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Blog Feb 11, 2020

How to Heat a Basement in Winter

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Basements are more commonly being used as living spaces as opposed to storage in homes. Gone are the days where cold and drafty basements are overlooked as homeowners seek to make them fully functional and comfortable living spaces. If your basement is a bit too cold for your liking – especially in the thick of winter – it may be time to invest in additional installation and heat sources to help keep you warm. Read on for Payless Power tips on how to heat a basement in winter through optimizing energy efficiency and adding new heat sources.

Tips For Heating Your Basement in the Winter

When tackling the issue of basement heating, make sure that you address two fundamental problems: how do you conserve the warm air you already have and then how do you efficiently add additional heat? While insulation, a basement heater, and a new heating system are all common solutions, there are a couple of no-cost basement heating options that you can implement right away! First things first, take advantage of conserving your own body heat by wearing thick clothes and layers in the winter time. Secondly, rely on natural sunlight to warm your basement by keeping your blinds open during the day as this is the cheapest way to heat a room. After you’ve put these free tactics into action, check out some of Payless Power’s recommendations for how to make a room warmer in the winter.

Utilize Energy Efficiency to Keep Your Basement Warm in the Winter

It’s imperative that you take steps to properly insulate your basement to reduce possible heat loss before investing in additional heating system. Here are a variety of methods that will help improve your basement’s insulation and conserve the heat that is already in your home.

Locate Cold Spots

The first step in reducing heat loss in your basement is locating cold spots. Use a thermal camera to slowly scan the entire room, from the floor to the basement walls to the ceiling. When you pinpoint the areas in your basement that show up as colder than the rest of the room, you can move forward with adding insulation or sealing cracks. The cost of purchasing or leasing a thermal camera will be quickly offset by the amount you’ll save on your electricity bill by addressing the cold spots in your basement.

Add Insulation to Keep Cold Air Out and Warm Air In

A properly insulated basement is the key to saving money on your electricity bill and ensuring a comfortable and dry living space in your home. While the Earth itself is a good natural insulator, it is not sufficient for keeping your basement warm. There are a variety of insulation types available for your basement walls, windows, floors, rim joists and air ducts.

 

If your basement is unfinished and there are stone or cinder block walls visible, framing-in the basement with drywall and adding insulation will certainly make your basement retain heat more efficiently. Extruded foam insulation is recommended for concrete walls and fibreglass insulation is recommended for wood. If you already have interior walls in your basement, you might be able to add additional spray foam insulation. Rim joists and headers are the outer planks in the flooring and roofing systems that separate your basement and the first floor of your home. They are typically lined up directly against the outer walls of the home and can be directly exposed to the outside of your house with no insulation, allowing for rising warm air from the basement to escape and cold air from outside to enter. Cut pieces of extruded foam insulation to fit in between the joists and use foam sealant to close it off and eliminate a huge contribution to your heat loss.

 

You should also remove the trim around any basement windows, check for any gaps, and add additional insulation where necessary. You can add a subfloor above the sleeper strips for additional insulation as well. Your air ducts, which are responsible for channeling air around the house, are likely nothing more than thin metal sheeting and should be replaced with well-insulated ducts or at least wrapped in no-gap insulation.

Seal Leaks or Cracks in the Foundation, Floors, and Walls

Air leaks in the edges of windows, doors, rim joists and the seams and joins between the floor and walls and ceiling are common culprits in your basement’s heat loss. You must carefully seal any openings using the appropriate sealant for whatever material you’re repairing. Foam sealants provide more insulation than silicone and can be painted. On the flip side, silicone sealants are more flexible to handle the shrinking and expanding of the wood around your windows. Additionally, your existing sealant as it will degrade over time so make sure to reseal with your windows, doors and other edges about every 5 years to keep the cold air out.

Replace Existing Windows or Walkout Doors with Energy Efficient Options

Lots of heat loss occurs through glass windows, particularly if they’re single glazed. If you haven’t already, replace your basement’s existing windows and walkout doors with double-glazed windows for better insulation. This technique involves two separate pieces of parallel glass with air or Argon in-between to improve insulation capabilities. You can spring for double-glazed windows with a one-way reflective tint for even more effective heat-retention!

Add Floor Rugs or Install Wall-to-Wall Carpet

Many basements have cement or tiled floors which are not only very cold for your feet, but also contribute to serious heat loss in the room. If you do not have moisture or flooding problems in your basement, cover as much of the floor as possible to minimize heat-loss. If you can’t invest in wall-to-wall carpeting and would rather find cheap ways to heat a room, putting a throw rug over trafficked areas will still help with insulating your feet from the cold. Consider purchasing a rug with thicker piles, higher stitch count, and wool material for the best insulation.

Use Heavy Curtains or Cellular Shades

Layering your windows with thick heavy curtains can be a very effective method for heating a room in the basement. If you want to avoid the bulkiness that comes with heavy curtains, opt for cellular shades which can reduce unwanted heat transfer by up to 80% over non-shaded windows according to energy.gov. Cellular shades have a honeycomb pattern with air pockets that provide insulation.

Make Your Basement Warm with Additional Heating Options

Now that you’ve insulated your basement and minimized potential heat loss, it’s time to invest in heating your basement in effective and cost-efficient ways. The four heat-adding options below will make sure to add warm air to your basement at varying price points.

Install Additional Heat Vents

Tapping into your existing home’s ductwork and expanding your central air system to the basement can be a smart decision in the long run as you take convenience and future monthly bill savings into consideration. Though adding additional heat vents can cost a little more upfront than buying a space heater, it should have less of an impact on your electricity bill long term. It is recommended that you consult an HVAC professional to see if this is possible in your basement as well as to install it.

Install a Heated Floor

Basement floor heating is a great option for those who don’t mind shelling out a few extra dollars for installation or their electricity bill for the sake of comfort in the winter, particularly in a new construction home. The two main options for floor heating are using electric radiant heat, where electric wiring is installed beneath the floor to provide low-level heat to stone, concrete or tiled flooring, and hydronic heat, where hot water is circulated in pipes under the floor to provide heat. Both are certainly expensive options, but provide great benefits as the heat will naturally rise and fill your well-insulated basement.

Install a Basement Heating System

A couple more basement-specific heating options that are popular amongst homeowners include electric baseboard heaters and stove fireplaces. Baseboard heaters are low-to-ground convection space heaters that sit by the baseboard of the room and are perfect for warming single rooms that aren’t connected to your home’s HVAC system. The challenge with baseboard heaters is that you can’t put your couch or other dense furniture against the wall that hosts the heater. Wood and pellet burning fireplace stoves are great for warming bigger basements yet require chimney-pipe ventilation. The cost of this installation should we weighed against the many decades that you can enjoy sitting by the fire with your loved ones in your forever home.

Utilize an Electric Space Heater

Investing in a space heater, be it electric,  ceramic, forced-air, or Infrared Quartz, is a great way to add heat to your basement without racking up your energy bill. The convenience of space heaters is a huge selling point as they require no installation and only need to be plugged in for use. A couple of things to avoid when it comes to space heaters: make sure you only use it for limited periods of time or in smaller rooms else you will have a high bill at the end of the winter months, and pay close attention to the manufacturer’s instructions and unplug it when you leave the room to avoid fire dangers.

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