Old may mean reliable, but not efficient
Built to last, or they don’t build them like they used to, are a couple of statements that I hear quite a bit. They usually follow the discovery of some ancient but still working component in a house.
For instance I walked into the basement of a house built in 1938 to discover what was unquestionably the original boiler standing ready in the corner. I had no doubt this old work horse functioned and when I turned up the thermostat Old Reliable fired right away.
I have found many such boilers over the years. Huge behemoths wrapped in a blanket of asbestos insulation, dependably providing heat, year after year.
This unit was a particularly rare find. The system was gravity fed hot water, a very old and inefficient means of moving heated water to the radiators. Basically as the water is heated in the boiler it expands and moves slooooowly through the pipes. It took about 45 minutes for the radiators to get warm, not hot, after firing this antique.
Of course the system in spite of being functional is not desirable. Couple that with the asbestos all over the boiler and pipes and you have a unit no plumber will touch if and when it breaks down. The first question from the buyer was, “how efficient is this furnace?”
My reply is that it is sort of like driving an old Lincoln Continental with the gas pedal pushed to the floor. You can almost see the gas gauge, or in this instance the oil gauge moving.
This boiler like those from this era was originally coal fired. The oil burner was retrofitted later. The funny thing was right in front of the oil tank were two containers of coal and a little shovel. Could someone have been saving this small cache of coal in case the oil ran out? Seems unlikely, but one never knows what one will find in an older home.
In spite of running like a bunny, this boilers race is run.