Winnipeg woman’s 79-year-old working furnace wins her a new one

WINNIPEG – A furnace that started heating a Winnipeg home during the Great Depression has finally been retired.

The 79-year-old beast found in a Luxton-area home – it filled the entire basement – won the Furnace Experts contest for the oldest working gas furnace in Winnipeg. Owner Beatrice Solsberg won a new high-efficiency furnace, duct work and air conditioner.

Solsberg said it was called an octopus furnace because of the amount of ductwork coming out of it.

“It really looks like an octopus,” she said. “The vents come out from everywhere and it fills up the whole basement.”

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She had to duck to get anywhere in her basement because of the one-foot ducts running through it, she said as a crew worked to install her new furnace Monday.

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The 79-year-old furnace found in a Luxton Avenue basement is ready for removal. Furnace Experts handout / Global Winnipeg
The ductwork from a 79-year-old furnace awaits removal Monday. Furnace Experts handout / Global Winnipeg
Ductwork from a 79-year-old furnace lies in a Luxton Avenue backyard after it was removed. It filled the home's basement. Furnace Experts handout / Global Winnipeg
The 79-year-old gas furnace found in the basement of a Luxton Avenue home is prepped for removal. Furnace Experts handout / Global Winnipeg

The new one “looks like a Barbie doll furnace to me, in comparison,” she said.

The installation is going to take two workers four days and would have cost Solsberg about $13,000, Furnace Experts owner Nancy Rybak said. A furnace installation usually takes six or seven hours, she said.

“It’s a huge job,” she said.

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When she came up with the idea for the contest she was thinking about the marketing angle, not what they would find – but the result impressed her company.

Every furnace in the running for the contest was inspected so they could confirm the age. (Solsberg’s Sears furnace had a plate with the week and year the furnace was made on it.) The first technician to see Solsberg’s beast told his boss, who went and looked for himself, and then he told Rybak she should go look, so she traipsed over as well.

“She had to know something was up,” Rybak said with a laugh about all the visits to Solsberg’s house. “None of us have seen anything like it.”

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Solsberg looks forward to seeing the difference in her gas bill and said as someone who’s concerned about her environmental footprint, the inefficient furnace made her feel guilty.

The old furnaces were made to last, though, she said.

“I was told over the years positives about it – that this furnace will never break,” she said. “Guys who would come down to check on it would get very excited about it. They’d say it’s been so long since they’d seen one of these guys.”

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Furnace Experts is now holding an oldest air conditioner contest – they’ll have an entry form up soon on their website. Rybak said they don’t expect to see anything nearly as old as Solsberg’s furnace.

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