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  1. #1
    Tony Escamilla's Avatar
    Tony Escamilla Guest

    Default Gas Fired Air Conditioner

    Can anyone tell me anything about bas fired air conditioning systems? I ran accross an old Servel model today and it blew warmer air than ambient room temperature. It's ooooold and dirty. Obviously I'm recommended a professional be contacted, but I would like to educate myself regarding this system. It's the first one I see in 8 years of inspection here in California.

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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    Spring Hill (Nashville), TN
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    Default Re: Gas Fired Air Conditioner

    I have not seen any new units, but they are making a comeback in some areas. They are popular in commercial applications. They are called "absorption" systems. I have only seen a few of them in the 13+ years I have been inspecting. They all had one thing in common, and that was that they did not work properly or produce cool air. They were also old units from the late 1960's. Funny thing is that they were also all in the same subdivision in MS.

    This is a little description that I had in a file, I have no idea where it came from:
    Residential air conditioners are small, direct-fired absorption chillers. An absorption chiller uses a refrigerant, absorbent and heat to create a cooling effect. Simply put, the cooling effect is accomplished with the removal of heat through evaporation of a fluid (refrigerant) at low pressure and the rejection of heat through the condensation of a fluid (refrigerant) at a higher pressure.

    The absorption process relies on the affinity between two fluids. Air-cooled chillers utilize environmentally safe ammonia as the refrigerant and water as the absorbent. In the chiller unit, heat provided by a gas burner boils the ammonia out of the water and condenses it in an outdoor coil. The ammonia is then evaporated at low pressure, cooling a circulating water system. The chilled water circulates through the area to be cooled via a piping system eliminating the need for ductwork and making the system well suited to homes with baseboard heating. The ammonia is then reabsorbed into the water (the absorption process) and the cycle repeats.
    Also this is a diagram of a typical residental system

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  3. #3
    Kevin Barre's Avatar
    Kevin Barre Guest

    Default Re: Gas Fired Air Conditioner

    As a kid, we lived briefly in a home that had an Arkla Servel unit. Based on the neighborhood, I would assume that the home was built late 50's to very early 60's. The Servel unit was HUGE. What I remember also was that it didn't dehumidify worth squat. In ten years of inspecting, I have yet to come across one...working or not.

    The MFR, Arkla, (as shown on the tag in the 3rd photo) was an acronym for Arkansas Louisiana Gas Company. (They also made a pretty good natural gas BBQ grill.) I assumed their A/C units were a regional item. Why you'd have one in CA is beyond me.

    The humidity level is lower where you are, but based on the age of the unit alone, I'd suggest junking it.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Minneapolis, MN
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    780

    Default Re: Gas Fired Air Conditioner

    Wow, that's wild. I've been surveying homes for three weeks and came across one. Noticed the old thing smelled like gas, and hadn't heard of gas A/C before - I guess with good reason!


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
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    St Paul, MN
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    Default Re: Gas Fired Air Conditioner

    Quote Originally Posted by Kristi Silber View Post
    Wow, that's wild. I've been surveying homes for three weeks and came across one. Noticed the old thing smelled like gas, and hadn't heard of gas A/C before - I guess with good reason!
    I've never seen a gas fired a/c unit in the Twin Cities. Lots of combination units though (gas furnace with electric a/c in the same housing). Normally in condos, townhomes or commercial buildings.

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  6. #6
    Paul Johnston's Avatar
    Paul Johnston Guest

    Default Re: Gas Fired Air Conditioner

    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Escamilla View Post
    Can anyone tell me anything about bas fired air conditioning systems? I ran accross an old Servel model today and it blew warmer air than ambient room temperature. It's ooooold and dirty. Obviously I'm recommended a professional be contacted, but I would like to educate myself regarding this system. It's the first one I see in 8 years of inspection here in California.
    Just seeing MADE IN THE USA tells you it is old.


  7. #7

    Default Re: Gas Fired Air Conditioner

    Both natural gas refrigerators and AC units were routine in the 1960s. If they were installed correctly they had a long track record and were like today’s marathon runners...they keep going. Finding parts and someone qualified to service them today however would be difficult and even though they were built to last they are well beyond their prime.

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  8. #8
    Dean Stoops's Avatar
    Dean Stoops Guest

    Default Re: Gas Fired Air Conditioner

    The gas absorbtion technology was used in early refrigerators and still widely used in LP gas powered RV refrigerators.


  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Ingleside Illinois
    Posts
    118

    Default Re: Gas Fired Air Conditioner

    Just took a cont Education class where these were mentioned. They seem to last a long time and are more common in states that don't have real cold weather. Getting them repaired is a problem as someone mentioned. Still if it works what can you say.


  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Minneapolis, MN
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    780

    Default Re: Gas Fired Air Conditioner

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Rowe View Post
    I've never seen a gas fired a/c unit in the Twin Cities. Lots of combination units though (gas furnace with electric a/c in the same housing). Normally in condos, townhomes or commercial buildings.
    That's definitely what this one was (well, as definite as someone so new to this can be), outside a foreclosed home. Had the Arkla Servel tag. I wouldn't have noticed anything odd about it if I hadn't smelled gas.

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