Many homeowners quickly decide they no longer want to use a basement for mere storage and convert them into living spaces.
If you are one who plans on using your basement for more than a storage area, you’ll be surprised how cold it can get when you are down there.
Depending on your region, it can be a challenge to keep your basement warm in winter once the winter comes.
Even though the earth offers some natural insulation, this is far from enough to make these areas feel comfortable.
In our guide, you can learn the best ways to heat your basement without breaking the bank and make it feel warm and inviting at any time of the year. (Read Are Space Heaters Safe)
Should You Heat an Unfinished Basement in the Winter?
You should be keeping your basement warm when it gets cold during the winter spell. You’ll find the coldest air in your home is most likely in the basement. Once cold air rises, it cools the floor of your home, thus causing cold feet and other issues regarding comfort.
How Can I Make My Basement Warmer?
Here are the best steps to make your basement warm in the winter.
- Thermal camera (not essential yet can help locate cold spots)
- Extruded foam Insulation
- Spray foam sealant
- Insulated ductwork & Energy-saving vent flaps (if required)
- Fiberglass batt insulation
A step-by-step guide to making basement energy efficient
Step 1: Locate Cold Spots
When finishing a basement, using a thermal image camera can be the best move you make. Stand in the middle of your basement and view all around you. You will spot any hot or cold spots and where you are leaking heat through concrete walls.
Fall and winter are the best times to do this work as you can see the temperatures you face at these times.
Step 2: Insulate Headers & Rim Joists
For heat loss, your homes non-insulated headers and rim joists can be the largest offenders. You’ll see these as they rest on the concrete foundations. Vertical walls sitting on the flooring will be insulated, yet below this, they are not. Outside air cools these areas, and it seeps indoors.
To insulate, cut pieces of extruded foam insulation 1 1/2-inch-thick and push them into the joist spaces facing the outer rim joists and headers. Seal any gaps with spray foam sealant. You can also use fiberglass batt insulation that you roll and stuff into the joist cavities.
Step 3: Insulate Existing Ducts
Ducts direct cold air right into your basement. If you have dryer or bathroom fan ducts, these are no more than thin aluminum tubes or thin plastic, offering zero insulation. You can replace it with insulated or wrap your ducts with insulation. Improve your vent flaps at the same time.
Step 4: Insulate Basement Walls
Exterior basement walls will have earth on the opposite side of them and can do a decent job of reducing cold seeping into your basement. However, basement walls not protected by earth are prone to cold migration like walls in other areas of your home. (Learn How To Clean Unfinished Wood)
Insulate exposed concrete walls with extruded foam. You can frame basement walls and then insulated with fiberglass batt insulation.
Step 5: Insulate First Story Walls
If walls on your ground floor over the basement aren’t insulated, they act like conduits for cold air to travel down to the basement.
It could be costly to insulating all these walls to defeat basement cold, yet you could reduce your energy costs and find out the cold in your basement isn’t from your basement at all.
Step 6: Box off Unheated Spaces
Most basements serve to house functional services like your furnace, water heater, and possibly washer and dryer. If there is no reason these need heating, you can box-off these areas to preserve heat in other areas.
Step 7: Insulate Basement Ceiling
if you have rooms on your ground floor without heating, these can ruin your chances of heating your basement. Insulating a basement ceiling below these areas helps retain heat. It would be wise to insulate all the basement ceiling and stop any heat from rising and leaking. (Read Winterize Lawns Guide)
How Do I Keep My Basement Warm in the Winter?
Here are some tips on how you can keep your basement warmer in the winter.
Keep Your Furnace Fan “On”
To make your basement warmer, leave your furnace fan turned to the “on” mode. It can move air through your home. Forced air up could be cold that gets warmed, and air forced down could be warm.
Use Ceiling Fans
A ceiling fan can be a cost-effective way to move warm air around your home and basement.
Use Space Heaters
Space heaters can be used for your basement heating. However, you need to make sure any electric space heater is turned off at night to avoid fires. Make sure to keep a space heater off the carpet and away from flammable materials.
Seal Any Doors & Windows
When you look at how to keep basement warm in winter, make sure all doors and windows are sealed. Such areas can cause heat loss in the home as warm air leaks out and cold air leaks in.
Keeping Doors Closed
Lastly, another option to keeping your basement warm is to keep any doors closed to rooms that aren’t being used. If you keep certain doors closed, there’s more warm air to circulate in the rooms that are opened, including your basement.
What is the Most Efficient Way to Heat A Basement?
Once you have a finished basement, you need to check out the available heating options. All the above are about keeping cold out and warm in, but you will need to heat the area.
Your HVAC system could potentially do this, yet it won’t be cost-effective in the long-term when heating upstairs at the same time.
Baseboard heaters will often be used as additional heat sources as the best way to heat a basement. The 4 to 6-foot units provide sufficient heat along the perimeter of your basement floor.
They do however, take up space along your walls. An electric baseboard heater is also best used in a smaller basement as they are not ideal for heating large areas.
Stoves & Fireplaces
If you want a fireplace, be aware that traditional wood-burning fireplaces can suck more hot air from your basement than they create and are not a viable heating source.
In place of this, and to still get the feel of log burning, is an environmentally friendly wood pellet stove. A pellet stove uses slow-burning pellets made from recycled materials.
However, homeowners find storing pellets and stove maintenance such as cleaning ashes cumbersome as an additional heating option.
It is better if you have new construction, and you can find the best way to heat basement is an electric radiant floor heating system. It can be suitable under any floor covering.
Radiant heat systems can be installed in concrete slabs, installed on top of the existing subfloor, under tile, and other surfaces. These either use electric mats or pump hot water through pipes to heat the room.
You will quickly discover this radiant heat is an efficient solution. It warms all the room area besides just the floor. You will also find it kills any room cold spots as all the area has the same heat distribution.
You can even set the heating on a thermostat, so when you venture downstairs, it’s nice and snug. Floor heating is the best of basement heat options now chosen by homeowners.
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