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Old 05-17-2013, 12:37 PM   #1
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Choosing additional heat in the lower level


Hello,

I live in a raised ranch where the lower level is ground level on one side and slightly below grade on the other side. The subfloor is a concrete slab.

We have one zone natural gas forced air heating and the idiots who built the house thought they could heat the lower level by poking registers into the ceiling (um....I may not know much about construction, but I do know that heat rises).

If the main floor upstairs (where all the bedrooms and the kitchen are) is comfortably warm, then the downstairs family room is bitterly cold.

We are renovating that family room this summer and trying to keep costs down by doing as much DIY as possible.

I want to add some additional heat to this room.

I'm thinking that my options are to either get a gas insert for the current wood burning fireplace, add electrical baseboard heaters to the room, or put in under floor heating. Any other options I'm not thinking of? What should I keep in mind when choosing.

Which costs less to run? Gas or electric? Which is easier to install? I'm thinking we'd pay a pro to do the gas fireplace but that maybe other options wouldn't be out of the reach of a DIYer (we have moderate carpentry, tile and drywall skills, but haven't done much with electric and never touched gas)

I plan to use laminate flooring down there, so I'm not sure that under floor heating is even an option. But if so, would those electric mats really heat the room enough? Can they be laid under laminate? Would they cost a fortune to run? If we do the gas fireplace will it heat the whole room? And if it heats the whole room is it too hot to sit near?

I'm sure there are others out there who have dealt with this kind of house layout and found a way to make the lower level comfortable in the winter. Thanks for your help!

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Old 05-17-2013, 12:51 PM   #2
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Choosing additional heat in the lower level


Do you have cold air returns in the wall near the floor? They are essential if you want to use the space. There is also a benefit to have the returns if you are running an AC.

I run my fan 24x7 in the heating season and have been comfortable in spite of -25F, although the soil does reduce the heating load if you have a full basement.

Dick

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Old 05-17-2013, 12:58 PM   #3
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Choosing additional heat in the lower level


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Originally Posted by concretemasonry View Post
Do you have cold air returns in the wall near the floor? They are essential if you want to use the space. There is also a benefit to have the returns if you are running an AC.

I run my fan 24x7 in the heating season and have been comfortable in spite of -25F, although the soil does reduce the heating load if you have a full basement.

Dick
Yes, there are returns in the wall near the floor. But it's not warm enough down there if it is comfortable upstairs, so I know that I want to add additional heat. Also we really only need to heat the room more when someone's down there, so after school until bedtime. No need to pay to keep it that warm all night or when we're out of the house.
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Old 05-17-2013, 01:48 PM   #4
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Choosing additional heat in the lower level


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Originally Posted by mom929 View Post
Yes, there are returns in the wall near the floor. But it's not warm enough down there if it is comfortable upstairs, so I know that I want to add additional heat. Also we really only need to heat the room more when someone's down there, so after school until bedtime. No need to pay to keep it that warm all night or when we're out of the house.

Gas fireplace inserts are great for this type of application. Not only do you get supplemental heat from it, but you also get the look of a fireplace without all the work or mess. I do not suggest any unvented appliance especially because you are doing renovations and making the house more energy efficient. Direct vent is ideal for this application.

I would also recommend that you get a blower kit for the fireplace so it will circulate the warm air rather than relying on gravity to heat the room. You can also get an insert with a remote/thermostat built in so you can keep it to the temperature you want. I would call your gas company and ask them for a list of approved contractors and have them put one in for you.

As far as the cost comparison, your gas company should have a website with a cost comparison chart to help you determine what the costs between electric and gas. Gas will likely be cheaper than electric.

If you do not have the money for a fireplace you can put in electric baseboard and then add an insert later when you can afford it.
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