been quite cold for that area. Sorry about rambling on like this. It probably does need to be replaced, but I just wanted to make sure. Thanks for any advice you can give.

Comments

  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,228
    If you can give us the make and model of the furnace and the gas valve number someone might be able to guide you.

    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • Cindy1351
    Cindy1351 Member Posts: 5
    I will see if my mother can get that for me, though she may be unwilling to try. I should have tried contacting this forum while we were there.
  • Tim McElwain
    Tim McElwain Member Posts: 4,480
    My GE Furnace is just as old and it is still running. The good thing is I am able to keep it repaired myself. Give us make, model and information on the controls and we will see if we can help you out.
  • Cindy1351
    Cindy1351 Member Posts: 5
    Thanks! I'll see if I can get that info. I may have to wait until we can make another trip down (we are about 600 miles away).
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,228
    Tim knows more about gas than anybody else on the board. Perhaps you can get your folks neighbor to get the information?

    Bob
    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • Cindy1351
    Cindy1351 Member Posts: 5
    My mom looked for me - this is what she sent me

    This is what. I found: Minneapolis Honeywell Regulator Company. Minneapolis minnesota. Made in USA. L401AX14X

    That makes me wonder if that is just the name of a part on the furnace though. I wish I were there. I think it would be best to ask the neighbor over to get the right info.
  • Tim McElwain
    Tim McElwain Member Posts: 4,480
    That is the high limit on the equipment. Based on the numbers it is a 120 volt control, which means it can be used on 120, 24 or even millivolts. We will need more information and some pictures would help.

    It is very possible that original parts may not be available so a retrofit would be in order. Keep in mind that can get somewhat expensive for the parts plus labor to install. That money could be put toward a replacement.
  • unclejohn
    unclejohn Member Posts: 1,749
    What worries me is that the pilot keeps going out. May be a cracked heat exchanger.
  • Tim McElwain
    Tim McElwain Member Posts: 4,480
    They need to have a professional look at it and use some gentleness with the elderly folks. At least it is shut off and safe for now until more can be determined. I agree with Unclejohn so that is something pro will have to determine. That then makes it not repairable and it will need replaced. Look for associations in the area that sometimes can help folks out who do not have the means to replace a new system. Here on the east coast we have Oil Heat Cares which does that very thing.
  • Tim McElwain
    Tim McElwain Member Posts: 4,480
    Health Services Agency - Ceres, CA - Social Service & Welfare ...
    http://www.manta.com/c/mmcgj5d/health-services-agency
    Get information, directions, products, services, phone numbers, and reviews on Health Services Agency in Ceres, CA. Discover more Individual and Family Social

    Here is an agency that may be able to help them out.
    Mark Eatherton
  • Cindy1351
    Cindy1351 Member Posts: 5
    Thank you so much for all your input. We will call around to several companies and get several opinions. I'll look into that agency too. This was awesome help!