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Tottie Scone
02-07-2016, 02:14 PM
I'm always seeing in films or reading about American houses having a "furnace" in the basement, a monstrous, creepy thing with a grating behind which flames glow ominously - what is it? I assume it heats the house - how?

We don't have things like that here, we have boilers, either gas, electric or oil, that heat water which is pumped round a set of radiators. Boilers are smallish and un creepy and also heat water for baths, sinks and sometimes showers. They do not glow ominously or lurk in basements.

Fill in my knowledge so I don't make a fool of myself when setting stories in America.

Helix
02-07-2016, 02:16 PM
I believe they are portals into hell.

I might be wrong.

be frank
02-07-2016, 02:19 PM
I'm always seeing in films or reading about American houses having a "furnace" in the basement, a monstrous, creepy thing with a grating behind which flames glow ominously - what is it? I assume it heats the house - how?

It's where you get rid of the bodies.

Oh, shit ... I've said too much.

Bufty
02-07-2016, 03:30 PM
My last house in the UK had the central heating gas boiler in 'the basement'. The ashes from the living room fire also fell about seven feet to the bottom of the ash tray, which was also in 'the basement' and emptied around once a year - if that.

To me, basement is simply the area below where the main living areas are. Could well be the garage area if the house/living area is on a slope or raised in some way. It doesn't have to be a floor underground.

And if you wanted hot water in the summer why have your boiler/furnace in the living area? Times and technology change.

Just another choice. Maybe also conveniently near the wood supply. Could be other reasons, I guess. Maybe the basement had less wooden walls and supports in it- reduced fire-hazard?

Tottie Scone
02-07-2016, 04:32 PM
.

And if you wanted hot water in the summer why have your boiler/furnace in the living area?

If it was big and made noise or excess heat, I guess I could understand that. Is it just a boiler, then? Ours is small and hangs on the kitchen wall. You could not fit a body in it, I'm afraid. We have to find other means of disposal.

Houses round here don't tend to have basements unless they're on a steep hill. Too damp, I think. We have to store our teenagers in the attics.

jclarkdawe
02-07-2016, 04:56 PM
First off, you need to realize that basements don't exist in many houses. It's a regional thing and in some regions, there are a lot of houses with basements, in other areas, basements are a rarity.

Second is that there are a wide variety of heating systems, using a wide variety of methods to deliver the heat and to provide the heat.

The classic furnace uses either coal or wood. Modern furnaces use oil or gas. It heats air or water that is conveyed into the living areas by duct work or pipes. If it is heating air, there will be a separate hot water system.

Look up furnace in Wikipedia.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Cath
02-07-2016, 05:16 PM
Tottie, instead of radiators, many houses here have forced air for heating (and cooling). The unit typically sits in the basement and pumps heated or cooled air through a network of tunnels and vents. The furnace takes care of the heating side of things.

Bolero
02-07-2016, 05:22 PM
Speaking from the UK.
First house I lived in as a kid, was big old townhouse with a basement AND a cellar.... The central heating boiler was basically a furnace in the cellar - big enamelled floor standing metal job that was a bit bigger than an undercounter fridge. Fed with smokeless fuel, of which there were tons - and I mean tons - delivered each year through the old coal hole, direct into the cellar behind a partition.
Second house was similar period and had a cellar - and that had a whacking great central heating boiler in it, about same size as the coal one, but was gas fired.
Third house was only about ten years old, no basement or cellar, and the gas boiler was floor standing in the utility room, and about half the width of the old one.

All of these were radiator systems. The first two were the whacking great cast iron jobs, the third one modern flat panel.

beckethm
02-07-2016, 05:55 PM
Tottie, what you are describing is essentially a large, coal-fired boiler. They were common in the northern and northeastern parts of the U.S. from about the 1890s to the 1950s and used coal (or later fuel oil) to heat water for circulation in a radiator system. The size is partially due to the size of the boiling tank. Modern tankless boilers, which are relatively uncommon here, may just be a small box on the wall.

From about the 1960s, forced air replaced radiator systems as the most common type of heating in new homes. A forced air system uses a large blower to push hot air through metal ducts to all parts of a house. The furnace in my home, which is of this type, is a rectangular steel box approximately five feet tall by two feet wide. It is fueled by natural gas and sits in a utility closet in our finished basement. Nothing creepy about it.

snafu1056
02-07-2016, 07:25 PM
Oh come on, what's so creepy about this?

http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y67/snafu1056/Basement_zpsr7ucmvnt.jpg

Dave Williams
02-07-2016, 07:36 PM
Putting the furnace in the basement let them use the thermosiphon principle to circulate water through water radiators, which were normally placed under windows. You fired up the boiler (which usually didn't boil water, just heated it) and the hot water rose, gave up its heat in the radiator, and dropped down again.

Back when those systems were designed there was no residential electricity and therefore no way to pump the hot water. It was thermosiphon or nothing. And the lower the boiler was in relation to the radiators, the more efficient the siphon was.

Steam - boiling water - systems were also used in some places, but were subject to whims of local regulation. A steam system was more efficient than a thermosiphon, but a leak or boiler failure could infict nasty burns. A boiler failure might destroy a house. The issue wasn't so much design a heating system as being able to design something homeowner-proof. Steam might *not* kill you. In an age with no anaesthetics and no antibiotics this was no joke.

Commercial buildings and factories would usually run high pressure steam for maximum efficiency; they often used the steam for powering equipment, like elevators or line shafts, as well as for heating. Most jurisdictions required a licensed boiler operator be on hand at all times; this was usually an extra task for some maintenance men or security guards. [clickety] My state still requires a licensed operator to be on hand any time a commercial boiler is operating, except when it has properly inspected and certified automatic controls, at which a licensed operator must be "in regular attendance."

shadowwalker
02-07-2016, 07:38 PM
I have to admit, I was taken aback by the question. In the Upper Midwest, only the very poor or the very stupid don't have basements (okay, that may be an exaggeration ;)). Seriously - basements are the deep foundation of the house, and tornadoes and cold weather pretty much demand them. The furnace is the heart of the heating system, and it's in the basement mainly because historically it didn't take up needed space in the house itself, particularly when they burned coal or wood. The first house I bought had one of those creepy-looking things - we called it the octopus (thought it looked more like a giant spider). The main furnace was about six feet tall, and almost as big around. Huge tubes (about 18" wide) came out from the top, going to each of the heat vents in the house. It banged and clanged and rumbled threateningly every time it came on. It also wasn't forced air - it was a gravity system, so being in the basement was a necessity because otherwise the heat wouldn't go anywhere. Eventually I got it replaced with a forced air system, which took up about 20% of the space (and caused a visit from the gas company to see if I had bypassed the gas meter), but was still in the basement because there was no place to put it upstairs.

Cyia
02-07-2016, 07:54 PM
Basement furnaces in older houses also allow for those convenient-for-escape coal chutes that most people have either hidden behind junk or fused shut.

Most of North Texas has black clay. We don't do basements very often because the clay cracks when dry, and as this is Texas, it's dry a lot. Then it hails.

WeaselFire
02-07-2016, 10:03 PM
Boilers are smallish and un creepy and also heat water for baths, sinks and sometimes showers. They do not glow ominously or lurk in basements.

This is correct -- For newer ones. Old ones had a coal fire, stoked by hand, and were very large with big doors to shovel coal in. There was also a coal bin, a room that held the coal, which came in from a chute to the street.

There really was a time when oil, gas and electricity weren't piped into every household to work wonders.

Jeff

ironmikezero
02-07-2016, 10:08 PM
In the Deep South of the US, houses generally do not have below grade (ground level) basements/cellars because the ground water table is typically too close to the surface (often within 6'/just under 2m). Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are typically installed in specific areas (utility rooms/closets) or in attics.

Having lived in different regions of the US, I must admit I do miss having a basement--creepiness factor notwithstanding.

WeaselFire
02-07-2016, 10:11 PM
I have to admit, I was taken aback by the question. In the Upper Midwest, only the very poor or the very stupid don't have basements...

Come to Florida. We don't have basements because they would be called swimming pools (The house I used to own was at an elevation of seven feet five inches above sea level...). And often, our air conditioner (What is this thing you call a "heater" anyway?) hangs on the outside of the house. Water heaters also sometimes go outside so we can get a tiny amount of extra storage space (Remember, no basements...). Besides, we don't need to worry about freezing anything and hurricanes don't care if you have a basement or not.

Jeff

CassandraW
02-07-2016, 10:22 PM
From about the 1960s, forced air replaced radiator systems as the most common type of heating in new homes. A forced air system uses a large blower to push hot air through metal ducts to all parts of a house. The furnace in my home, which is of this type, is a rectangular steel box approximately five feet tall by two feet wide. It is fueled by natural gas and sits in a utility closet in our finished basement. Nothing creepy about it.


This is what the furnace in my parents' house looks like. (I live in an apartment; I've never seen the building's furnace, though I know it is in the basement.)

My childhood home, which was in the same general area, had no basement (and for the record, my parents were not stupid and not particularly impoverished, though they certainly weren't wealthy). The furnace was a similar type and was located in a utility closet in the laundry room off the kitchen.

The United States covers a huge area with many different climates and types of housing. As a couple of people noted, many homes do not have basements, particularly if the house is located in an area that floods. Therefore, you'll find all kinds of furnaces.

I can't think of too many stories set anywhere where the furnace played an important role. If for some reason your story does require a particular type of furnace, you might do some research into your setting to be sure such a furnace would be feasible. (You don't want to have a coal-fired basement furnace in a story set in coastal Florida.)

Siri Kirpal
02-07-2016, 10:41 PM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Slight addendum: Old furnaces in the Pacific Northwest (possibly elsewhere) often burned sawdust, which was readily available. Even in the mid-'80s, there was a mountain of sawdust used for such "sawdust burners" that was near our house, which used to have one of the things.

Basements are also a rarity in Southern California, unless you live on a canyon edge. Clay soil is the problem there too. By contrast, all three of the houses we've lived in in Oregon have basements.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

snafu1056
02-08-2016, 12:34 AM
Dumping the ashes and cinders from the furnace could be dangerous work too. At one time it was a somewhat common tragedy for people to be burned to death when the wind blew burning embers back at them while they were dumping ashes outdoors.

Even outside of the house, the furnace could come and get you!

frimble3
02-08-2016, 04:05 AM
Agreeing with all of the above re: variations in basements and furnaces. Adding: modern construction around here is fond of 'baseboard heaters', 6-8" high, very long, electric radiators that are attached to walls, just above the baseboard moldings. I assume because there's no ductwork, it's cheaper to build and quicker to install. On the downside, you can't put furniture right against the walls. (My current furnace is new - forced hot air - but the ductwork is old, and it bangs when the heat goes off, as the ductwork cools and contracts, I assume.)
And, basementless houses: the only house I ever lived in that didn't have a basement was built that way because it was on a flood-plain and the water level was high enough that the back yard was a marsh in the winter and the water would ease up through cracks in the foundation.
But, new houses in higher parts of town are also sometimes built without a basement, because it's cheaper to just level the building lot and pour a concrete pad on top.

cornflake
02-08-2016, 04:53 AM
Having grown up in the North/East, I find the very notion of basement-less homes deeply odd. I know they exist plenty of places; I know why. Still so strange.

Furnaces are common in places I know, and are big square or round metal things with a pilot light, that mostly burn oil or gas to send forced hot air or steam up.

Boilers can be those on-demand wall-hung things, or the tank ones, big cylindrical deals, also often stored in basements.

Roxxsmom
02-08-2016, 05:28 AM
I'm always seeing in films or reading about American houses having a "furnace" in the basement, a monstrous, creepy thing with a grating behind which flames glow ominously - what is it? I assume it heats the house - how?

We don't have things like that here, we have boilers, either gas, electric or oil, that heat water which is pumped round a set of radiators. Boilers are smallish and un creepy and also heat water for baths, sinks and sometimes showers. They do not glow ominously or lurk in basements.

Fill in my knowledge so I don't make a fool of myself when setting stories in America.

We just had our gas furnace replaced, so I might be able to explain, at least with regards to the forced-air variety of gas furnace.

These furnaces can be gas or electric, and they're hooked to a thermostat that is set to a temperature. When the temperature falls below the setpoint, it switches the furnace on. With gas furnaces, there is often a pilot light (a little flame that burns all the time--that would be the little, blue "eye" that is sometimes mentioned), but ours has an electric striker mechanism, so there's no flame when it's off. The flames go on when the thermostat switch tells them to, and there's this blower that pulls air through an intake grill through the heat exchange (these metal box thingies that are heated by the flames). The hot air enters this area at the top of the furnace called a plenum, that opens into the ducts (which go to different parts of the house, either inside the walls, or under the floors, or in the attic). The ducts blow hot air into the rooms via little grills called registers when the furnace is on.

There are also heating systems called heat pumps (http://home.howstuffworks.com/home-improvement/heating-and-cooling/heat-pump.htm) which are somewhat more efficient but more expensive. They work by transferring heat between a heating and cooling system and always (I think) are in conjunction with an AC system. They wouldn't be the kind you're asking about, though.

Ours is a gas furnace, but it's also connected to the air conditioning system (not a heat pump system, but it uses the same ducts and registers). But old-fashioned furnaces tend to be stand alone. Our furnace is in a utility closet, not a basement. This this is common in our area, because homes built from the mid 1900s and later in our part of the country (CA) tend not to have basements. Sometimes furnaces are in the garage, though. Older homes (from earlier 1900s and before) are more likely to have boiler systems with the radiator pipes you describe, unless they've been retrofitted with central heating systems (which may be more modern and allow for more precise temperature control). Some homes in older cities, or the older parts of cities, in CA still have those metal radiator pipes that are heated by steam from the boiler (usually down in a basement, which older buildings are more likely to have here). My association with the things is they're always either too hot or too cold.

http://lerablog.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/How-a-furnace-works.jpg

The kind of heating and cooling system a house in the US has will depend on its age, the part of the country (oil burners were pretty common in Northern NY when I lived there, though the Victorian house I rented had been retrofitted with a gas furnace that was indeed in the basement at the foot of the stairs and had a little blue eye), the city itself, and whether or not the home has been remodeled or modernized in some cases.

If you're writing a story set in a specific town or city in the US, it might be good to research the average age of the buildings and the kind of architecture and climate system they tend to have. But if you're setting a story in a more generic part of the country (somewhere, vaguely, in the midwest), you'd likely have more latitude about what the particular house would have.

Just for strange reference, one of my cousins recently bought an older home in Glendale, CA, and it doesn't have any kind of heater aside from a single gas register in one room (operated by a little key in the floor) that barely works. They use their oven to heat the kitchen when it gets cold. Now the LA area isn't known for its freezing winters, so you can survive without heat (not like you, or the pipes, are going to freeze), but it can still get damp and chilly in the winter.

Sedjet
02-08-2016, 05:37 AM
I don't think I've ever been to a house in Australia (where I'm from) with a basement. I guess we don't need them for obvious reasons. Boilers and furnaces are really alien concepts to me. I wish we'd had them. After reading and watching so many horror stories etc with them, they sound like fun. Good fuel for horror.

We don't even have attics usually. So boring.

Chumplet
02-08-2016, 06:02 AM
Basements are common in Eastern Canada, except in the Canadian Shield region where there is a lot of bedrock. Heating systems here used to be oil burning with a fan that blew the hot air through the house using a duct system. Ours developed a hole in the exchange, which prompted us to get rid of the giant oil tank (which was filled via a truck monthly) to natural gas. The actual unit is smaller than a fridge, but there is one small area in the front where you can see the blue flames burning.

My husband lived in a Victorian era house in Toronto when he was a kid, and the furnace (fueled by oil) was one of those big scary ones with the flames visible through an iron grate.

snafu1056
02-08-2016, 06:45 AM
Everyone should have a basement. Just as a courtesy to ghosts.

cornflake
02-08-2016, 07:26 AM
Everyone should have a basement. Just as a courtesy to ghosts.

They go in the attic - otherwise you can't hear them dragging chains around and moving shit to mess with you.

Cyia
02-08-2016, 07:26 AM
Everyone should have a basement. Just as a courtesy to ghosts.

But then who would live in the shed?

snafu1056
02-08-2016, 07:37 AM
But then who would live in the shed?

Baba Yaga. Definitely.

snafu1056
02-08-2016, 07:38 AM
They go in the attic - otherwise you can't hear them dragging chains around and moving shit to mess with you.

What about people who don't have attics either?? I guess their ghosts have to just stand around in the breakfast nook or out on the backyard deck. Not very ghosty at all.

Roxxsmom
02-08-2016, 07:44 AM
What about people who don't have attics either?? I guess their ghosts have to just stand around in the breakfast nook or out on the backyard deck. Not very ghosty at all.

Attics in CA also tend to be "crawl spaces" up under the eaves of the roof. The ducting for the furnace is up there, along with wires and a bunch of insulation. Or we have "cathedral ceilings" that don't even have crawl spaces above them.

I do envy people in the midwest and east their basements and attics. We've mostly gone in for boring, ranch-style "snout" houses (http://www.burbed.com/2012/12/15/snout-housing-threat-or-menace/) since the 50s or so. No good place for ghosts. Attached two-car garages just don't have the same chain-rattling appeal.

Albedo
02-08-2016, 08:20 AM
I love reading about basements! As someone above said, Australian houses don't have these exotic mystery caves. We have to store our ghosts, adult children, and cherished piles of junk elsewhere.

shadowwalker
02-08-2016, 08:43 AM
I have to say, I love our basement and attic. I used to play in the attic, because it was dark and dusty and mysterious (nobody else wanted to go up there!). Our basement is cold in the summer, and smells just faintly of damp earth (not enough to stink - more like sidewalks after a fresh rain). Because the house was built on top of three springs (talking 1911, here), there are 4x4' cement retaining walls on three sides - great places to play when a kid, and then we built storage cupboards on them. There's also a little side room that used to be the root cellar, and the space behind the furnace was always a great place for hide-and-seek.

Basements and attics are just neat places :D

southernwriter
02-08-2016, 10:40 AM
Funny, I was just remembering earlier today how in the 50's, in the home of my paternal grandparents, the furnace was in the living room, and they each had a chair on opposite sides of it, so that they couldn't even see each other. It was arranged in the room the way we might have a wood burning stove, with a chimney pipe that rose up and exited through a wall. And their first furnace - or at least, the first one I remember - was a lot like that. But their new one was a huge monstrosity, brown in color, had the grate in front, and obviously belonged in a basement. They didn't have a basement. Or an attic. Back then, though, a lot of people I knew didn't even have indoor plumbing.

King Neptune
02-08-2016, 05:24 PM
Everyone should have a basement. Just as a courtesy to ghosts.

Basements are also better for burying the corpses.

Tottie Scone
02-09-2016, 12:08 AM
Come to Florida. We don't have basements because they would be called swimming pools

Same here, except they would be COLD.

Note I'm not talking UK in general here - I live in a damp area. The solum of my house (the earth under it) is about 18 inches below the floorboards on the ground floor, and is on a level with the ground outside. The foundations go deeper than that, of course, but the earth was never dug out from between them as the gap would fill with water, or at least be irredeemably damp.

Thanks for all the answers. I find these kind of minutiae fascinating, and I'm also fascinated by people's ideas of normality, how arbitrary they can be, but also how cherished. Like the folks who find the idea of a house with no basement hopelessly strange, while I find the idea of one *with* a basement exotic, luxurious and a bit creepy.

I came up against a similar thing years ago when I visited the Back to Backs in Birmingham - a fascinating museum consisting of a set of "back to back" houses - 3 storey houses with a footprint of a single room, each sharing a back wall with an identical house and side walls with 2 more, so only the front facade was open to the outside. These were once the commonest form of housing in England (they are no longer allowed, so few survive), but they seemed so strange to me, each with its tiny spiral staircase no bigger than a cupboard. "why do it like this?" I asked. "why not build flats off a common stair?"

The museum attendant looked at me blankly. He didn't really understand my question. After trying to communicate my thought a bit more, it dawned on me that to him, needing to have your own front door was so overwhelmingly obvious that it trumped all other considerations. Having to live in a building where you shared one staircase with all your neighbours, as was common in the tenement housing of the same era in my area, seemed really odd to him - certainly something you'd suffer much inconvenience to avoid. To me it seemed completely normal - the obvious way to do it.

It left me with an appreciation of how one man's normal is another man's completely weird, and I've been fascinated with it since.

Trebor1415
02-09-2016, 05:31 AM
What part of the U.S. is the story set? What time period? How old is the house?

All of those things impact what kind of heating system is used. Older construction (like 1900+) likely used coal. But, by the 50's or 60's most were converted to fuel oil. My grandfather's farmhouse from 1906 had a coal furnace, no electricity, and no indoor plumbing. Over the decades electricity was added, a bathroom put in, and eventually the coal furnace was replaced with a fuel oil furnace. When that broke down sometime in the 70's it was replace with propane heating with a large propane tank in the back yard.

Another house I lived in had a wood burning furnace that was original equipment from the build in the 1960's. It was later converted to propane well around 1990 or so.

The house I lived in in the 70's was built in the late 50's. It had an oil furnace and we'd get oil truck deliveries on a regular basis. At some point the next owners converted it to natural gas.

This was all in Michigan, btw.

My current house was built in '58 and has a slab, not a basement, and no crawl space. It's a single story ranch. It has a natural gas furnace from the 80's and a second newer natural gas furnace in the garage added during a home expansion in the 80's and replaced about 5 years ago when the original died.

I've also seen older homes that had coal, fuel oil, and then natural gas, over the decades, as old units died and were replaced with more cost efficient units.

frimble3
02-09-2016, 06:52 AM
Basements are common in Eastern Canada, except in the Canadian Shield region where there is a lot of bedrock. Heating systems here used to be oil burning with a fan that blew the hot air through the house using a duct system. Ours developed a hole in the exchange, which prompted us to get rid of the giant oil tank (which was filled via a truck monthly) to natural gas. The actual unit is smaller than a fridge, but there is one small area in the front where you can see the blue flames burning.

My husband lived in a Victorian era house in Toronto when he was a kid, and the furnace (fueled by oil) was one of those big scary ones with the flames visible through an iron grate.

Other factor, not directly OT: around here, if you're buying an older (oil-heater era) house, it's well worth your while to insist on seeing the certificate of oil-tank removal, rather than finding out later that the buried oil-tank wasn't removed properly and you're on the hook for the environmental clean-up (especially if the rusted-out tank has leaked into the soil. Removing and remediating the contaminated soil is a huge expense).

blacbird
02-09-2016, 07:24 AM
Every house I've lived in, or encountered, that I can recall, the "furnace" is a forced-air heating device powered either by natural gas or electricity. It's always in the lowest part of the house because hot air rises, and therefore can easily be directed through a ventilation system to rooms higher in the house.

caw

Deb Kinnard
02-10-2016, 08:25 PM
That's pretty much what the coal (later, natural gas)-fired furnace in my grandparents' Iowa home basement looked like. It was hidden in a room behind the main room in a cellar that had a narrow passage between the rooms to get to the furnace. We were scared of that passage, too. Sometimes Grandpa would open the little door on the front, and we kids would cower because FIRE FIRE FIRE. And it made a low, growly noise (shudder). Even the most intrepid of the grandkids was terrified of that thing.

Thinking back, I believe the only reason Grandpa opened the grate was to check if clinkers were in it. He'd been a coal miner and later a railroad man, so he knew coal and how it burned incompletely, etc.

The heating system, even when it was coal-fired, was forced-air, not water-in-a-radiator. So there must have been a fan or pump circulating the air, but I never saw it because I had to keep my attention on that little door lest it pop open and devour me.

Myrealana
02-10-2016, 08:55 PM
Everyone should have a basement. Just as a courtesy to ghosts.
Our basement is full of teenagers playing Xbox. No self-respecting ghost would go near it.

Myrealana
02-10-2016, 09:06 PM
Houses in this area (Colorado front range) often have basements, many of which are part of the living space, as in our house. We have 3 bedrooms and an office on the top floor. Living room, kitchen, dining room, garage, etc. on the ground level. Game room and storage in the basement. Our house was built in 2001. It has gas forced air as Roxx described, as do most of the homes in the area, or at least those built in the last few decades.

Prior to that, I lived in a 100+ year old home. It also had a basement, though it was all concrete and damp and NOT a suitable living area for non-spider lifeforms. At the time I lived there, it had a gas furnace, but instead of sending warm air through ducts to the whole house, it blew the hot air up through a central grate in the dining room. The grate was about 3 foot square, sitting right in the middle of the floor. It could get hot enough to burn your feet if you weren't careful. To get heat to other rooms, you had to leave their doors open and hope. In the winter, the central area of the house was an oven and the bedrooms were ice boxes.

Prior to having the gas furnace installed, the furnace ran on coal. The basement had a coal chute for regular deliveries. The homeowners would have had to shovel coal into their furnace when they wanted heat.

Furnaces can be small enough for a 1BR apartment, or large enough to heat a giant McMansion.

Beachgirl
02-11-2016, 06:32 AM
What about people who don't have attics either?? I guess their ghosts have to just stand around in the breakfast nook or out on the backyard deck. Not very ghosty at all.

They meet on Saturday mornings at the local breakfast diners. But since this is Florida - Land of the Retiree - they typically have to call ahead for reservations.

Angela
02-13-2016, 09:44 AM
In my part of South Georgia, I don't think I've ever come across a house with a basement. I think the water table's too high here. I'll ask around and see though. I know in Louisiana (not sure if it's the whole state or just certain parts), they can't bury their dead in the ground because their water table's too high, as well. They have to bury them in vaults/mausoleums that are above ground. I think I heard they call them ovens.

Anyway, I agree that you'll have to research the area you're setting the story in to see if basements would be possible in that area, and research types of furnaces once you decide what time period the house was built in to determine the type of furnace it would have. As someone mentioned earlier, you could also leave the location of the house a bit vague and have the basement anyway.

Roxxsmom
02-13-2016, 10:00 AM
Some areas have basements with sumps in them to deal with water too. This was a thing in Northern NY. Nearly all the houses had basements, but you wanted to make sure there was a working sump down there (I got used to the sound of it kicking on and off fairly quickly).

snafu1056
02-13-2016, 11:54 PM
Conversely I'm fascinated by septic tanks. I never had to deal with one. I just assumed everyone had ready sewer access.

Cyia
02-14-2016, 12:03 AM
Conversely I'm fascinated by septic tanks. I never had to deal with one. I just assumed everyone had ready sewer access.

I was around 20 before I ever had public water in my house, and 27 before I lived in a house that was on the public sewer system. We had well water growing up, and septic tanks. You DO NOT want to see what happens when one collapses.

ElaineA
02-14-2016, 12:19 AM
Or when one overfills and things start bubbling up through your lawn.

We have a septic tank at our vacation home and I always ask my (college age) sons to remind any girls who go up not to dispose of tampons down the toilet. I've had some good laughs over the facial expressions I've received in reply.

Tottie Scone
02-15-2016, 05:49 PM
Thanks for the furnace info, everyone! Lots of detail and I've got a much better feel for how this would work.

Septic tanks are pretty common here in rural areas. There are plenty of places in the Highlands and islands with main line water but not main line drainage. Lots of restaurant toilets with the worrying message "Don't put anything down the toilet apart from toilet paper." Umm... what do you think I'm in here for?

I believe the bigger challenge is stopping visitors putting bleach and antiseptics down the toilet. It's called a "septic tank", putting "antiseptic" in it is pretty counterproductive.

Dave Williams
02-16-2016, 02:12 AM
septic tanks. You DO NOT want to see what happens when one collapses.

A very old or poorly maintained septc system can clog the leach lines, at which point it sometimes becomes more cost-effective to find another part of the yard and put in a new tank and lines.

This works just fine, until decades later when the lot is subdivided and the new owners have no idea what's under the ground.

When a crumbly old septic tank collapses under a full cement truck, it takes a *lot* of work to get it out... more than one wrecker, and snatch blocks, and lots of cable.

King Neptune
02-16-2016, 03:39 AM
A very old or poorly maintained septc system can clog the leach lines, at which point it sometimes becomes more cost-effective to find another part of the yard and put in a new tank and lines.

This works just fine, until decades later when the lot is subdivided and the new owners have no idea what's under the ground.

When a crumbly old septic tank collapses under a full cement truck, it takes a *lot* of work to get it out... more than one wrecker, and snatch blocks, and lots of cable.

I'm glad I didn't get to see that. Did they pump the concrete out? That's what they usually do when transit mix trucks roll.

Orianna2000
02-17-2016, 03:25 AM
Where I live, in the Southern US, we can't have basements because (as someone else mentioned) the water table is too high. Your basement would also be an indoor pool. I'm not sure if this applies to the whole South, or just our region. We're right along the Mississippi River, so that may have something to do with it. Our house in Nashville (also the South, but about three hours from the Mississippi) had a basement, but it was built into a hill, with the front of the house at ground-level to the street, while the driveway went down the hill to the back of the house, and there was a rear entrance in the basement. Made it perfect for me, a disabled adult living with my parents. I got my own space in the basement, with my own entrance, so I didn't have to disturb my parents if I stayed out late (which I rarely did, but you know . . . just in case!).

In North Carolina, our house didn't have a basement, but some friends of mine had one--but again, it was the kind where the house was built into a hill, so the basement had an outdoor entrance. Arizona, no basement. No one had them. California, no basement, but then, we lived in a condo there, so there wouldn't have been one. Northern Florida (panhandle), no basement that I recall, but we only lived there briefly.

I don't think any of our homes had a furnace. But then, we always lived in newer houses. Furnaces tend to be old-fashioned, these days.

We did have a septic tank in North Carolina, along with a well. Best water in the world! Never had any trouble with the septic tank, although one time we had the remnants of a hurricane pass through and the creek through our front yard flooded. The rising water uprooted the foot bridge, which floated away and got stuck in the pass-through under the driveway, damming it up, which caused the creek to overflow, turning the entire yard into a pond. The high winds uprooted a huge old apple tree, too, which was sad. Fortunately, the front yard sloped lower than the house, so we didn't have any damage. Also, the house actually had an outhouse when it was first built! The entire back of the house, the tiny bathroom and laundry room, was a much later add-on. And they didn't bother with a foundation, so the bathtub sat on dirt, which meant in the wintertime, you didn't exactly want to linger in the tub. We actually got ice in the bathtub on several occasions. And one year, we woke up to find frost on the wall underneath the window. I guess they hadn't heard of insulation back then, either.