Fire it up, fire it up

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.

Comments ( 3 )
  • Peggy Landess says:

    My name is Peggy, I grew up in your new house. My parents John & Laura Landess really loved that home. We had many happy family memories there.
    Sadly to say my father past away last year and that is why we had to sale it.
    My mother enjoys reading your blogs and seeing the pictures of the wonderful job you have been doing with the house. She does have some old papers that pertain to the history of the house, she would like to know if you want them.
    The floors look awesome and I love the way you have it decorated.
    Please let me know if you would like the papers.

    Take care and Merry Christmas

  • Greg Mika says:


    You’re missing the radiants from your gas fireplace. You’re going to burn your house down if you keep lighting that off without them (Think weedburner)

    The metal bar at the top is meant to hold the tops of the radiants in place….all 10 of them in your case. They fit over the flame jet and in front of the backboard…

  • quentin says:

    Thanks for the concern, Greg. I should have been more specific, but this was posted while I was waiting for the radiants to be delivered. They’re installed now and everything’s up and operational. Photo here:

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