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A Classic--1930s GE Downfire Boiler for Donation, Collector, Heating Museum, GE Museum?

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pamefs
pamefs Member Posts: 11
edited February 29 in Oil Heating

Last call. I am still trying to see if there is anyone interested in taking this 1930's classic downfire GE Boiler for their collection or a museum? We replaced it over a year ago... Yes folks its the original! This thing belongs in a museum. Can't believe i have to give it to scrap! My mother LOVED this furnace. Heated our stately 5 bedroom colonial for over 60 years Anybody interested? I'm hiring a rigging company to remove it at some point and they will dispose of it as they see fit. I'm not trying to save any money here. I'm just trying to preserve a piece of heating history. I'm in upstate NY, Catskills. Photos available. Please let me know if you or anyone you know might be interested or if you can think of a showroom or museum that might be interested in giving this a new home..

Comments

  • ScottSecor
    ScottSecor Member Posts: 856
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    Please post photos of the GE boiler. Very interested in seeing it. Not everyday we see a functioning GE boiler that is at least sixty years old.
  • Big Ed_4
    Big Ed_4 Member Posts: 2,785
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    The boiler is pre 1962 steel , I would be amazed if the original oil burner was still running. They were converted to retention heads .
    I have enough experience to know , that I dont know it all
  • ScottSecor
    ScottSecor Member Posts: 856
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    Thanks for sharing the photo, Your date is just about right, not everyday we see a 85 year old boiler that still functions. Please pull that light gray top off and shoot a picture of the components umderneath the hood.
  • pamefs
    pamefs Member Posts: 11
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    Will do but won't be there until Thanksgiving... we live in LI...it's house inherited from my mother. Thet did have to replace the relay box last year. Does that matter? I have a photo of that somewhere  looking into the top at the new Relay box 
  • pamefs
    pamefs Member Posts: 11
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  • pamefs
    pamefs Member Posts: 11
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    This is what I have.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,529
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    Looks like it's right off the factory floor
  • JakeCK
    JakeCK Member Posts: 1,356
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    Why are you replacing it?
  • pamefs
    pamefs Member Posts: 11
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    Found this old ad for the "new GE oil fired boiler". Don't know the date of this ad, but if you scroll to the bottom, you'll see the furnace "as it is today" (which is exactly our furnace). Have to chuckle because it says in the ad that they don't know how long it will last. Well, it's lasted over 85 years and we only replaced it because we weren't living there full time. It still heated that house beautifully. It was regularly serviced and cleaned. There was an older fellow who works at the energy company in town. After my mother passed away 6 years ago I kept telling him that he couldn't die because he was the only person left who knew how to service this furnace!

    I'm very sorry to see this beautiful piece of engineering go. It was an amazing product for it's time.
  • pamefs
    pamefs Member Posts: 11
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    Replacing it because we were thinking of selling the house and our energy company said that newer furnaces were more efficient.
  • JakeCK
    JakeCK Member Posts: 1,356
    edited October 2021
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    pamefs said:
    Replacing it because we were thinking of selling the house and our energy company said that newer furnaces were more efficient.
    I've read that these can push 80% efficiency. Maybe I'm mistaken? And unless you are going to a modcon running on NG or LP you're going to be hard pressed to beat that.

    Honestly spending that amount of money on a new boiler just to sell the house is going to be a net loss, especially in this market. One could sell a polished turd at premium prices right now. Spruce up the front lawn and make the front door look pretty.

    My worthless opinion is to leave it and put a sticker with this websites URL on the boiler so the next owner can be well advised before making an expensive decision.
    AlexR44
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,529
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    No doubt they were built to last built light a tank. They would get efficiency into the 80s but standby losses and seasonal efficiency is lower than a modern boiler.

    The newer boilers are more efficient at transferring heat but with their smaller mass don't last as long
    pamefs
  • vtfarmer
    vtfarmer Member Posts: 101
    edited October 2021
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    I've sold three houses in the past 12 months and I can confidently tell you that you will lose money if you replace that thing just to sell. Unless the home is built on a former landfill (and even then...), be prepared to have multiple offers - some likely cash with no contingencies and some sight unseen - in the first 48-72 hours of your listing.

    Now, speaking as likely a tiny minority, were I in the market for the type of home you're selling in that area and I saw this one come up with that work of engineering and industrial design excellence in the basement I would pay more to own that home than a comparable property with a newer heating system (which won't last as long, may be harder to fix, isn't as pretty to look at, etc, etc). But, this is coming from a guy who farms commercially with tractors made before 1978 and who ripped all of the baseboard convectors out of a house he used to own and replaced them with restored cast iron radiators. To each his own.
    JakeCKpamefsBrassFinger
  • JakeCK
    JakeCK Member Posts: 1,356
    edited October 2021
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    What he^^^ said. And to be honest you don't know what the next homeowner will want to do. Its like the people who spend 15-20k on a kitchen with premium flooring and counters only to have the next owner come in 6 months later hate the color and have it all ripped out. Next owner, god forbid, wants forced air and rips out your new boiler.

    Just fix the things that are obviously broken or problematic, do a deep clean, and let the house speak for its self. Take my house for example. Right before I bought the house the previous owners family in their misguided attempts to fix things(and make them 10x worse in the process) replaced the original craftsman front door with a cheap-o homedepot special. It wasn't even for the same size opening. The house was built with an 84x36" door. they put in a 80x36" It also was for a modern 2x4 constructed house, my walls are easily an inch thicker. They then hid all that behind new vinyl siding and aluminum capping. I hate all of it! I would have loved to still see the original cedar shake even if it meant painting every 10 years. 
  • ScottSecor
    ScottSecor Member Posts: 856
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    Thank you for posting the photo, it sure does look lke a well kept machine. I was hoping the boiler still had the original GE oil burner. I'm pretty sure there are no longer any of the original oil burners/boilers combinations that are still operational in the United States. If anyone knows of one please let me know.

    Just some random ideas that you might already be aware of.
    1. We have seen as high as 82% combustion efficiency on a few well maintained GE oil boilers, most operated at around 78%.

    2. GE oil boilers are exceptionally heavy. The jacket, burner, controls, and near boiler piping is easy to remove, however the boiler is one piece. There should be firebrick behind the front door and in the base of the boiler that weighs about fifty pounds in total, It's been years since we removed the model in your photo, but if memory serves me it weighs more than one thousand pounds.

    3. The original GE oil burners only require one fuel line from the oil tank (most oil tanks here in NJ were underground when the GE boilers were installed). GE compressors could easily "lift' the oil from the underground tank and 'self bleed' the air from the line when needed. There was no need for a return oil line.
    pamefs
  • pamefs
    pamefs Member Posts: 11
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    The real problem we were facing last year is that now that my mother is no longer in the house, the boiler was occasionally shutting off because no one was at the house to refill the sight glass when it got low which is a simple fill by just turning the valve handle. My mother never wanted to spend the money for an automatic refill. As soon as the sight glass was filled, the boiler kicked back on good as ever. The level in the sight glass was also very hard to read as the water was very rusty and dirty with sediment which according to our technicians had to do with the old pipes. They were also afraid to drain it because if a part broke in the opening of the pipes to drain it, it was so old they don't make parts for it anymore. We live 4 hours away in Long Island. Last year we were having to bother neighbors to go into the house every week to see if the sight glass was full. We can't realistically impose on them to do this for the next 3 years and we can't have this thing shutting off in the middle of winter and risking our pipes freezing, then an emergency visit to get it started up again with neighbors having to let them into the house plus the attendant after hours emergency visits and service visit costs. It was running into money. Had we been ready to live in the house full time, we would have considered keeping it going. It's too bad.

    We are aware of how heavy this boiler is which has necessitated contacting rigging companies to get it removed. When and if we sell the house, we can't have this thing standing in the corner of the basement.

    Thank you everyone for all your comments. I hate to see this go, but if no one in this thread is interested in this boiler then we will dispose of it with a rigging company and scrap metal dealer. Thanks again.
  • JakeCK
    JakeCK Member Posts: 1,356
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    Alright,

    But an auto fill valve would be much more affordable. 
    mattmia2
  • vtfarmer
    vtfarmer Member Posts: 101
    edited November 2021
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    JakeCK said:

    Alright,


    But an auto fill valve would be much more affordable. 
    I bought an older utility tractor for $675 once that proved to be one the the handiest machines I'd ever owned. The previous owner was convinced the transmission was completely hosed and engine seized and sold it to me for about its value as scrap. I dragged it home (literally had to slide one of the rear wheels on a chain on steel plate to go onto the trailer because it would not turn no matter what), waited for a warm snap, drained the roughly gallon of rainwater that had accumulated in the rear end and PTO drive and voila! The engine turned over, fired, ran, and the transmission was completely free. I had a running driving tractor that I used for a number of years.

    You see, when I looked at it I noticed that the rubber rain guard was missing from the gear shifter, so the description being that it was seized and it being a typical harsh northern New England winter plus the owner saying he had only recently been trying to use the machine told me that enough rain water had gotten into the transmission housing. This would freeze into a block of ice around the IPTO and final drive gears (the two lowest points in the housing). The IPTO gears turn even when the clutch is depressed and the finals turn even when the transmission is in neutral, so these being iced up would cause the symptoms we were seeing and there was a chance I would be able to thaw the tractor, drain the water and free the gears, and be on my way. I was right.

    This situation sounds similar: if you solve the problem of water leaking out of your system, and possibly also as JakeCK suggests add an auto-feed, you will be out a small fraction of the cost of a new boiler and you will have reliable heat.

    Or, if you're set on replacing the boiler know that a rigging company is probably going to charge in the low four figures to remove that thing from the basement unless it's a walkout. I had to hire such a crew at my non-farm day job in the power generation industry once to move a piece of cooling equipment about ten feet in fairly tight confines and it would make your eyes water what they got for that job.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,529
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    Well, they got the boiler in their in one piece so it can go out the same way. Just like the Egyptians built the pyramids and they didn't have the equipment like we have today.

    Problem is now most all locations have "home inspectors" who will work with the prospective buyer to get money off on the sales price and it doesn't matter how good the old equipment is.....if it's past a certain age they will get money off or lose the sale that's the choice
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,655
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    Your rusty water is from the leak and fresh water. Find and fix where it is leaking and both your problems go away(could just as easily be a number of valve packings or something that a new boiler won't solve).


    Problem is now most all locations have "home inspectors" who will work with the prospective buyer to get money off on the sales price and it doesn't matter how good the old equipment is.....if it's past a certain age they will get money off or lose the sale that's the choice

    The market may be such that you can say no to their ask for a reduction.
  • pamefs
    pamefs Member Posts: 11
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    I don't intend to be put in a position to have any new homebuyer negotiate for a reduction because that boiler is still in the house. I'm having a rigging company remove it. And since the contract for the new furnace specified that they will remove the old furnace, I'm going subtract the charge of removing it from the balance I owe on the contract.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,655
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    is this hot water or steam? i assumed hot water because i have only seen these as hot water, but now i see sight glass.
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 7,840
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    mattmia2 said:

    is this hot water or steam? i assumed hot water because i have only seen these as hot water, but now i see sight glass.

    Most of the GE boilers were Hot water with Tankless coils for DHW. I did work on one GE Steam Boiler in my youth. Also worked on a GE downfire furnace. There was a chiller Air Conditioning system attached to the furnace. It was old in the 1970s when I worked on it.

    GE oil fires equipment was proprietary. The repair manuals were not available to the general trade. In the Philadelphia area GE employees were the only installers of GE equipment. Factory trained employees did all the repairs and maintenance until the 1960. GE stopped offering service on those down fire low pressure burners. That is when GE let non employee members of the trade have access to the manuals and service bulletins. Parts were also available to the trade professionals. My Family's retail fuel oil delivery company started offering parts and labor service contracts on GE boilers to customers who purchased fuel. The contract included an annual heater cleaning and parts coverage for a full year for only $21.95. We must have had over 1000 GEs under contract in the 1960s

    I got to work on the old master control, flame rod, and compressors. I also converted many to Carlin burners.

    Those were the days.

    Nice lookin' boiler!

    Mr. Ed

    Edward F Young. Retired HVAC ContractorSpecialized in Residential Oil Burner and Hydronics
    mattmia2pamefs
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,655
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    is "master control" just marketing for a mechanical timer?
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,842
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    It was what we now call the primary control. The various timings were operated by cams and a Telechron clock motor.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,655
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    Was there a larger more rectangular version of this? I remember seeing a GE boiler with similar styling in an office building that was probably built in the 60's when i was a kid but it was more a rectangle than a tank.(also one of the few small boilers that I saw as a kid because almost everything here is warm air)
  • ScottSecor
    ScottSecor Member Posts: 856
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    In simple terms, GE produced two Master Controls for the oil boilers.

    The first was a electric clock with a camshaft that pressed a series of tabs. It also triggered the start and run windings of the compressor (air and oil pump). This was an open contact device with exposed screw terminals for wiring and a black cover in the center (Bakelite?) to prevent fingers and dust from hitting the contact points.

    The second generation was sealed in a sheet-metal box. These units were similar but were not field serviceable. In my experience, the second generations were safer to work on by the technician, but less reliable and did not last as long.

    GE was the first residential oil burner/boiler manufacturer I was exposed to that shut off the power to the ignition transformer once the flame was established.
    mattmia2
  • WHunter
    WHunter Member Posts: 2
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    In another thread on this site I saw a request to report any still functioning low pressure GE boiler/hydronic system. I have one installed in 1950.
  • WHunter
    WHunter Member Posts: 2
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    My unit mentioned above still has the original burner.
  • EricForman
    EricForman Member Posts: 4
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    We have a 1948 GE down-fire hot water boiler here in central CT that's all original and was working fine when shut off in 1994. Still standing in place waiting to be revived maybe as a backup or for a snow melt system. Anyone out there have a rebuild kit or service manual for reconditioning the burner? Many thanks!