Heating unused basement: good idea?


Old 03-06-06, 12:39 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: USA
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Heating unused basement: good idea?

I've got an uninsulated below-ground cellar and no insulation in the ceiling. Right now, its not feasible to insulate that space; maybe in the summertime I'll give it shot once I run some more wiring.

Anyway, is it good to heat the cellar, so the heat rises into the first floor?

Would I break even or might it be more expensive?

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Old 03-07-06, 04:29 AM
Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: Ottawa, Canada
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I would only heat the cellar if it is was insulated or else a lot of the heat will just escape through the exterior walls.
Do you find the floor to be cold?

Insulation on it's own would not really help in keeping the floor warm because heat rises, so there is nothing to heat the floor.
Old 03-07-06, 06:24 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: central Iowa
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FWIW, I've always been a home experimenter so I can try things on my own prior to suggesting it to customers. Our old house was a test bed for basement framing/insulating, but even before that was a HVAC test bed since like your house we started with an unfinished basement with approx. 3' above grade. Every winter the baement was cold and it would radiate into the first floor's flooring and everywhere you walked it was cool/cold under foot. The second winter I installed some more heat runs to even out heating in basement since we knew we were going to finish off. That second winter proved to be a wash as when furnace was running the basement would be warmer than the prior year, but shortly after the furnace shut off it would cool down rapidly-mainly due to nothing helping to hold the heat in since we still had unfinished walls/ceiling in basement.

3rd year I framed up all exterior walls/interior walls in basement, insulated EVERY wall down there for insulating properties on exterior walls and sound transmission on interior walls, then insulating between every floor joist and installed my sheetrock. That 3rd winter with everything in baement insulated actually had me closing off 4 branches of heat ducts due to it overheating the basement. We also noticed flooring was ALOT warmer than years prior since the heat that was being put into the basement helped to even out temps upstairs.

From what I found on our first house, you'd be wasting your money trying to heat the basement as it is since little gains will be noticed. Once you have the time to insulate exterior walls in basement, THEN go ahead and start running the heat down there. Just remember the furnace only runs when thermostat upstairs says to so there will still be a temperature difference between upstairs and downstairs unless you over heat the basement to offset this bais since upstairs will typically warm up faster than the basement...it will just be a matter of fine tuning your flappers in the duct work between upstairs/downstairs and per room to achieve an even heating/cooling pattern throughout the house.
Old 03-07-06, 08:27 AM
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Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: USA
Posts: 124
Very interesting process! Thank you for your story.

In my case, there is a separate hot air heater in the cellar (my house is otherwise heated by hot water radiator) and I was thinking of whether it would be more expensive to turn on that separate heater and allow the rising heat to permeate the ceiling and thus help warm the rooms above.

As you guessed, my basement is uninsulated and the cellar windows are ridiculously drafty. Last year, I was fighting to keep snow out of my cellar!

Anyway, I conceivably could blow insulation between the concrete foundation and the paneling throughout, but first I'd have to think of how to install a vapour barrier without removing every blasted panel. Perhaps I have no choice there, but there are lots of sinks and other fixtures, so I guess I'll start a thread about gaseous vapour barriers I can blow into those spaces!

So, the jist of what you've said is: secure outer wall insulation prior to heating.


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