The beast in the basement


Only in Minnesota do we include photos of the new furnace when we list a home for sale. The weather has been wonderful these past few days but we know we are living on borrowed time and today is the first day of winter. 

I wrote this post in 2008 and it continues to get traffic during the colder months when Minnesotans have to deal with the cold and the beast in the basement.

Like a trip back in time.  I found these furnaces in some of the homes for sale. I encounter a few each year, usually in the older neighborhoods near downtown St. Paul. 

Some people call them octopus furnaces because of the way the heat ducts take up the whole basement. They are called gravity furnaces. The unit in the first picture burns heating oil. Most of the gravity furnaces were converted to burn natural gas when the prices of heating oil went through the roof in the mid 70’s. For those who are too young to rememebr the oil tank was in the basement and a truck came by on a regular basis and filled the tank. In the 70’s there were price increases and a shortage. The trucks stopped coming on a regular basis and it got cold.

The gravity furnace is like a forced air furnace except with out the force. The air is heated, the hot air rises up through the duct work. These furnaces last forever but are often replaced because they are not energy efficient as forced air funaces and they take up a lot of real estate in the basement. The large asbestos wrapped duct work makes home owners a bit nervous. Handling and removing the asbestos is best left to a professional and cost a couple thousand dollars.

The pictures were taken with my phone and I have quite a collection but these are my favorites. The furnace in the middle was particularly frightening.

If you live in the city of St. Paul and need a new furnace we still have the city fix up fund. There are income restrictions .