March 15, 2011

75-year-old furnace replaced in Bell HVAC contest

Dagmar Swanson of Carmel is the proud owner of a brand new furnace thanks to the Bell HVAC contest to find and replace the oldest furnace in Westchester and Putnam counties.

"Most of the times, when you have an anniversary, people give you gifts," Swanson said. "But when Bell HVAC had their 30th anniversary, they gave me the gift. It shows how community-oriented they are."

When putting together the contest, Keith Bell hoped that they would find a furnace that was at least 30-50 years old and had once burned coal. When Swanson entered her 75-year-old furnace into the contest, both these hopes became reality.

The furnace, an original from the Sears and Roebuck house her husband Fred's parents built in 1935, began as a wood-burning furnace before being converted to coal and finally oil-burning. One of the most interesting features of the furnace was its fire-safety precaution meant to stop the flow of oil in case of fire. A string holding a weighted valve was tied up by the burner. If the burner caught fire, the string would burn, and the weight would turn off the valve.

Though it seems antiquated now, details like this, along with the fact that it lasted so long is a testament to how well-built and installed it was, according to Bell.

"The mechanic who plumbed it up must be gone now and steam piping is becoming a lost art, kind of like a plumbing version of Latin language," Bell said.

After so many decades, though, it became clear that the furnace was at the end of its life. By the middle of January, the furnace had ruptured, and Swanson's repairman suggested they look into getting a new furnace.

Just around that time, Bell swept in, telling Swanson she had won the new furnace. Already considering replacing the furnace herself, learning that she would be getting a new one for free was great news for Swanson, and she praises the quality of the machine and the professional job Bell HVAC did.

"I'm nice and toasty warm. What used to take an hour to heat now takes about 15 minutes," Swanson said. "I'm very happy with the job and would thoroughly recommend them. They were so neat and clean and left everything looking so good. I'm a very satisfied customer."

The new furnace is about 25 to 30 percent more efficient than the old one, and Swanson may see up to $500 a year in savings on her fuel bill, depending on usage and oil prices, said Bell. He stresses that the furnace is also safer now, with electronic safety devices and electronic flame devices.

"It's almost as fool proof as the string was!" Bell joked.

While Swanson loves her comfortable new heating situation, she was a little sad to get rid of the furnace she's used since her marriage in 1956, and recalled the many people who had benefited from it.

"This old furnace had kept five generations of our family warm," she said, "and when I turned it off for the last time, I said 'goodbye, old friend' and had tears in my eyes."

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