Got My Coal Furnace! 1920 Holland Vaporaire

A Coal stoker furnace or stove controls most operations including automatically feeding the coal. They are quite similar to any conventional oil and gas units and easily operated for extended periods of time. They commonly use rice coal but may use larger sizes like buckwheat. They can be used as primary heat, supplementary heat or have a dual set up with your existing oil/gas furnace.
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Kev
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Hand Fed Coal Furnace: Holland #22 Special All-Cast
Location: Middle Granville, NY

Post Tue. Apr. 23, 2013 11:33 pm

I mentioned awhile ago I was considering the old gravity style "octopus" furnace as a possibility for heating my 4000 sf former church, if I could find one. I finally did on Craigslist, I was amazed to find one outside of PA! I had found others, but they were all in PA and had fairly high prices (for my budget + travel costs, not high for the furnace) on them. This one had simply best offer on it. I called the guy and he said come take a look at it before you make an offer, to check the condition. He said he really didn't know if anything was wrong with it.

So on Thursday I went with a couple of friends and a truck down to Albany. What an awesome find! This thing is a beast! All solid cast iron. The current manufacturers really could take some tips from these older furnaces. I've seen posts from HVAC guys saying they've seen these furnaces at 120 years old and the heat exchangers are still good as new on them. They said you're lucky to get 30 from one built today. Sure enough, although mine is on the later end, the heat exchanger and fire pot are good as new, just light surface rust.

When we got there it felt like Christmas, I just had to have it. I was just hoping there weren't any cracks or holes in it since it had been moved over to a different part of the cellar when it had been replaced. It needs some minor repairs, one of the tabs on the heat exchanger ring was way overtightened by someone long ago and broke the tab clean off. I have it, luckily. It was still attached by the bolt and is in one piece. Some extra repair around where it was broken needs to be done as well. Nothing major, it actually could be left as it is, since the two exchanger halves still seal fine but I'd rather have the area welded back into shape. The other is the base plate is pretty severely rotted out, so I am going to have this completely redone which is fine since the original plate does not have the outer ring for the sheet metal heat jacket. That is the other thing it needs, is a new sheet metal heat jacket which was removed for asbestos abatement. There are small remnants of asbestos here and there, so I'm sure the thing was covered in it.

We finally coaxed out what the guy had in mind for what he wanted for it, which was $100. That happened to be my budget, exact. I had planned on going $100 maximum. Of course my great friend Lyman who is great at making deals, worked on the guy and we finally ended up with it for $85! Amazing deal. $100 was an amazing deal I thought, for that matter. The one thing we had on our side was that the guy needed it out of there asap, since the house is a rental and he had new tenants moving in whom I guess didn't want the furnace sitting in their basement space.

So we disassembled it completely, my two buddies did all the heavy lifting. One of the great design features of these is they come apart in multiple easy-to-carry (by furnace standards) stacking sections. Really smart, instead of one whole unit that is barely movable. Two guys and you can move this easily. This one is in seven sections. Baseplate, ash pit body casting, first pit ring, second pit ring, fire door body casting, bottom heat exchanger half, top heat exchanger half. Also all the doors with their mounting plates come off as well.

It even has all the shaker levers (save for maybe a couple of pieces) and grate. It was never converted over to oil or gas, appears it wasn't used for wood either (no creosote at all), so it has the original doors, everything intact and nothing welded shut. No cleaning needed, just a light brushing with a wire brush in a few places. The heat exchanger ring is clean as a whistle inside. It also has an 8" clean-out port for scrubbing/vacuuming which will be great for fly ash removal.

So it's a vintage 1920 Holland Vaporaire No. 22 Special All-Cast coal gravity furnace, made by the Holland Furnace Company, of Holland, MI. They were in business from 1906 until 1966.

If anyone has any information out there it would be most appreciated. I looked online and found a book about the company, and some other little ads and such. I am trying to find the book as a downloadable PDF, but no luck yet. I would really like to find a 1920 manual and or catalog though.

So Mike (Pacowy) is going to assist me in converting this big guy into a stoker with a conversion stoker unit. I have a huge LAU (22" I believe) squirrel cage blower which I kept from my old 250,000 BTU oil guzzler that I will be installing as well.

The other great thing is, I can use this furnace for any fuel I may need to use it for. I'm 100% for coal, but if I'm ever forced into something else for any reason, I'll always be able to adapt.

I'll be sure to post pictures as I go along on the restoration. I'm cleaning the parts as I go and will be painting the doors and faceplates with 2100º stove paint. Any color suggestions? They were originally painted flat black. I attached a picture from the listing, this is how it looked when we went to pick it up. I'll get pictures of the parts soon.

Image


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blrman07
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Hand Fed Coal Boiler: Bucket a Day
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Coal Size/Type: Pea/Nut/Wood in the VC and anything that will fit in the Bucket a Day. It's not fussy.
Location: Girardville Pa.

Post Wed. Apr. 24, 2013 7:55 am

It looks great!!! Even if something goes belly up during the rebuild, you can at least get your money back in scrap value. That monster is going to work very well for you. I ran across one that heated two row homes in Shamokin Pa. Yep TWO homes off one furnace utilizing Gravity hot air.

Rev. Larry
Rev. Larry
Ashland Pa.

1 John 1:9... If we sin and we confess that sin He is faithful and just and will forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

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Dennis
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Location: Pottstown,Pa

Post Wed. Apr. 24, 2013 8:11 am

WE had one that was 5' wide and it used to heat a 30 room ,3 floor old building. 4000 sqft. is a large place,but that will heat it with out a problem,but it will use alot of coal.

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McGiever
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Location: Junction of PA-OH-WV

Post Wed. Apr. 24, 2013 8:34 am

Member *GRATEMAN* probabley has some knowlege of these.
SLOW AND STEADY WINS THE RACE

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CoalHeat
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Stoker Coal Boiler: 1959 EFM 350
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Coal Size/Type: Rice and Chestnut
Other Heating: Fisher Fireplace Insert
Location: Stillwater, New Jersey

Post Wed. Apr. 24, 2013 8:41 am

Nice find!!!
Heating a circa 1832 farmhouse with a Harman Magnafire Mark I & a 1959 EFM 350 (heating DHW).
100% Oil Free!
"It's what we learn after we think we know it all that counts."

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Kev
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Hand Fed Coal Furnace: Holland #22 Special All-Cast
Location: Middle Granville, NY

Post Thu. Apr. 25, 2013 7:21 pm

blrman07 wrote:It looks great!!! Even if something goes belly up during the rebuild, you can at least get your money back in scrap value. That monster is going to work very well for you. I ran across one that heated two row homes in Shamokin Pa. Yep TWO homes off one furnace utilizing Gravity hot air.

Rev. Larry
Thanks Larry! That's crazy, heating that much square footage without it being forced air even. I've heard from lots of old timers who were around these and they all say the heat they put out is incredible. I hope it doesn't go belly-up! I'm being very careful with the parts, if I drop one on my cement floor it's done. But yes, certainly would make a profit in scrap which is where most of these have gone, sadly.
Dennis wrote:WE had one that was 5' wide and it used to heat a 30 room ,3 floor old building. 4000 sqft. is a large place,but that will heat it with out a problem,but it will use alot of coal.
Was that measured with the heat jacket on it? I believe mine is around that though, I have to go measure the width of the heat exchanger. And yes, I anticipated the coal consumption. I will be adding things to make it more efficient though as well, such as insulating the new heat jacket and building the cold air return box over the flue pipe coming off the back.
McGiever wrote:Member *GRATEMAN* probabley has some knowlege of these.
Thanks, I'll have to contact him.
Wood'nCoal wrote:Nice find!!!
Thanks!

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rockwood
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Hot Air Coal Stoker Furnace: Stokermatic coal furnace
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Coal Size/Type: Soft coal: Lump and stoker (slack coal)
Location: Utah

Post Thu. Apr. 25, 2013 8:54 pm

These furnaces work great with coal. The heavy cast iron is great for soaking up all the heat from a deep bed of burning coal. A stoker will work fine but, IMO, hand firing would be best as far as efficiency goes. Be sure to use enough furnace cement to seal all the sections together making the furnace as airtight as possible.

A furnace like this will easily last another 90 years :)
"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free." -Goethe

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Dennis
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Post Fri. Apr. 26, 2013 7:30 am

Just a guess,but you can easily fit a good wheel barrow of coal in it. That's old cast and it can be welded if need be and get a 5 gal bucket of furnace cement you will need it.When you get tired of shoveling coal into it,you can get a under feed stoker conversion unit for it.


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Kev
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Hand Fed Coal Furnace: Holland #22 Special All-Cast
Location: Middle Granville, NY

Post Fri. Apr. 26, 2013 6:58 pm

rockwood wrote:These furnaces work great with coal. The heavy cast iron is great for soaking up all the heat from a deep bed of burning coal. A stoker will work fine but, IMO, hand firing would be best as far as efficiency goes. Be sure to use enough furnace cement to seal all the sections together making the furnace as airtight as possible.

A furnace like this will easily last another 90 years :)
I figured as much, nothing like good old cast iron to soak up the heat.

I was actually thinking about that, keeping it a hand-fed. I would have to find some parts for the shaker assembly, there are a few things missing as far as I can tell. The big stuff is there though. I'm still trying to figure out how it all went together, I have figured out some of it. Good to know the beast will outlast me, unless I live to 120. :D
Dennis wrote:Just a guess,but you can easily fit a good wheel barrow of coal in it. That's old cast and it can be welded if need be and get a 5 gal bucket of furnace cement you will need it.When you get tired of shoveling coal into it,you can get a under feed stoker conversion unit for it.
The fire pot is 22" at it's widest, where the grate sits. You'd be able to get quite a bit in there. I like the idea of it being kept as a hand fed, but I'm not sure I'd have the time to tend it that often. I would have enough time for a stoker, but not sure on the manual feeding. I have no idea on how often I would have to feed it and shake it down. Right now I'm leaning towards the underfed conversion stoker.

I do need a small section on the heat exchanger welded as I mentioned. Good to know about the cement, I'll be sure to get a bucket of it then. Any opinion on the furnace sealants they make in caulking tubes? I was wondering if these may work better than the cement. I found one rated for 2100º. Not sure if it would be durable enough though.

Here are the pictures of all the parts, as promised. They're scattered around my basement right now. I have a few in my workshop for working on. The heat exchanger is 30" wide, but with the heat jacket the furnace would be right around 5' wide.

Image
All the shaker levers, grate mounting arm and grate. Not sure what the flower pot stand thingy is or what it did. Any ideas?
Image
8" clean-out door.
Image
Small removable (viewing door I assume?) that mounts in the ash pit door frame.
Image
Ash pit door.
Image
Ash pit door frame.
Image
Image
Image
The fire pot, last image a view through the door. The thing hanging down is a metal swinging baffle of some sort.
Image
Ash pit with one fire pot ring on it.
Image
Image
Ash pit with both fire pot rings on it. Main fire pot casting sits on these.
Image
The two heat exchanger halves. Bottom on the left, top on the right.
Image
The only part that's rotted out, the base plate which I will likely have remade out of steel plate.

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Kev
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Hand Fed Coal Furnace: Holland #22 Special All-Cast
Location: Middle Granville, NY

Post Tue. May. 14, 2013 10:50 pm

Hey guys,

I'm currently working in little bits on the furnace, and I have a few questions.

This was before anything was made airtight and this will probably leak like a sieve. I know this isn't a terrible thing, but should I be putting gaskets on the doors and trying to make it as airtight as possible? It would be a challenge, the contact area between the door frame and door is anywhere from a 1/4" to an 1/8". If I should be putting gaskets on, how should I go about it? Can I get the flat rope and fold it over the frame lip, gluing it in place with cement or high temp silicone? Also the fire door has a viewing hole in it, which is covered on the back by a heat absorption plate with perforation holes. Should this be sealed off? Someone had a huge wad of asbestos cement in it, which obviously was added later. One other area is the clean out, which is in the top heat exchanger ring, directly opposite exhaust pipe outlet on the other side of the ring. Obviously I want the clean out to be usable, but I assume this definitely needs to be sealed well. The gases exit the firepot at that point and are forced all the way around the ring before going out the exhaust pipe. It's a simple swing lid with the same closed contact area as the doors.

Also a friend of mine told me I can use the gasket rope between the firepot sections, instead of furnace cement. Is this safe, or should I use the cement?

I think that is it for now. I'll have plenty more as I go along. Any help would be appreciated.

Oh and I am definitely going to try this as it was originally intended, as a hand fed. I finally figured out how the shaker/dumper handle controls go together, thanks to picture I found showing another Holland with the assembly still together. Still need to find the linkage that goes from those to the grate.

P.S. I found a small what appears to be a tiny date stamp on the fire door saying 7/26. So apparently it was made in July 1926. I had thought it was 1920 since the house was supposedly built then, but Trulia may be wrong.

franco b
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Post Tue. May. 14, 2013 11:09 pm

I would use furnace cement on the sections. The ash pit and its door is the area you have to be concerned about to get a tight fit. The fire door is not nearly so important.

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rockwood
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Location: Utah

Post Wed. May. 15, 2013 1:32 am

I'm surprised the door doesn't fit better than that. Looking at the photo's it looks like it fits well...? I've never seen big gaps like that on this type of furnace, the doors usually fit quite well.

Is the draft control missing on the main door? If so, you will need use a piece of tin or something to seal it off...how 'bout figuring out a way to fit a sheet of mica so you could view the fire without opening the door :idea:

I have tried using gasket rope to seal cast iron sections together and found it difficult to keep the rope in place while putting everything together, plus it's hard to tell if it's sealing the gaps properly. I would use furnace cement...and plenty of it.

Franko b is right, the ashpit needs to be as airtight as possible so you can completely control the airflow through the coal bed with the draft control in the ash pit door.

When you get the furnace up and running, check the chimney draft with a draft gauge, if it's consistently higher than -0.05 then I would install a barometric damper.
"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free." -Goethe

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dcrane
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Post Wed. May. 15, 2013 7:02 am

It looks like squishy low density rope gasket is perfect for the connections of heat exchanger as well as firepot sections (it was clearly made for it and thats fine), I would take off that viewing plate from the door and as others said get a piece of Mica and stick it on the door with some of that black rtv sealant (being a flat door you can use the existing two holes and have a simple bracket made to place some pressure against the mica like all mica view stove have). The doors don't appear to have any "latching" mechanism to make using gasket on them functional (the top door may have a latching mechanism but it appears broken?), you can make these doors accept rope gasket by braising on some some small angle iron tabs at the corners and one in middle of each side to give yourself a channel for the gasket to hold in, but without a pressure latching mechanism to close the door its not going to serve much purpose and you would need to either drill out the hinge holes to allow some play or reduce the diam. of the hinge pins to allow play if you use a gasket (flat window gasket on those doors will not work and it will just frustrate and come off the first heating season). The clean out flapper is great! (I think if you simply make sure the touching faces of this flapper are clean & smooth your fine, you can throw a spring on it to help give it some pressure if your so inclined as it may have had one judging by the hole in the center of it?). As others have said....if you have any draft at all you don't need to be as concerned with air titeness above the firepot.

NOTE: be very careful when tightening those tabs together on the exchanger (those tabs should not touch each other) your merely applying a slight, even amount of pressure around each tab (obviously the previous owner failed at this :lol: )

Great to see someone really doing this on a big ole' manual burner! cant wait to see this beauty in action!!! :clap:

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rockwood
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Hot Air Coal Stoker Furnace: Stokermatic coal furnace
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Coal Size/Type: Soft coal: Lump and stoker (slack coal)
Location: Utah

Post Thu. May. 16, 2013 12:03 pm

dcrane wrote:(the top door may have a latching mechanism but it appears broken?)
You're right Doug, it is broken. There is about an inch of cast iron missing from the latch...you would turn and it would wedge against the door keeping it closed. These are heavy duty so I'm surprised to see one broken like that. He'll have to make some sort of latch for it.
The ash pit door typically didn't have any latching mechanism on these old furnaces.
"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free." -Goethe

franco b
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Post Thu. May. 16, 2013 12:11 pm

The flower pot thingy was a stand to hold a hot water tank vertically.


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