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I just saw my first octopus!

May 6, 2009

Well it finally happened, I saw my first octopus!  The mythical, often spoken of, never seen octopus was just sitting there- staring at me, it tentacles splayed and ready to rumble to life at any moment.

What the heck am I talking about and how does this have to do with real estate?!?  It’s an gravity or “octopus” furnace of course!

gravity-002

photo credit: Tony White

Phot Credit: Tony White

Octo, as I’ll lovingly refer to him, was in the basement of a house I saw on my agent tour yesterday.  In fact, the other unusual thing about this house was that it was almost an EXACT replica of my house, but we did not have an octo when we moved in. 

Anyway, you might be wondering exactly what a gravity furnace is.  Here are the basics from AsktheBuilder.com:

The furnaces worked by gravity. The most basic ones only had a few moving parts, and those were usually the doors you opened to insert fuel or remove ashes or cinders. As the furnaces got hot, they heated the air around the core of the furnace’s combustion chamber. This air floated up through the large pipes into the house. Gravity pulled down the heavier cold air into the base of the furnace. A slow-motion conveyor belt of air constantly flowed through the furnace as long as fuel was burning inside and residual heat remained in the metal parts after the fuel was exhausted.

gravity_furnace

Most estimates put the energy efficiency of these older units at 50% or below.  So what should you do if you find an old house you want to buy and it has one of these monsters in its basement? 

One quick note, the white paper wrapping around the ducts of the octo are almost certainly asbestos- so whatever you do- don’t start by just taking a sledgehammer to the thing.  You’ll want a qualified asbestos contractor to deal with the asbestos before you go tearing anything apart.

Right now the Federal Government is offering a 30% or up to $1500 tax credit for the installation of energy star rated HVAC systems.  If you are thinking about geo-thermal systems the credit is 30% of the total cost with no cap.  So I would think in almost all situations it would be to your advantage to replace the older system, save on your heating and cooling bills, and get some money back from Uncle Sam.

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