Basements are almost always cooler than the rest of the house by several degrees. If you are suddenly faced with the need to heat a basement, you will need to think carefully about how you keep things cozy down there, especially if you want a really livable space like a bedroom, a rec room, or even a completely separate area for a renter or family member.
Whether you are building new or completing renovations, consider the following 5 options: heated floors, modifying or extending ductwork, wood, pellet burning stoves, and electric fireplaces, and permanent and portable basement heaters.
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If you want comfort and longevity, think heated floors. A heated floor system provides continual warmth and the added delight of that warmth under your feet. With a heated floor, no matter what the time of year, you won’t find any areas of the basement cooler than others. When you’re ready to sell, heated floors also boost the resale value of your home.
Until now, heated floors have been thought to be prohibitively expensive. Water systems are more expensive at the outset, but dramatically reduce costs over time by saving on energy consumption. Electric systems are sometimes more affordable at the start, but electrical systems demand more energy and, therefore, will cost you more over time.
Home decor trends come and go. The luxury of a heated floor is promised for the entire life of the system and does not go out of style, so this is money you won’t regret spending. Look carefully at what you’re working with. If you’re renovating, can you rip everything out down to the studs? Because if you can’t or don’t want to, you might reconsider. Floor heating is best installed in new construction because it is meant to live deep inside. It is supposed to feel as if it isn’t there. That’s not easy to achieve with a retrofit.
Consult an HVAC professional before extending ductwork in your basement. You want to avoid creating any hazardous connections or exposing wiring. If you are installing a new furnace and you don’t currently plan to renovate the basement, you may want to invest in a little more heating capacity than needed for the space – in other words, accommodate future expansion by making new connections easy.
You never know when you might change your mind in the future and require the added living space of a finished basement. Even if you can’t do it immediately, your HVAC system should be able to handle a later expansion, especially if you want to sell, and a buyer just happens to ask about it.
Permanent Spot Heating
Convection or hydronic electric baseboard heaters can be permanently wired into a home’s electrical system to heat individual areas. Each room can have its own units.
Electric baseboard heaters are conspicuous metal units that sit at the bottom of a wall. You will lose the use of that space for furnishings like entertainment units, couches, and cabinets.
If you choose this option, do so knowing that the basement is a basement, and it doesn’t have to agree with the aesthetic upstairs. The heat from baseboard heaters does not travel from room to room, so you will need one per room – which gets expensive fast.
Old School Ambience
Stoves that burn wood pellets provide character and ambiance. These must be vented to the exterior, which complicates installation somewhat. A stove also comes with a certain rustic aesthetic. If you want an ultra-modern basement, a stove will not agree with the look. Alternatively, you can go all the way to a wood-burning stove, which requires a full chimney.
If you live in an area where firewood is readily available, this might work for you. More modern-looking styles of stoves are available, but you still might find that a stove doesn’t fit in an ultra-contemporary room with a lot of stainless steel and vinyl. Electricity costs will be more manageable with this option but consider the cost of the firewood and pellets before you proceed.
Electric fireplaces are also available. These are safer, don’t require venting, and are easier to install. You can even install a simple log insert, which provides heat and ambiance without any hassle at all. Here are three options:
Portable Baseboard and Space Heaters
Electric portable space heaters heat small areas are are relatively inexpensive. Nearly all cost less than $100, and they plug into a basic household outlet, so they are convenient and immediate in that regard, but might not present the most desirable long-term solution.
They can prove to be hazardous in a home with small children and pets, and they can’t be placed near curtains, furniture, or any stored items. They take a while to cool down and can sometimes place unmanageable demands on your electrical system, which has limits depending on the maximum load allowed in each area of the house and the other appliances you have running in that zone at the time.
Consider the option of a portable ceramic heater or an infrared heater. When it comes time to pay your utility bills, they save. They are also safer. Without diving too deep into heat conduction, the ceramic components are partial conductors.
A fan carries that heat around the room. The fan can be pointed in the direction of the area you want to be warmer without losing a lot of energy. A ceramic heater also heats up faster than other systems, so it provides results right away. A ceramic heater cools down more quickly, which makes it safer.
Infrared heater lamps use metal wires, lamps, and ceramic to produce heat. They are safer and quieter because they don’t require fans and will therefore make more sense for an office or bedroom.