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Old 11-13-2011, 02:11 PM
Location: San Antonio, Tejas
3 posts, read 9,967 times
Reputation: 14


Hello, name's Alex, new to City-Data. Forgive me if there is already a thread on this topic, but I'm trying to find local codes regarding floor furnaces. Searching the internet hasn't been very effective.

I plan on calling the city Code Enforcement Division tomorrow during work hours, but thought I might probe here to see if anyone has any experience with these matters.

Long story short, I recently moved to the great S.A. with my fiance for grad school, and found a decent rental house on the northeast side. Only thing is, the house has this old floor furnace, dating from 1980 (which I know isn't terribly old compared to some), that I know hasn't been used for quite some time. From what I can gather, the previous tenants swept their dog dander into the vent as it was disgustingly dirty, stinky, and dusty when we first moved in. The house itself is at least 50, maybe 60 years old.

I am not convinced that these things are safe to operate. I know that they've been banned in many places across the country, but nothing I've found suggest that that's the case for S.A. And if they're not banned, they seem to be largely discouraged by industry and regulatory standards. The parts for these things are increasingly difficult (and expensive) to find, further indicating their obsoleteness.

My landlord, on the other hand, insists on using it. He has sent his maintenance guy out here a few times, and while I like the guy as he's been helpful in other arenas, I simply can't trust his work given he's not a qualified heating technician. He's openly admitted as much, and has suggested that he's not confident this thing is safe to operate EVEN if he could install the newly-purchased valve. Most importantly, he's identified a leak somewhere in the furnace gas pipe. That there is enough for me to say no.

Any thoughts on the matter? I am trying to convince the landlord to remove the floor furnace and install a new (and abundantly safer) wall furnace, or a central system. Though he may be cheap, he is reasonable - hence my arming myself with code and/or ordinances regarding these units.

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Old 11-13-2011, 02:45 PM
3,154 posts, read 5,190,161 times
Reputation: 1770
Floor furnaces were popular here in homes built probably 60+ years ago. The slab foundations that became the norm here in the early 1950s pretty much precluded the installation of such heaters in those homes, with wall panel heating, and central heating becoming more common.

I doubt that floor furnaces have been available for many years, and maybe they are no longer permitted by code, but usually things like that are considered "grandfathered", if it met applicable codes at the time of installation or construction. I'm not surprised parts are difficult to come by. Most of those furnaces have been replaced by now.

I don't know if the "maintenance man" is a licensed HVAC tech or plumber, but if not, this sounds like a case for an evaluation by such a qualified person. They'll probably recommend replacement of the unit with a more modern system, if it can't be easily or safely repaired.
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Old 11-13-2011, 03:07 PM
Location: San Antonio, TX
8,400 posts, read 20,161,843 times
Reputation: 4435
I cannot find anything in the city code the prohibits floor furnaces, but feel free to check it yourself: San Antonio Municode - Search

The state also lists a lot of resources on this site: Texas Building Codes and Standards Links. I cannot find anything against them in the state code either.

You might try the House area of this forum, it deals with home issues not specific to any one location.

And if it becomes an issue between you and your landlord, this might help: Texas Tenant Rights.

Good luck! M2
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Old 11-13-2011, 03:09 PM
Location: San Antonio, Tejas
3 posts, read 9,967 times
Reputation: 14
Great, thanks. That was my estimation. The maintenance guy is definitely not a licensed HVAC technician, which was part of my concern. All signs point to replacement as of now, though I know the landlord is not legally responsible to do anything. He's been reasonable on other issues thus far, I think he'll work with us so long as we all know it's a dated and dangerous unit. I suppose next step is to officially confirm that. Surprisingly, CPS Energy would have nothing to do with my questions, seemed like a good place to start to me. Thanks again.
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Old 11-13-2011, 03:20 PM
Location: San Antonio, TX
11,161 posts, read 20,457,871 times
Reputation: 26438
Your landlord is required to provide heat for the home, as part of city code. He probably knows this.

Installing central heat would be a fairly expensive project since the house wasn't built with any ductwork.

Probably CPS can't say anything because they haven't seen the equipment or the condition.

We don't have that much cold weather here, if you like the house and the rent is low it might not be worth making a huge issue with the landlord. Possibly a couple of space heaters would do the job, especially if you don't have kids.

If the landlord repairs the furnace and you end up using it, be sure to get a carbon monoxide detector (you should have one anyhow if the appliances are gas).
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Old 11-13-2011, 03:50 PM
Location: San Antonio, Tejas
3 posts, read 9,967 times
Reputation: 14
Yeah, central AC/heat is a long shot, and certainly not necessary. Though no harm in a friendly suggestion

I'm generally not overly sensitive to cold, but air drafts and wood floors don't allow for heat to sustain in our new house. These cold fronts have proved that even a mild winter will be pretty uncomfortable without heat. Yes, we do have carbon monoxide detectors, so at least that's covered. Considering everything, we do like our house and neighborhood. Perhaps especially the low rent. I'm hopeful we can find some middle ground.

The underlying consensus I've gathered here is that these floor furnaces - if properly maintained- are ok to use. That's of some relief. Truth is, I've never used or seen one, but the sheer logic of gas-propelled floor heat (in the middle of a hallway, no less) seemed to go against my better judgement. And reading about them online seemed to further sway my opinion.

Thanks for the city code link, I didn't find that in any previous searches. And you're right: nothing to suggest they've been banned.

Thanks for all the great responses, makes for a great welcoming.
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Old 11-13-2011, 08:13 PM
874 posts, read 1,164,214 times
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Whatever you do, be sure to get a carbon monoxide detector and be sure to check that it is operating correctly on a frequent basis. Based on the age of the heater, carbon monoxide leakage is a real risk if there are any cracks in the heat exchanger and the fact that they typically draw combustion air from inside the house. Modern heating units don't do that. Don't need you going to bed one cold night and not waking up the next day!
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Old 11-13-2011, 08:51 PM
3,154 posts, read 5,190,161 times
Reputation: 1770
Since the house has a floor furnace, I take it that it has window or wall air conditioners. There are window & wall mount air conditioners available that both heat & cool. I believe all the combo units like that require a 220V circuit, whereas most of the smaller cool-only units are 110V.

Just another option for the landlord to consider, if the floor furnace can't be made to operate satisfactorily.
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