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Stuart Hipp
Basement Heating Options - I Need your Advice!

Hello home heating experts and enthusiasts! I have thought of lots of potential ideas, but I am soliciting your advice before I move forward with purchasing and installing heating options. I wanted to go through some forums first before letting the salespeople chime in. I am trying to strike a balance between energy efficiency and budget friendly. There are lots of other things we have to do here!

We bought a house in the beginning of November. 1500 sqft up and 770 down in the basement, below grade. Originally there was a furnace with baseboard heat all over. The previous owners removed all baseboard units and installed a heat pump that only services the upstairs. There is no ductwork downstairs and not much option to install as it is finished. There is a chimney with three flues, one fireplace up, one down, and one for missing furnace.

We keep the thermostat upstairs around 66 degrees but on a 26 degree day like today, it is unable to keep up. We use a space heater in the baby's room but the electrical won't support another in the adjacent toddler room. Outside of re-insulating the attic and some other options, I am looking for a cost-effective option to bring heat to lower areas, thus improving the total house heat. I have considered all sorts of fireplace inserts, there is no gas run to the house currently. I have also thought about the ductless heating route or the standalone baseboard downstairs, but I don't know if that will help upstairs be warmer?

The back two rooms downstairs I can close off and heat easily with a 1500w space heater which I only do when we are using them. The fireplace room, laundry area, and entry from the garage are all open and unheated. The garage is directly underneath the toddler room and the master, adding to the cold factor in those two rooms. I am sure there are other options I have not thought about. I appreciate, in advance, your feedback!

Re: Basement Heating Options - I Need your Advice!

A gas pack might work for you if you have natural gas or propane available. It could heat your basement and supplement the upstairs on very cold days when the heat pump is not efficient. It stays completely outdoors with only the duct work going into the house through the foundation walls.


a 3 ton 100k BTU unit will run about $4k plus the cost of the ductwork. A Rheem will be less but you get what you pay for.

Re: Basement Heating Options - I Need your Advice!

Heating the basement will certainly help heat the rooms above. Heat rises. It won't help much with bedrooms over garage. The the ductwork may be zoned or balanced to better heat the bedrooms. If the old boiler flue is good you could inexpensively install a wood stove. Pellet stoves and direct-vent kerosene or propane stoves have been popular around here.

Re: Basement Heating Options - I Need your Advice!

If your heat pump can't keep up on very cold days it is probably because the auxiliary back up isn't working. Usually this is an electrical resistance grid at the air handler. This is controlled by the thermostat and/or an outside temperature sensor.
I would say you need to get an HVAC tech in to figure out why the aux heat isn't working. If the heat pump is over 15 years old you should budget for a new one within the next 5 years or so. If you live in a generally cold climate gas or oil heat would make better sense. If more moderate usually heat pumps are okay, but you need the aux heat to function when the temp drop much below 30 degrees.

Re: Basement Heating Options - I Need your Advice!

I'll second Ed's comments. It sounds like the auxiliary heat isn't working.

Any air leaks in the house that you can seal up will make a HUGE difference. You can do it yourself, and it's usually pretty cheap.

Install foam gaskets for light switches and outlets.

If you're not using the fireplaces, you might want to seal them up. A piece of plywood placed over the opening with a foam gasket around the edge can do wonders.

Also make sure any furnace ducts that aren't in heated space are well sealed using duct mastic. Duct leaks account for a large percentage of energy waste. It's a messy job, but it's one you can do yourself. There are plenty of YouTube videos on sealing ducts with mastic.

If you have old wood-sash, single-pane windows, install storm windows. You can also get the weatherizing kits that include double-stick tape and plastic, but I'm not a huge fan of them because the tape can damage paint and wood finish.

Once you've sealed everything up, then look at adding insulation.

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