Dodged A Bullet ?

When I bought this house it had an ancient gravity fed furnace. It was probably original to the house. It had been converted from coal to gas in about 1960. The pilot light was an open flame, with no safety sensors whatsoever. You can backtrack through this blog to read all about it, or just look at its picture again:

furnace.jpg

I wasn’t confident about lighting the pilot light, and no furnace company dudes I called for quotes would light the pilot, either. I got a new furnace installed.

I much preferred cooking with a gas stove. The one in the house was electric. Before I moved here, I was searching for a nice vintage gas stove. In my previous home, I had a 1920’s Acme gas stove, made in Guelph. Older gas stoves can be primitive (depending on the age) in that they do not have a regulator, so you have to light the oven with a match. You light the oven, then it tells you how hot it is and you adjust the setting accordingly – the opposite of more modern stoves where the oven will heat to what it is set to. They have a pilot light which is a small flame that stays on all the time. I don’t do any gourmet cooking or baking that I need a fancy chef’s stove for. The Acme stove had been more than adequate for what I needed it to do – make food hot.

I spotted an utterly stunning and rare late 1940’s Odin Beautyrange (gas) for sale on Kijiji:

odinbeautyrange.jpg

I don’t know much about the manufacturer. I had seen other Odin stoves in typical white porcelain, and an Odin catalogue. I don’t know if these amazing all chrome stoves were made as a luxury item, or for store display, promotional contests or what. I have seen a couple of others online, but with no information. All I knew was that I was deeply in stove awe.

One important detail about owning a vintage stove is that unless you have a skilled mechanic who KNOWS vintage or antique stoves, or have the moola to have one shipped across the country to a mechanic/restorer, it is very important that you are able to test the stove before you buy it. The seller had got it from somewhere, but didn’t have it hooked up, and had never personally used it. I contacted the used appliance store that had sold us the 20’s Acme 11 years previously. The son had taken over his dad’s business, and had THROWN OUT decades of old stove parts. He was willing to have a look at the stove if I paid him to make a service call to somewhere where the stove was hooked up to gas. A stove like this weighs 200 or 300 lbs, with steel construction, and heavy parts. They are not exactly portable. There was a lot of back and forth with the seller, but ultimately we could not make this transaction work as there was nowhere to test the stove. I called used appliance places for miles around but could not find anyone who was experienced or competent dealing with a vintage gas stove. The brand was uncommon, so finding parts if it needed them would be tough. I can’t describe how it broke my heart to NOT have such an amazing stove. With a stove like that it wouldn’t matter how terrible my kitchen was – visitors would only be able to gaze at that stove.

As I have been researching the implications of the location of the vent for the underground gasoline storage tank, and dealing with the infiltration of the vapours into my house, I started coming across articles like this, about the flashpoint and volatility of gasoline vapours:

https://www.cob.org/services/safety/education/Pages/gasoline.aspx

and this, about many fires that were a result of spilled gasoline or solvent in a garage, storage room, etc. that became explosive when in contact with the gas water heater’s pilot light:

https://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-xpm-1995-07-01-9507010380-story.html

or this:

https://lasvegassun.com/news/2011/jul/31/two-men-injured-gasoline-fumes-flash-fire/

All the advice I could find is like this:

http://www.esfd.org/index.php/facts-and-safety-tips/fire-safety/flammable-substances-facts-tips

but I couldn’t find anything about when a large volume of gasoline vapours are coming from OUTSIDE the house, from a higher level (ie the gas station’s vent), then sinking to a lower level inside a house, with appliances with a pilot light.

What could have happened if I had that ancient furnace still up and running ? What could have happened with a vintage stove with a pilot light ?

I will say this: no one from the TSSA or the licensed Petroleum Contractor ever knocked on my door, or left me a note inquiring about what kind of gas appliances I had, or how old they were. No one asked these questions of the neighbours across the street either. There is at least one house that I would not be surprised to discover has an old or ancient gas furnace and/or gas water heater and/or gas stove and/or gas dryer in use.

Yet no one even asked !

Here’s the Mythbusters(with UK narration), trying to test whether a mobile phone can create an explosion at a gas station. This isn’t super relevant to my concerns, but their demonstration of the ignition of gasoline vapours with a small spark, like static, is pretty alarming. Imagine a pilot light instead, with gasoline vapours rolling in from above:

A fireman training exercise gone wrong, with accelerant vapours in a house:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s