Furnace repair

I have a 100+ year old Holland Hot Air Furnace that was originally coal fired and convection based (10" diameter ducts). It's about 6 foot diameter and 5 foot high. Probably in the thirties it was converted to gas with the addition of Janitrol controls (300,000 BTU) in (I presume) the area where you'd normally load in the coal and somewhere along the way it was converted to forced hot air with the addition of a squirrel cage blower on the side.
The Janitrol controls stick out the front of the furnace and consist of a pancake gas valve operated by a clockwork mechanism (it looks like something out of a Victorian-age museum) which lifts a lever and opens the valve. The clockwork mechanism is operated by a 24V small motor which is powered via the limit control and the thermostat back to a transformer on the wall. According to the plumber the controls have a 24" blast tube (important!).
The motor which drives the clockwork mechanism has failed resulting in the inability to open the gas valve and thus supply heat. So say both myself and the plumber. He of course would like to sell me a new furnace at about $6500 something that I'm resisting. I understand that parts are no longer available for the 1930-ish Janitol controls although I don't know why not. I can buy parts for a 1930's Packard car--albeit paying an arm and a leg. Janitrol still exist but don't even seem to have a website.
The next step down from replacement of the entire thing is to replace the controls as a group (about $1400) but the problem here is the lack of a 24 inch blast tube on the modern units according to the plumber. Most current gas replacement controls use a 12 or so inch blast tube. Apparently the 24 inch is not an exact measurement but could be 20, 22 etc. I presume the blast tube is some sort of pipe that goes from the controls to the burner. If they don't make one why couldn't one be fabricated from steel (titanium? copper? bronze?)? I don't think the plumber is interested in following this option. How do I get someone who is?
Back to the drawing board. Why can't I replace the 24 volt motor with a generic one? How do I search (Google) for a supplier? What I'd really like is someone who offers a service of "Send me your old one and we'll send you a new one with the appropriate drive shaft". How would I search for a supplier here?
Alternatively, just as there a people who rebuild generators on cars aren't there places that rebuild either the motor or the clockwork mechanism itself. I understand it might require fabrication of some parts but I have no idea how to go about looking for these things.
Alternatively, I'm not sure I trust the plumber and his "No current controls available with a 24 inch blast tube" If I google on "gas furnace conversion controls" I end up with a whole lot of junk on conversion from oil of LP gas. No one talks about coal and even if it's the same for a oil conversion I can't find any specifications or even see any actual units. Everyone just wants to sell me a whole furnace <sigh>.
Any suggestions?
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Save yourself a lot of trouble and money. Replace the whole thing. It will soon pay for itself with lower fuel bills.
--
Joseph E. Meehan

26 + 6 = 1 It's Irish Math
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Umm...how large of an airplane hanger is this heating?

Two things...plumbers are NOT Heating contractors...thats one... And Janitrol has a website, but there is NO parts information, and I can promise you, they no longer make parts for the part you are talking about. Goodman, Janitrols parent, does not offer this part either...however, its not the fact that it can not be converted over to newer parts..it can...its about the fact that no one I know will touch it. I wont. I can see my insurance company now if something were to go wrong..in anyway...

You wont if hes legit. If you do, be prepared to sign more disclaimers than you have EVER seen.

Forget it..this trade is not like that. Consider that part obsolete, done....gone...nada...and move on.

Look..you wont find a reliable one..this is one case, where it IS a losing battle.

OK..then...in simplest terms...STOP. If you dont trust him, WHY are you even considering using him?????

Ok..look...I have 4 different catalogs, from 4 different supply companies. NONE of them list a coal to gas conversion. Period. Oil conversions are simple, and easy, and there is a good chance that is what you have now...or one might work..but, not being able to see it not being able to see what the units like...take measurements, and talk to the guys that designed the conversion kit and explain whats going on...I have no way of knowing. I can tell you this...while you dont like the sound of it, a new unit...well...its time.. Whatever you spend to replace that unit you have now will be well worth it. I would not even fathom the idea of a repair on a unit like that, and yes, I would tell the homeowner or business owner that there was no way in hell I was going to put parts on it. The liability issues stink. For YOU and the contractor.
Give ya a hint tho..I have put in furnaces for less than your guy wants to throw control parts at it.
Good luck..

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wrote:

This one has "licensed HVAC contractor" on his business card and the side of his truck. Just looking though the yellow pages for plumbers shows many of them assert licensing for installation and repair of gas furnaces and boilers.

Neither is the automobile business but there are people who make a business of supplying obsolete parts or fabricating them when necessary.

I have a rebuilt starter motor in my car. Quite reliable, thank you.

News flash: I don't trust ANY plumber, HVAC contractor, or electrician, especially those who want to go for the most expensive option.

Including removal of all that asbestos?
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And an H1 licence in this state considers me to be the same as a P2...a plumber...I dont do plumbing work. I dont work on water systems. There was a time in most areas, where a plumbing licence allowed them to work on units..its a natural thing since in many areas, the heating system is a water based unit...hydronics... Now, there are separate licences required, and we still have many plumbers that do heating work. You miss the point fully however. I have a pipefitters licence...that does not mean I do plumbing.

about.
can...its
Funny...I was in automotive aftermarket and dealership enviroments for many years. Still am in a way, since I keep my ASE certs up to date, and my family owns a dealership. There are MANY parts that you simply cant get, and if you dont believe that, come on over and look at my 48 Anglia...while there is little in it that is factory, we kept a few items, and you just CANT get parts anymore...period. One of my Hemi Cudas is like that..you can get the hockey stick on the passenger side, but not the drivers...you can get original still new in box gills for the kickpanels, but you cant get the original air filter assembly with the correct decals for the 426 on it....unless you pay out the nose for a $2 decal...(it was $175 BTW) The total custom hockey stick decal for the drivers side, when you can get a company to do a special order like that can run into the thousands....for a simple section of vinyl.

losing
Wow. A starter motor is NOT a combustion unit for your furnace, and comparing the two in this case is pointless, particularly with someone that knows both ends of the biz in question. Big deal...I have a rebuilt starter on about 4 of the vans, and a rebult alternator on all of them, and a couple have rebuilt motors...and a few..when the engines worn to the point that its not worth rebuilding, gets one of two things....a new engine, rebuilt with a good block of course, or sold for scrap. Your furnace...needs to be sold for scrap.

No..the most expensive option if to throw parts at it, and its something you cant see... And BTW, I dont trust homeowners that balk at price, when I know good and damn well I am as cheap as anyone for the equipment we sell, but then, our clients normally are not worried about much as long as they are confortable, and know we wont leave em hanging...and they do. Had a guy today that wanted to barter the price...I listened to him and told him that we might not be his company, and that he needed to shop on...he did, and called back about an hour ago...we start on it Friday. Big deal...its the way we do biz... Oh..I might also add that we sometimes give units away to the older folks...complete installs, and donate all we can to the tech schools....so....take that for what its worth.

to
Humm...actually, funny you state that...on the website there is a couple of pics for the state board on a job that a hack screwed up and ran from to advoid being arrested..(hes got warrants out now, since claiming to be a contractor in this state and not being licenced is a felony) and there is asbestos. Since there is a licence for that, and we do not want...we sub out. The asbestos that needed to be removed...the old hydronics systems pipe insulation, cost less than $500 for the home. And we are going to repair the damage to the home for about that..(1400)..permits included..so..I would dare say yes...in the ballpark. But...personally, anyone thats got asbestos still in a home, in a heating system, is either a fool, or foolish. Not saying you are..but its starting to come out... You dont want to have to pay for the removal, and abatement, therefore, you want the furnace in place and running so that you dont have to pull permits and get hit with an inspector saying...thats all got to go...

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300,000 btu! wow. my (seemingly little) 76,000 btu furnace kind of keeps our house warm. where do you live? what are your heating costs? a more modern furnace may pay for itself in a few years.

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About $1600 a year including stoves (2), water heaters (2), and other gas-fired space heaters (4). It's those last space heaters that make this not an urgent consideration; the main furnace is just being used to keep the pipes from freezing.
Don't forget that the 300,000 was probably sized to run with a convection system, not forced air, and that back in those days the cost of keeping 4000 sq feet at maybe 75/78 degrees wasn't too much.
Back in the late 80's I calculated the payback period to be about 20 years. I doubt I'll be in the house 20 or even 10 years from now.
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wrote:

our
Scary...what part of the country you in? I cant see that much being used in fuel...sheesh..

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wrote:

NYC. $1600 is cheap in comparison to what most of my friends pay. $3000 and up is more the norm for the size of house.
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You would be crazy to stick another dime in that old hulk!! Pry the money from your wallet and replace the beast! It died years ago, you just don't realize it yet! Greg
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On Thu, 15 Jan 2004 00:19:10 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@noISPwhasoever.com wrote:

(snip)
Gosh - an old Holland furnace. And a double conversion at that. Can't think of anything less efficient. Takes me back to one summer many years ago. I went to see about a job offer for the summer between college years. I was supposed to go to houses and convince the prospect that they needed their chimneys cleaned. I was to put some soot on my hand and show how it insulated my flesh from a burning match. Once the prospect was convinced the Holland furnace Company moved in and took apart the clients furnace telling them it was in very dangerous condition and about to blow up. No wonder they went out of business. Heh. I went to work for a tree trimming company instead.
Anyway, good luck with your furnace.
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