This section is from the book "Mechanics Of The Household", by E. S. Keene. Also available from Amazon: Mechanics Of The Household.
The furnace, in general construction, consists of a cast-iron fire-box with its heating surfaces, through which the flames and heated gases from the fire pass, on the way to the chimney; these with the passages and heating surfaces for heating the air compose the essential features. Fig. 45 shows such a furnace with the sides broken away to show the internal construction. The flames and gases from the firebox F circulate through the cast-iron drum D and are discharged at C to the chimney. The drum D is made in such form that it presents to the heat from the fire a large amount of heating surface and at the same time offers as little opposition as possible to the furnace draft. The air to be heated enters the furnace through the cold air duct at the bottom, and after circulating through the drum, passes out at the openings R to the conducting pipes. The cast-iron box W is a water tank that should be attached to every hot-air furnace. The water contained in the tank is for humidifying the air as it passes through the furnace. In this furnace the outside casing is of sheet iron, reinforced with wrought-iron flanges. The front, which contains the doors of the fire-box, ash-pit, etc., are of cast iron of ornamented design.
As the air to be heated passes through the furnace it receives part of its warmth by radiation but most of it is absorbed by coming directly into contact with the heating surfaces Since air is a poor conductor of heat its temperature is raised very slowly;
Fig. 45. - Interior view of a hot-air furnace.
it should, therefore, be kept in contact with the heating surfaces as long as possible to insure an economical furnace. In common practice the ratio of heating surface to grate surface average 35 to 1; that is, for each square foot of grate surface there is 35 square feet of heating surface to warm the passing air. Should this ratio be increased to 50 to 1 the efficiency of the furnace would be much improved.
If the ratio of heating surface to the grate surface is too small for its requirements, the temperature of the air-heating surfaces must be very high to provide the desired amount of heat. Under such a condition the efficiency of the furnace would be low, since in all cases where rapid combustion is required the available amount of heat per pound of coal consumed is low. With a large amount of heating surface, the air remains in contact with the hot surface a relatively longer period and the desired temperature is reached with the expenditure of a smaller amount of fuel. A momentary exposure of the air to a red-hot surface is far less effective than a prolonged contact with a surface having only a moderate temperature. Time is an element of great importance in heating air. In considering the relative merits of two furnaces with the same amount of grate surface, that with the larger amount of heating surface will evidently be the most efficient.
The supply of heat comes primarily from the burning coal on the furnace grate. The grate surface should be large enough in area to permit the required quantity of heat to be generated by the burning fuel with a moderate fire. If the grate surface is too small for the required purpose, a hot fire will be necessary, when the normal amount of heat is demanded by the house. During extremely cold weather, particularly when accompanied by high wind, the extra heat demanded to keep the house at the desired temperature makes necessary the use of an amount of fuel that cannot be burned on the grate unless the fire is forced. Hot fires can be kept up only at the expense of a large amount of heat, and the resultant efficiency of the furnace is reduced.
High furnace temperatures are always attended by a large loss of heat. The vastly greater quantity of air necessary to create the combustion, the high temperature of the chimney gases and the increased velocity of the heated gases through the furnace, all tend to increase the amount of heat that is sent up the chimney, and to decrease the percentage of heat that is delivered by the furnace. In order to heat the house economically the furnace must be large enough to easily generate the required amount of heat demanded in the most severe weather.