SAN FRANCISCO — Atlas Heating and Ventilation has found the oldest working Atlas heater in the Bay Area.

Kevin and Bridget Hiler of San Francisco’s Richmond District are the proud owners of an Atlas furnace that has been keeping their house warm since 1917 — as confirmed by the San Francisco’s Assessor’s Office, said Atlas. The furnace was originally for coal-burning and was converted to gas. It will be replaced with a Trane heating system. Meanwhile, the original furnace will be placed in the soon-to-be-built Atlas Warm Air Museum.

“We’re delighted to have won this contest,” said Bridget Hiler. “I still can’t believe that we’re actually getting a new heater and all the duct work as well.”

According to Terry Tuck Meyer, granddaughter of Atlas founder George Tuck, the company had a large response to its contest goal of finding the oldest working Atlas furnace.

“Although what old means depends on who you ask,” she said. “I’ve had people call and tell me that they have a furnace from the 1950s or 1960s, and they were expecting to win. I hated to tell them that we were looking for heaters from the 1920s.”

The original Atlas heaters were created in 1908 by founder Tuck. These early, all-steel heaters used the emerging manufactured natural gas. And because they used no moving parts, they were noted for being quiet. Furnaces were made from heavy cast iron or steel, sometimes literally the size of a room (hence the term, “heater room”).

The Bay Area military housing boom during World War II ushered in 20 years of all homes being built with smaller, all-steel furnaces. Atlas developed an international market and did installations all over the world.

“The fact that we are finding working heaters as old as this is a testament to the manufacturing quality of Atlas heaters,” said Trane residential product specialist Dan Forney of Specialty AC of Benecia, Calif. AC will provide the new Trane furnace that Atlas will install.

In 1917, warm air pipes were lined with asbestos. Synergy Environmental of Hayward, Calif., will provide the asbestos removal service.

In 1966, Atlas ceased the manufacturing of the Atlas heater, and began representing brands such as Trane. Over 100,000 Atlas heaters have been installed in Bay Area homes and offices, said Atlas.

Publication date: 06/23/2003