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Old 12-09-2012, 04:30 AM   #1
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Cast iron furnaces in homes

Can someone point me to an article(or articles) discussing the introduction of cast iron furnaces into homes? I am specifically looking for the large basement types that were still extant in the 1950s in certain parts of the country.

MY story takes places in 1887, and I am wondering what sort of operation would have existed then to heat a rather good-sized (but not huge) home. This article indicates the furnaces were available by the end of the 19th century and also states (tho the dates appear to be erroneous) that steel began to replace cast iron at about that time. But I would love a more indepth article or two...even in a real book I'd need to get from the library.

Thanks!
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Old 12-09-2012, 04:52 AM   #2
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There probably is a fairly simple answer to your question, or there would be, if the question were more precise. I think that I have seen the sorts of furnaces that you are asking about, but do you want to know about coal-fired steam heat systems? Or are you inyterested in coal-fired hot air heating systems? Or maybe oil-fired hot water systems? And ar you only interested in cast-iron furnaces, or are you also interested in masonry furnaces with cast-iron fireboxes? Or did you mention cast-iron to separate them from the sheet metal exteriors of new furnaces?

The exact dates of the introductions of those things is disputed, becasue different people invented similar things.
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Old 12-09-2012, 05:02 AM   #3
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Here's a brief one

Here's another.

(Google's your friend.)

My home was built in the late 1880's-early 1890s.

We still have the coal chute at the base of the house, next to the outside stairs to the basement (currently sealed up.) Coal would have been shoveled into the basement through the chute and family members would keep the coal fire burning when they wanted heat. The fire heated water that became steam and rose through cast iron piping to radiators (sometimes very ornate) and then, as it cooled, back down to the basement to start over again.

I've worked in buildings with steam heat. It smells. And if you don't "burp" the system -- bleeding out the excess air, it'll bang and clang all over the house.
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Old 12-09-2012, 05:58 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by King Neptune View Post
There probably is a fairly simple answer to your question, or there would be, if the question were more precise. I think that I have seen the sorts of furnaces that you are asking about, but do you want to know about coal-fired steam heat systems? Or are you inyterested in coal-fired hot air heating systems? Or maybe oil-fired hot water systems? And ar you only interested in cast-iron furnaces, or are you also interested in masonry furnaces with cast-iron fireboxes? Or did you mention cast-iron to separate them from the sheet metal exteriors of new furnaces?
The exact dates of the introductions of those things is disputed, becasue different people invented similar things.
I am imagining the sort of octopus arrangement mentioned in Williebee's second link, which I assumed would have been a hot air furnace. The sort that would exist in the basement and provide heat through radiating pipes to various points in the house above. I've lived with it myself, and am most interested in the dates they became widespread so as not to have my characters treat them as common when they were not. And they live in the Denver area.
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Originally Posted by Williebee View Post
We still have the coal chute at the base of the house, next to the outside stairs to the basement (currently sealed up.) Coal would have been shoveled into the basement through the chute and family members would keep the coal fire burning when they wanted heat. The fire heated water that became steam and rose through cast iron piping to radiators (sometimes very ornate) and then, as it cooled, back down to the basement to start over again.
That sounds like my sister's house, though it was fitted over to a ceailing AC/Heater sometime in the 1980s. Thanks for the links!
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Old 12-09-2012, 06:31 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnnyGottaKeyboard View Post
I am imagining the sort of octopus arrangement mentioned in Williebee's second link, which I assumed would have been a hot air furnace. The sort that would exist in the basement and provide heat through radiating pipes to various points in the house above. I've lived with it myself, and am most interested in the dates they became widespread so as not to have my characters treat them as common when they were not. And they live in the Denver area.That sounds like my sister's house, though it was fitted over to a ceailing AC/Heater sometime in the 1980s. Thanks for the links!
Williebee's seconf link described a steam heat system. That is the kind of heating that clicks and hisses. There are people who still use such things, because they haven't learned that there are better systems available that would save in energy the cost of replacement within a few years.

Modernish radiators were invented in the 1850's, and steam heat became common after that. If you are looking for a year in the 1800's which a house might have been built with such a system, then use any year after 1870. There still were houses being built without central heat, but most houses had steam systems.
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Old 12-10-2012, 07:54 PM   #6
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Had a coal-fired steam boiler system in a large (4500 sq ft, originally a rooming house) house built in 1860. It had been disconnected and replaced with a gas-fired hot-water baseboard system but the boiler was still present, along with a few old steam radiators.

Basically the same as Williebee's second link.

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