I mentioned awhile ago I was considering the old gravity style "octopus" furnace as a possibility for heating my 4000 sf former church, if I could find one. I finally did on Craigslist, I was amazed to find one outside of PA! I had found others, but they were all in PA and had fairly high prices (for my budget + travel costs, not high for the furnace) on them. This one had simply best offer on it. I called the guy and he said come take a look at it before you make an offer, to check the condition. He said he really didn't know if anything was wrong with it.
So on Thursday I went with a couple of friends and a truck down to Albany. What an awesome find! This thing is a beast! All solid cast iron. The current manufacturers really could take some tips from these older furnaces. I've seen posts from HVAC guys saying they've seen these furnaces at 120 years old and the heat exchangers are still good as new on them. They said you're lucky to get 30 from one built today. Sure enough, although mine is on the later end, the heat exchanger and fire pot are good as new, just light surface rust.
When we got there it felt like Christmas, I just had to have it. I was just hoping there weren't any cracks or holes in it since it had been moved over to a different part of the cellar when it had been replaced. It needs some minor repairs, one of the tabs on the heat exchanger ring was way overtightened by someone long ago and broke the tab clean off. I have it, luckily. It was still attached by the bolt and is in one piece. Some extra repair around where it was broken needs to be done as well. Nothing major, it actually could be left as it is, since the two exchanger halves still seal fine but I'd rather have the area welded back into shape. The other is the base plate is pretty severely rotted out, so I am going to have this completely redone which is fine since the original plate does not have the outer ring for the sheet metal heat jacket. That is the other thing it needs, is a new sheet metal heat jacket which was removed for asbestos abatement. There are small remnants of asbestos here and there, so I'm sure the thing was covered in it.
We finally coaxed out what the guy had in mind for what he wanted for it, which was $100. That happened to be my budget, exact. I had planned on going $100 maximum. Of course my great friend Lyman who is great at making deals, worked on the guy and we finally ended up with it for $85! Amazing deal. $100 was an amazing deal I thought, for that matter. The one thing we had on our side was that the guy needed it out of there asap, since the house is a rental and he had new tenants moving in whom I guess didn't want the furnace sitting in their basement space.
So we disassembled it completely, my two buddies did all the heavy lifting. One of the great design features of these is they come apart in multiple easy-to-carry (by furnace standards) stacking sections. Really smart, instead of one whole unit that is barely movable. Two guys and you can move this easily. This one is in seven sections. Baseplate, ash pit body casting, first pit ring, second pit ring, fire door body casting, bottom heat exchanger half, top heat exchanger half. Also all the doors with their mounting plates come off as well.
It even has all the shaker levers (save for maybe a couple of pieces) and grate. It was never converted over to oil or gas, appears it wasn't used for wood either (no creosote at all), so it has the original doors, everything intact and nothing welded shut. No cleaning needed, just a light brushing with a wire brush in a few places. The heat exchanger ring is clean as a whistle inside. It also has an 8" clean-out port for scrubbing/vacuuming which will be great for fly ash removal.
So it's a vintage 1920 Holland Vaporaire No. 22 Special All-Cast coal gravity furnace, made by the Holland Furnace Company, of Holland, MI. They were in business from 1906 until 1966.
If anyone has any information out there it would be most appreciated. I looked online and found a book about the company, and some other little ads and such. I am trying to find the book as a downloadable PDF, but no luck yet. I would really like to find a 1920 manual and or catalog though.
So Mike (Pacowy) is going to assist me in converting this big guy into a stoker with a conversion stoker unit. I have a huge LAU (22" I believe) squirrel cage blower which I kept from my old 250,000 BTU oil guzzler that I will be installing as well.
The other great thing is, I can use this furnace for any fuel I may need to use it for. I'm 100% for coal, but if I'm ever forced into something else for any reason, I'll always be able to adapt.
I'll be sure to post pictures as I go along on the restoration. I'm cleaning the parts as I go and will be painting the doors and faceplates with 2100º stove paint. Any color suggestions? They were originally painted flat black. I attached a picture from the listing, this is how it looked when we went to pick it up. I'll get pictures of the parts soon.