Gravity Furnace Repair & Service

Gravity furnace

Gravity Furnaces in Los Angeles: What Are They & Why Are They Here?

If you never heard of a gravity furnace until recently, you’re not alone.

It’s an outdated and inefficient heating technology. Gravity furnaces had their heyday in the early 20th century and were already giving way to HVAC systems and central heat by the 1960s.

But if you live in a historic home or work in a pre-1960s commercial building, a gravity furnace may be a part of your winter reality.

Your building has a gravity furnace. Now what?

The population of metro Los Angeles reached 2 million in the 1920s. Good weather, a burgeoning entertainment industry, explosive growth in construction — LA was the place to be! And you didn’t even need a furnace! — at least not most days.

When you did turn on the furnace, it tended to be a gravity furnace, the high-tech of the time.

Many commercial buildings and homes from the pre-WWII boom of Los Angeles remain today, especially in the older areas of Los Angeles. Not every structure has been renovated and upgraded to modern HVAC systems.

If your home or business still relies on a gravity furnace, you face particular challenges. But why are we telling you that? You already know and may have called around for service only to discover that many appliance repair companies in Los Angeles won’t even touch a gravity furnace.

But we will. Enter West Coast Chief Repair. We have the expertise and experience to:

  • Assess the condition of your gravity furnace;
  • Diagnose any problems with it;
  • Repair those problems, if a repair makes sense;
  • Replace that gravity furnace if needed with a standalone furnace, HVAC system, or ductless heating. We’ll discuss those options with you.

What is a gravity furnace exactly?

A gravity furnace uses gravity to disperse heated air throughout a building. Unlike modern HVAC systems, a gravity furnace lacks a blower. But unlike a radiant appliance — an even older technology — it’s connected to ductwork.

  • A centralized furnace burns fuel to generate heat.
  • Since hot air is lighter, it rises, passing upward through a system of ducts.
  • At the same time, denser cool air passes downward — gravity pulls it down (because it’s heavier, remember?)! It descends to the furnace, where it heats up, rises, and recirculates.
  • This process will continue as long as the furnace stays on.

Gravity furnace = “octopus furnace.” The ducts give it the name.

The heat from a gravity furnace ascends on its own. It isn’t forced through the ducts. Therefore, the ducts that carry it have more volume than standard HVAC ducts.

Why? Try blowing through a straw — first a straw with a large diameter, then a small one. It takes far less energy to push air through a large opening.

  • Conspicuous ductwork gives gravity furnaces their alternate name: “octopus” furnaces. The arms of an octopus are hard to miss, just like the oversized ductwork of a gravity furnace.
  • Gravity furnaces are bulky compared to modern heaters. They’re inherently inefficient, generating heat at a much slower rate for a given quantity of energy.
  • Most gravity furnaces used coal as a fuel source back in the day. However, most coal-fed units are gone or retrofitted to burn propane, fuel oil, or natural gas.
    Gravity heat circulating system

    Why repair a gravity furnace?

    Gravity furnaces are mind-numbingly inefficient. 50% of the energy they produce goes out through the chimney and not into your home! Bad for Santa, bad for the environment, bad for you and your heating bill.

    • It usually makes more sense to replace than repair. But in certain situations, repair may be an attractive option.
    • It may be prohibitively expensive to remove a gravity furnace and install new ducting that meets the requirements of a modern furnace, HVAC unit, or heat pump.
    • Replacement costs climb even higher if asbestos is present. Asbestos is a carcinogenic material that calls for laborious, costly removal protocols.

    Call West Coast Chief for Gravity Furnace Repair

    • West Coast Chief technicians can perform any gravity furnace repair.
    • We’ll resolve any issues with airflow and ducting.
    • We’ll schedule a maintenance routine to prevent future airflow issues related to lint or dust buildup.
    • We’ll give you an unbiased and detailed assessment to help you decide if the time has come for replacement.

    Why replace a gravity furnace?

    Typically, the reasons to replace a gravity furnace are more compelling than the reasons to repair. But upfront costs for replacement can be steep. Expense is the usual reason why some customers prefer to soldier on with their gravity furnace dating back to the Roosevelt administration.

    Other factors come into play, aside from the investment price of a new furnace, new ducting, or a new HVAC system. Replacement is your best and maybe your only option if:

    • Your gravity furnace needs frequent repair or shows corrosion.
    • Your energy bills are high, and your comfort is low.
    • Your furnace has lost structural integrity. A damaged seam on a gravity furnace can release deadly carbon monoxide into your home.
    • You’re looking to air condition your home as well and control heating and cooling from a single thermostat. HVAC systems can’t support a gravity furnace or work with antique ductwork of a gravity unit.

    Even in peak condition, a gravity furnace wastes more fuel than a modern heating unit.

    • 50% of the heat generated by a gravity furnace goes out the exhaust vent. It doesn’t warm your house at all.
    • In comparison, modern heaters use 90% or more of the heat they create to warm interior spaces.
    • Inefficient, gas-burning gravity furnaces are heavy polluters and significant producers of greenhouse gases.

    Call West Coast Chief for gravity furnace replacement

    If the time has come to say goodbye to your old friend, the gravity furnace no longer up to the task, call us.

    • We’ll offer an honest assessment of your furnace’s condition and detail your options.
    • We’ve replaced gravity furnaces before! Many times.
    • We have the knowledge and experience to follow all asbestos removal procedures and safely extract your old unit.
    • You’ll help you find the best heating solution for your home or business and install a new furnace, heat pump, or HVAC system.
    • We’ll upgrade your ductwork for the new heating system and haul your antique ductwork to the dump.
    • We use only new, top-quality parts and components for all installations, from appliances to ductwork.

    Our furnace repair guarantee

    • West Coast Chief has a long-standing record of excellence in furnace repair in metro Los Angeles.
    • All repairs come with a parts warranty of at least 90 days.
    • All repairs have a 30-day labor warranty.
    • We use only quality parts. Our goal with every repair is to extend the life of your gravity furnace for as long as possible.