Too Cold in Your Basement?

February 6, 2017

Does your home have a chilly basement? It wouldn’t be a surprise to us, because it’s a common situation for many Colorado Front Range homeowners. The basement is located fully or partially below ground level, where the sun doesn’t add much thermal assistance like it does to your home’s upper floors. Unfortunately, central heating systems often weren’t designed to effectively provide the desired comfort level down there – well, because it was the basement! For those that actually wish to use the basement level of their home, and be comfortable while doing so, supplementary heating is a topic worth exploring.

Let’s take a quick tour of some possibilities for adding supplemental heat to the basement level of your home:

Burnham radiator for heatingIf your home is heated by a central hot water boiler, expanding that system is a great solution in most cases. You could install baseboard heaters or stylish radiators along the walls, radiant tubing in or above the subfloor, or add a fan convector unit. All of these can be tied in to your existing boiler, with one or more separate thermostats independently controlling heat in the basement area. Layout and design is the key when expanding your hot water system.

If your home is heated by a central forced air furnace it may be possible to install new supply and return air pipes off of the existing ducting system. This would be the most cost effective solution. However, if the basement is already finished, access to the ducting may be a complicating factor. Possibly more important, accurate temperature control in the basement is often hard to maintain in this type of system because the thermostat is located upstairs, and that level cools down at a different rate. In some cases, a separate forced air heat zone could be added for the basement, with its own thermostat, but there are enough design and performance limitations with that concept that in most instances there will be better options available.

A word to the wise, if you are planning a remodel, the heating system should be a front-end consideration, not an afterthought as the project winds down. Your options may become limited, or at least a lot more expensive, if you get too far down the road with the work.

Often a new, independent heating system for the basement will make the most sense. Here are some options that you may wish to investigate further, all of which offer thermostatic control:

Gas-Fired Heating Systems

If you love the idea of adding zoned hot water heat as described above, but do not have a central boiler to power the system, this can be accomplished by adding a small boiler, a standard or specialized tank-type water heater, or in some cases a tankless water heater. A great and comfortable option, but it will not be inexpensive.

Self contained, vented gas space heaters are available in a variety of configurations, and are relatively compact in size. They are often mounted on an exterior wall and vent out the back of the unit to the outdoors. High quality models are efficient, effective and safe. Because the basement is below ground level, locating a viable route for the venting is essential before deciding on one of these units. [Note: We do not recommend unvented gas heaters.]

Gas-fired fireplaces and freestanding stoves. These units can be attractive and effective. If your floor space is limited, incorporating one into the design plan should be carefully considered. As with all of these options, gas piping and venting issues must be fully addressed before making a purchasing decision.

Electric Heating Systems

Other options for permanent, supplemental heating for your basement level include a variety of electric products:

  • Heat pumps are quickly becoming a customer favorite as a supplemental heat source. You might be more familiar with this product as a ductless air conditioner. When installed as a heat pump, it provides unobtrusive, quiet, effective, efficient supplemental heat, with excellent temperature control. Ductless heat pumps are capable of providing highly efficient air conditioning in the summer, as well.
  • Standard electric baseboards are often the simplest option when gas or water piping, or new venting are not feasible, or are cost prohibitive. Consider electric baseboards when up-front cost is a concern, usage will not be excessive (as they are relatively costly to operate), and if your home electrical system has adequate capacity.
  • Electric radiant panel heaters, installed high on the walls of the living space, provide better efficiency and comfort levels than most electric baseboards, and are a product well worth learning more about. Electric system capacity will be one of the important areas to look at closely when obtaining installation quotes for these products.
  • Portable electric space heaters have improved over the years, and can do a serviceable job on a limited use basis. But for long term, regular daily use throughout the heating season, most of these products present numerous concerns, including where to place them, durability and safety–and compared to the other options discussed, they offer no added-value for your home.

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Too Cold In Your Basement?

Obtain Professional Advice!
If supplemental heating is in your future, we recommend that you contact a professional to help you find the products that best fit your application, taste, and budget. In the Denver and Boulder, Colorado area, contact Save Home Heat Company to learn more and obtain a free, low-pressure quote for a new system to properly heat your basement all winter long, year after year!