One of the most common complaints we hear from homeowners is that their basement is much colder than the rest of the house, often to the point of being too uncomfortable to spend any amount of time there. Whether your basement is finished already or if you are planning on finishing it soon, there are solutions available to create a comfortable living environment in your basement.
What Makes a Basement So Cold?
Several factors contribute to making the basement quite a bit colder than the rest of the house. The ground surrounding your basement walls has higher thermal retention properties than the air that surrounds your home. That means it holds onto the cold it acquired during the winter much longer and keeps the walls of your foundation cool. Your basement also does not benefit from the heating effects of sunlight as much as the floors above it that typically have more windows.
Basements are also inherently damp and humid air generally feels colder. Lastly, your ducting system may not be well balanced. In most homes equipped with a single-zone heating solution, it is very difficult to distribute heat evenly on all floors. It becomes necessary to frequently open and close vents in each room to accommodate the individual temperature variations that occur between day and night time.
So how can you address the unique challenges of creating a comfortable and warm living environment in your basement? There are many possible solutions available to you, so let’s look at some of them individually.
Extending Your Ductwork
If your home’s furnace system is not directing enough of its heated air to the basement, it is possible to modify or extend the ductwork to add more vents to the basement. Your basement may have been divided into several rooms well after the ducting was installed, leaving some rooms with inadequate sources of heat. Extending your ductwork may be impractical for you, since there is no easy way to direct heat either upstairs or downstairs.
Baseboard heaters are often used as an additional heating source in basements. These 4 to 6 foot units can provide an adequate source of heat, however, many find them to be unsightly, they can make furniture placement a challenge, and they are not efficient in heating larger areas.
Portable Space Heaters
Portable space heaters come in several varieties and of all your options; they would certainly require the smallest initial investment. They can be very useful to heat certain individual areas quickly, however, like baseboard heaters, they are unsightly, not very effective in heating larger spaces, and can be more costly to operate.
Stoves or Fireplaces
Traditional wood-burning fireplaces generally suck more hot air out of a room than they generate, therefore they are not a viable additional heating source. Installing a gas fireplace can be a more efficient solution than its wood burning counterpart and can certainly be a positive ambience feature in your basement.
Some gas fireplaces are equipped with a fan to help distribute the warm air. Another popular solution is installing a wood pellet stove. This environmentally friendly solution involves slow-burning pellets manufactured from recycled materials. Some homeowners find the need to purchase, transport and store the wood pellets to be an inconvenience. It is also a heating solution that requires adult supervision and may not be viable if your basement is a rec room for the kids.
Another disadvantage of a fireplace or a stove as an additional heating source is that they may not be effective in heating several rooms in the basement, as walls may prevent the warm air from reaching rooms that are farther away.
Electric radiant floor heating can be used with any floor covering. It’s a very efficient solution that not only heats the floor; it will also warm up your entire basement whenever you need it. Unlike other solutions that distribute heat unevenly and create areas that are too hot or form cold pockets, radiant floor heating evenly heats the entire room. Since it does not require blowers, pumps or fans, radiant floor heating is completely silent.
It’s easy to see why radiant heated floors are becoming an increasingly popular choice with homeowners and why so many contractors and experts recommend them as the best solution for those cold basements.