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What are the Different Options for Basement Heating?

By Gregory Hanson
Updated May 16, 2024
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Finishing a basement can effectively double the living space available in a home. Basements, however, tend to be colder than the other parts of a house because heat is lost through the foundation and because not all basements are designed to be heated by a home’s primary furnace. Many different options exist for basement heating, including radiant heating installed in the floor, supplemental electric baseboard heaters, modification and extension of a home’s normal heating system or ad hoc heating with small heaters as needed.

The most energy efficient option for basement heating will nearly always involve the expansion of a home’s primary heating system. Modern high-efficiency gas furnaces and deep ground heat pumps generate heat very efficiently. It often makes sense, therefore, to modify an existing heating system by adding additional ducts or radiator pipes to provide heat directly to a basement space. This work can be expensive in the short term, however, and not all furnaces have the extra capacity needed to adequately heat such a large additional space.

Baseboard heaters are a good option for basement spaces where additional heat is required and cannot be obtained from the central furnace. They are relatively inexpensive and can be installed in most basements, although, since they employ electrical resistance to generate heat, they may not be a good option for basements with a history of moisture problems. Baseboard heaters generally do use separate thermostats, however, making them an excellent choice for spaces that are used and heated only infrequently. They also require a great deal of wall space and can make finding space for shelves or furniture somewhat difficult.

Basements can also be heated with radiant floor heating. This type of heating works by running a steady flow of heated water through tubes built into the floor. This type of heating is generally used with hard surface floors and is particularly well-suited to stone or tile floors, as the constant heating can potentially damage wooden floors over time. Radiant floor heating works well in basements, where the floor tends to be one of the chillier parts of a room, and can be a very pleasant addition to any lower-level bathroom.

Small portable heaters are another option for basement heating. Electric space heaters are not the most energy efficient way to heat a basement, but for spaces that are used only very rarely, they may be the best option. Portable gas heaters can be used for this purpose as well. Wood stoves and fireplaces are also viable options for basement heating but often require extensive ventilation.

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Discussion Comments

By Certlerant — On Jan 30, 2014

You are right, Glasis, using space heaters in a basement can be dangerous.

Gas heaters may be safer if used properly, but kerosene and propane are not always easy to get and can be expensive, as the cost of those fuels fluctuate with gas and oil prices.

If you can afford to install radiant floor heating, you will not regret it. It provides even, safe heating.

By Glasis — On Jan 30, 2014

Space heaters are not really a safe or efficient way to heat an area as large as a basement.

Even more modern heaters that have the ability to heat larger and larger spaces all the time cannot do the job with just one heater.

If everyone using the space is going to always be in one room or area of the basement at the same time, a space heater might work, but you will still likely need more than one to keep the area comfortable.

As the article says, most basements have some sort of moisture issue. Mixing water with electrical cords is never a good idea.

Also, forgetting to turn a space heater off after using a room can lead to fire.

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