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Converting antique oil furnace to gas

Hi - I have a beautiful 1941 antique "Sunbeam" octopus furnace.

The price of oil is so high I would like to convert it to gas. Is this possible? I did have an HVAC person come and look at it, but never heard back from him - very unprofessional! I really do not want to remove it even though it is not as efficient as the new furnaces. There is a photo posted on my website <a href="http://www.oldhouseguy.com/">http://www.oldhouseguy.com</a>

thanks, ken


  • AMH112181
    AMH112181 Member Posts: 25
    I would not

    Just due to the age I would not convert it you would be throwing money up the chimney over a new condensing gas furnace.
  • lchmb
    lchmb Member Posts: 2,997

    I would either remove it and install a modern oil system or if you wanted gas go condensing but would shy away from adding a gas burner to that old timer...This one retired a couple years back and the home owner has cut her usage in half...
  • meplumber
    meplumber Member Posts: 678
    I will "Third" the motion

    I would highly doubt that the furnace could handle the conversion. You would waste a significant amount of money on the conversion and the equipment might not last a year.

    Invest in new equipment. Your fuel savings would be significant.
  • furnacefigher15
    furnacefigher15 Member Posts: 514
    I am torn

    As both a heating man, and as a hobbyist traditional woodworker.

    While it is without question more efficient to replace the furnace entirely, I wonder if there is a balance that can be struck between modern technology, and the integrity of the home.

    I understand exactly what it is your trying to do with that house, and I share in the aspiration to maintain the originality of old homes. There is an irreplaceable quality about the furnace that you have now, that I would hate to see you lose.

    If it were mine, I would try and add a supplemental heat source to the existing furnace.

    If there is enough space behind the furnace, I might try and put a modern furnace back there and tie it in to existing duct work. Might have to get creative with manual dampers and a lot of custom sheet metal.

    By the way, I really love your pot rack.
  • AMH112181
    AMH112181 Member Posts: 25

    Maybe you could somehow make a shell out of the old one for a new one kinda like you did for your fridge.
  • Empire_2
    Empire_2 Member Posts: 2,343
    "Anything is possible"

    I to can appreciate your love for original character of the house kind of thinking, But,......I cannot seem to make the correlation between the cost of fuel oil, the actual conversion, and nostalgia.  If this particular heating application was some kind of incredible technology back in  the day, I could see "keeping her afloat". 

         At best, the efficiency of the existing equipment is roughly 40 to 45%.  Having said that, I think you would love nothing more than to save some money since you are concerned about the current cost of fuel.  Only you can weigh the cost of "modernizing" your old furnace.  There is only one problem,...The cost to save the look you seek will surely require real modern money.

         I would up date the equipment just for the sake of having the piece of mind that it will work and not cost you an arm and a leg.

    My .02

    Mike T.

  • theoldhouseguy
    theoldhouseguy Member Posts: 9
    can I have both?

    Thanks for all your posts. I really want to keep the furnace since it's part of the history of the house. I do like the idea of possibly incorporating a new furnace along side the old. It would be great if I could have both the new gas furnace and the oil furnace working together or independently.

    In other words, i would like to still have the ability to run the old furnace, although regular use would be via the new furnace. Is this a problem venting both through the same chimney flue? It will also be a problem to find a HVAC person to do this.

  • furnacefigher15
    furnacefigher15 Member Posts: 514
    I wouldn't

    Advise running both at once, but either, or.

    What area do you live in?
  • theoldhouseguy
    theoldhouseguy Member Posts: 9
    can I have both?

    Freehold, New Jersey
  • furnacefigher15
    furnacefigher15 Member Posts: 514
    You can have both

    Just not at the same time. Well, if the chimney can handle the load, you can do both at once from a technical stand point. But, from a logic standpoint, one or the other.

    I would install dampers to allow only one unit gets airflow at a time.

    Unfortunately, I don't know anybody in that neck of the woods. I was hoping you were near Chicago, but it makes sense that you aren't, because no one in the Midwest cares about history, or the preservation of it. I think I'm the only one.

    People around here would not think twice about ripping out hand made craftsmanship, as long as it gets replaced by something that looks like what's in the Ikea catalog.
  • Bob Harper
    Bob Harper Member Posts: 947
    good money after bad

    Why throw good money after bad? I can appreciate being stylish keeping certain charming artifacts in old homes but here you're talking about a huge waste of energy not to mention the safety concerns of a dinosaur heater. Do your houseguests and the world a favor; replace that beast with a modern effiicient unit with new sealed ductwork after proper load and duct calcs then donate that thing to your local votech school if it has never been wrapped in asbestos.
  • theoldhouseguy
    theoldhouseguy Member Posts: 9
    Converting antique oil furnace to gas

    The ducts are wrapped in asbestos but painted without cracks. If it ever goes, it will have to stay in the house to show the evolution of the system, and will have to make room for a new one. Having an old or historic house is more than just having a few antiques.

    I have been keeping the heat low and using a gas space heater which does a great job. Only insulation in the attic floor. Dress warm in the house.
  • icesailor
    icesailor Member Posts: 7,265

    You seem to be really hung up on keeping the old girl.

    So, being experimental, if you REALLY want to save and use it, and you can find someone who will do it, get a Hot Rod gas wall hung boiler and put a hydronic air handler inside that thing. Cut a hole in the back and remove whatever is in there for whatever, like the chamber and whatever so it is a shell of its old self. Connect the return to the return for the air handler to the existing return. Connect the piping from the wall hung Mod Con. You can do an indirect water heater if you want.

    Put the sheet metal back. If done carefully, someone would be hard pressed to find it in there.

    Just a thought from one who sees a challenge.
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