uring the summer, I wrote a little about working on the chimney of the new house with my dad. Namely, we pulled out a hundred pounds of debris that had built up over years of lack of use. Last week, Pops and I finished up the project by dropping a 6″-diameter aluminum flexpipe liner down the chimney. (According to my dad, the holder of all knowledge, natural gas exhaust is acidic and eats away at mortar, which explains all the eroded sand and lime we pulled out a few months ago. The liner is meant to protect further damage from occurring.) After installing the liner and creating a hood, we fired up the gas heater insert.
The house came with an old gas fireplace insert. There’s evidence the fireplace was likely originally coal-burning, so I’d always presumed the gas burner was from the 1950s or ’60s. But upon further investigation, it seems the coal fireplace was replaced in the 1910s or ’20s, not long (relatively) after the house was built in about 1890. The back of the insert has a torn, faded sticker that lists a number of patents from the mid 1910s. It also has a couple badges naming it the Humphrey Radiantfire No. 65. While Googling the relative likelihood of the contraption burning my house down or suffocating me with carbon monoxide, I came across a PDF of the ad above from a 1923 magazine ($40.75 from 1923 equates to roughly $550 today).
So, this rig is probably a hundred years old or so, but I wasn’t too surprised when it worked. It’s in gorgeous shape, and there’s just nothing to go wrong with the mechanics: it’s ten simple gas burners that heat up a thick ceramic plate until it glows orange, which radiates heat out across the room. Which, on a chilly, windy morning like the one today in Omaha, is just about perfect.