1989 Janitrol Issues fix/replace
Here goes: I own a vacation condo in the midwest that is about 40+ years old slightly less than 1500 sq ft. It currently is serviced by a Janitrol manufactured in 1989 (per serial number) with only identifying info that is still legible is U-36. It is a split system located in an outside closet. The system runs on propane however, the local natural gas company is about to complete their project to switch to natural gas in the next 2 weeks or so. The system has been running like a tank up to about the last couple of years. General maintenance items including recharging the freon this summer. This weekend the pilot had difficulties staying lit. Once lit, the burners would fire but would then shut off when the blower would not turn on. The pilot would also go out. HVAC contractor came out and diagnosed several possible issues. 1. Blower limit since he could tap on it and then it would go on but eventually blower would shut off; 2. bad valve (we could not test the pressure in the valve since the screw was stripped and could not be easily removed; 3. kink in the propane line (although pressure at the meter post kink was ok).
The next day I was able to have the gas company fix the kink in the propane lines. This allowed the system to stay on so long as i kept the blower in the "on" position as opposed to the "auto" position. The burners would cycle on and off normally depending on the temp in the condo. if I left the system in "auto" the blower would not kick on.
I and our contractor tend to believe that the fan limit is bad (although he did not diagnosis on it other than tapping it with a screwdriver and it turned on). We believe that the kink affected the propane pressure which made it appear like a valve issue. Since the gas company will need to replace the valve due to the stripped screw, a new valve will solve that problem if it was a problem to begin with.
i should also mention that we primarily use the condo on the weekends and during the holidays. Unfortunately that means weekend and holiday rates each time someone has to come out.
With all of that in mind, replacing the fan limit appears to be a fairly routine fix for $ bucks. However I don't want to invest more dollars into a 24 year old janitrol system. Is there any other testing that we should do to test the system? Our HVAC contractor has indicated that the system otherwise appears fine given its age. He is quoting a Westinghouse replacement (possibly a Ruud furnace) if we don't want to keep putting dollars into the system. Obviously a new system would be more efficient. Any thoughts as to how the older Janitrol will work with a new valve on natural gas vs propane? Better to just replace the system instead of the $ to $ /year misc fix charges? If I replace, are all low end (meaning efficiency ) the same? I don't need anything fancy since we do not use all year round.
Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
thanks and sorry for the long-winded post.
Last edited by beenthere; 11-06-2013 at 08:08 PM.
So basically you're asking whether it's "better" to keep putting money into an old furnace or replace it? Depends on your long range goal. If you wish to keep "fixing" the old one, then do so. If you wish to upgrade and not keep patching the old unit it's also your choice. If it were mine and this age I'd replace it.
It's Jani-junk. Replace it, especially since it's been run on LP.
Experience - knowing when to get the hell out of the way and plug your ears. "Don't be a sissy. Turn it on!"
I would get a nice shiney new 95% efficient furnace .
What affect does LP have on a system that is converted? The jani has run for a long time and has been pretty reliable.
Given this system resides in an outdoor closet, any one system better than the other? Like i said, looking at a Westinghouse. thoughts on whether the entry level systems from one brand to another are basically similar or does one stand out vs another? Given the low usage, was thinking around a 13 seer HVAC and a 90-95% efficiency furnace. I am not sure what SEER the current Jani is but I suspect 8-10 with a 60-70% efficiency 100,000 BTU furnace. Thus, the entry level should be quite an improvement. Given the unit is outside, should I be thinking differently and going with a slightly higher grade within x brand? I would like to get another 24 years out of the system. thanks.
You will most likely be better off with a new furnace and ac system since you have a refrigerant leak and at its age you are better to get a new ac system than get a new coil with old condenser or vise versa especially since its not good to mix different SEER equipment. LP has more "energy" per cuft compared to Natural gas and can tend to be tougher on furnaces, the orifices are smaller and the regulator is modified for this but NG units seem to have a longer life expectancy. Others know better about this than me as the Heat pump is king here. The brand isn't as important as the installation, all manufacturers make high and low end products, but I don't think any newer equipment will last as long as the older stuff did. Make sure the contractor doesn't over size your new furnace. If you have a 70% AFUE 100kbtu input you are getting around 70kbtu output (in ideal conditions) so if you go with a 90% (which being in outdoor closet should make new pvc venting easy enough) 100kbtu Furnace you are now getting 90kbtu heat output which is way to much. If you do decide to keep the janitrol the conversion is simple enough modify/replace regulator and change orifices but make sure contractor gives the heat exchanger a good looking over. In your climate seer isn't as important but the main thing is comfort options. Ie a variable speed furnace can make your overall system be more comfortable and as a side benefit a higher AC SEER rating, esp with a nicer CU. Also that 3 Ton ac seems oversized also, but limited blower options and general oversizing was pretty much the norm back then. You will like the cheaper natural gas regardless, and if you were still on LP I might suggest dual fuel but with a 90% furnace on natural gas, it probably would not be worth it. Cant say for sure without doing the calc, but you are probably looking at a 2 Ton AC system, with 60kbtu 90% Furnace depending on blower options. Not to drag this out but duct work was generally undersized which would give it a high probability of making it more suitable to your smaller sized new system. Being that the system lasted this long with no major issues like a cracked HX or bad motors, it sounds like it isn't too undersized, but if it is older all metal/round pipe, it would be prudent to have the contractor seal up/mastic the joints and insulate or reinsulate it with newer duct wrap being at least R8. Not to mention things you could do like add extra insulation, caulk around windows if older ect..
Janitrol is a poorly made, cheaply made furnace. Their heat exchangers have one of the highest, if not the highest, failure rate in the industry. What's worse, is that they can fail and the unit still chugs along like nothing happened. This is BAD.
Originally Posted by Waver28
LP makes it worse. It burns hotter and the byproducts are more corrosive. Add this to the above and you have a recipe for disaster, especially in an older unit.
I dont consider a leaky AC and multiple repair parts in the furnace to be a 'reliable' unit. Put your money into a new unit designed for your application.
Also beware that installing a condensing furnace into an unconditioned space may possibly void the warranty of the unit. If it freezes bad things may happen to the water containing parts of the furnace. Improper installation or usage is not covered by warranty.
Experience - knowing when to get the hell out of the way and plug your ears. "Don't be a sissy. Turn it on!"
Don't waste any more money. Replace. Recommend American Standard.
Get a proper head load/loss calculation done. Replace this 20+ owes you nothing equ with a nice new duel fuel system.
Is the gas co offering any incentives?
Janitrol is now sold thru Goodman/Amana but as most have mentioned replacing would be much more sensible. Brand wise? Just get a unit from a dealer who'll take good care of you. There are only about 7 manufacturers in business now but they are selling their units under about 50 different brands. Me? I'd stay away from dealers offering programs like "no interest for 36 months" or "thousand in manufacturer's rebates" as these misleading programs will be paid for by the unwitting customers thru higher prices of both units and cost of "participation" by the dealership who offers them. Darn....there I let the cat out of the bag....shucks.
As for dual fuel or "hybrid" systems, make sure and check cost of gas and electric as I actually have one of these in my own home and have shut the heat pump off in winter since electric prices have climbed since Olordarama has been in office. Nat. gas is abundant and reasonably priced while electric has risen 3 or 4 times in the last 2 years!
without knowing your lifestyle or desires to have...
straight up heat-recovery to hot water from a/c and in heating and on-demand/instant hw heating... one may not only look at American Standard but their/Trane/ new proven VFD variable geothermal and HW or the others rated CLOSED LOOP if you have no open loop idea available.
highest efficient simpler single speeds and two speeds are about a years ROI less, but in 10 years, less overall saved, generally , dep on one most important thing:
GEOTHERMAL is called in to Energy Star(tm) ratings with a "32f" ground loop and higher may be performance guaranteed you... for say 34f loop at its coldest , average- cold peak of average winters (situational/ and about lifestyle) ---
a reasonably over-sized loop has many benefits and the Heat recovery to even little HW generator DeSuperheaters is enough for most , but again if you never wanted to consider instant hot water with an HVAC and HW heating systemic.
I would bet money your heat exchanger has multiple cracks in it, especially if it's been run on LP. I wouldn't put another dollar in it, junk it. As for brands, keep in mind that most manufacturers use the same base components anymore. Brand isn't as important as finding someone competent to put it in and service it.
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Statements made by me are strictly my opinions and do not reflect the opinions of my employer. I am not authorized to make any official statements on behalf of my employer.
Any technical advice offered by me is for educational purposes only, all HVAC related repairs should only be attempted by qualified personnel.
Thanks to everyone's posts. I agree that finding the right person will be key. Unfortunately choices are few where our lake condo is located and so far this week i have yet to even receive a call back. 3 folks were supposed to view the system on Monday and Tuesday (since it is outside they can see it) and our maintenance guys can let them in. I would expect a response within 1 week seems sufficient without me having to call again.
Not sure I follow all the comments above, specifically around testing. That said, since we only spend maybe 1 weekend a month at the condo (little longer in the summer time) i was not leaning towards a heat pump. Our neighobors have one down there and it is pretty loud. I do suspect i have the smaller duct work that is not accessible. I did speak with a few other folks down there and they all went with a brand based on a lower price. They really had no meaningful information they could provide as to why they otherwise chose the specific unit.
Will post with additional questions if I have any.