How can I heat my basement in the winter?

crysdonAugust 6, 2007

Please help!

I live in the Midwest and my basement is finished. It is the BEST place to hang out during the summer because the temperature is naturally cool.

Now the winter is a whole 'nother story. It is freezing down there and warm upstairs.


1) Raised ranch

2) Carpeting on basement floor

3) Have no idea what's behind the paneling on the walls

4) Utility room on other side w/washer-dryer, furnace, sink, etc.

5) One vent/duct from ceiling gives heat, but not nearly enough to heat entire basement.

6) Basement being used as a family/entertainment room

7) Portable electric heaters always blow a fuse

8) Forced air heating throughout house

I guess I need to call in a contractor, but what do you all suggest? And, is this something I can have my brother do?

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You say you have 1 heat inlet, but do you have one for cold air? If not, install one as it will pull the cold air off the floor year 'round but also dehumidify the basement when the air conditioner operates in the summer.

Have additional electric circuits installed - dangerous to keep overloading and blowing fuses.

Other thoughts:

Install more heat inlets into the ducting.

Have the heat trunks rebalanced so that more heat is directed to the basement - this could be a problem if finishing your basement has covered the damper controls.

Use auxulary heat. In ours, we installed an electric fireplace. It is mostly necessary during spring/fall when the furnace is not running but the basement is cool. Ours has a 220 volt, 20,000 BTU heater.

Photos of ours are linked from "My Page"

Good luck.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2007 at 7:35AM
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I would recommend a direct vent gas stove or fireplace. I love my gas stove. Warms my entire 1000 sq ft basemnt in about 15-20 minutes.
Just love it, love it, love it!


    Bookmark   August 7, 2007 at 9:50PM
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fnmroberts: Thanks for the awesome suggestions. I have copied them all. Could you please tell me which option(s) will save me the most money?

jasper60103: Could you tell me more about this gas stove (humidity isssues, ease of installation, health concerns, and cost). Thanks a bunch!

    Bookmark   August 8, 2007 at 12:26PM
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jasper60103: Could you tell me more about this gas stove (humidity isssues, ease of installation, health concerns, and cost). Thanks a bunch!

crysdon: no humidity issues or health concerns. I had a pro install mine. I hear you can DIY, or have someone run a gas line and DIY the rest. You have some options there. A fireplace shop can give you more direction on that. Also, it's a great place to see a bunch of stoves operating side by side.

I seen prices start around $1500 for DV gas stoves and around $1000 for a pro to install. Should be even cheaper off season.

Hope this helps.


    Bookmark   August 8, 2007 at 7:35PM
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Before pumping all that heat in, I'd check out the insulation. Or lack of it. At the least, properly insulating and sealing the abovegrade part of the basement will help tremendously in keeping the heat where you want it.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2007 at 10:42PM
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Heating a basement should not be a costly matter. You only require auxulary heat because much of the space is below the frost line and the ambient temperature in a basement is generally in the 60's year around.

I agree with checking the air influx tightness around the foundation and sealing/insulating as you can. Also check the basement windows - they are generally cheap single-pane glass and don't fit tightly. Even the heat-and-shrink plastic will make a world of difference if air leaks in around them.

As to what is cheapest, are you a DIY'er? If yes, then you can cut a cold air return install a register vent for the cost of the register only.

You can rebalance the ducting for free if there is access to the damper controls.

Installing new registers may take a heating contractor though it is certainly a DIY project. They will have what I call tools and techniques to get them into finished spaces with minimal repairs work required.

New electrical circuits - probably best to leave to a pro.

Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2007 at 7:39AM
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It shouldn't be freezing in an unfinished basement. Ours doesn't dip below mid-50s and we are in Maine.

A friend just put a pellet stove in their basement, they are very happy with it. You can do hard wired electric wall heaters (how is the electric rate in your area). I wouldn't add ducts from the furnace without having a HVAC contractor tell you if it is sized to handle it.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2007 at 6:22PM
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I don't think he literally meant it was freezing!

Call me nuts but I run our dehumidifier in the basement almost all year long. I find the extra heat put out by it is enough to temper the air to a comfortable level. In the summer the basement will stay in the mid 60's with no AC down there but of course we need to run the dehumidifer in the summer. With it running the temp will hover in the upper 60's and its very comfortable. If I were to try to dehumidify the basement using our AC it would be way too cold to be comfortable.

In the winter we heat the basement with duct work from our furnace. Again, with heat from the furnace I can keep the basement in the mid 60's which is not too bad, but we also have a whole house humidifier which we really need for the portion of the house above the basement. The extra moisture from the humidifier will condense on our basement glass block windows (and I can imagine it would do the same behind the studwalls too on the concrete walls) to counter this I run the dehumidifer in the basement during the winter. Besides keeping the humidity to a reasonable level it also adds a little heat and will keep it in the upper 60's.

You may be able to tap into existing ductwork for added heat and add returns as well. Adding insulation will help too if it isn't already there.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2007 at 10:15AM
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I live in the midwest. I have a gas stove in my basement. It warms the basement just fine. In the summer I run a dehumidifier. The basement is almost done - still needs a drop ceiling and finishing woodworking.

I have not put in heat/a/c supplies nor a return in the basement.

Is it necessary? Is it required per code? Or optional? If you do heat & a/c supplies, must you do a return? Or if you do a return, must you do supplies? Note: I do have a gas stove down there.

Although I am not using it yet, as it in in final finishing stages, just wanted to pick kyour brain.

Thanks in advance.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2007 at 10:48PM
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I have an airtight woodstove in my basement. It is a finished basement and we spend 80% of our down time there. I runa dehumidifier all summer. I have cental air and lots of ducts but shut them all off. I have cut a hole above the wood stove and installed a grate so the heat can rise and enter my living room. I live in eatern Ontario and it gets COLD. Only use my oil furnace first thing in morning. Wood is a lot of work but the heat is spectacular. I live in the country so if I installed a gas stove ( fireplace) it would have to be propane which is quite expansive up here.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2007 at 6:51PM
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