How to Heat a Basement Apartment


Whether building or renovating a basement apartment, one of the most important aspects of a comfortable living space is heating and cooling. As basements tend to be colder than the rest of the building, heating is a primary concern. There are many considerations when selecting a heating system, including the size of the apartment, cost, ease of use, safety and the necessity of air conditioning as well as heat.

Things You'll Need

  • Building department permit
  • Electric heating unit
  • Dehumidifier
  • Hygrometer
  • Fans
  • Visit the local building and permit department in your city or county. There are specific regulations regarding the installation of heating and cooling units. Generally a heating unit is required in all new construction and renovations.

  • Consult a heating and air conditioning contractor if you are adding new ducting to a central heating system. Since hot air rises and cold air sinks, a basement apartment may require additional cold air intakes as well as new heat ducts in order for the furnace to efficiently heat the space.

  • Research the energy efficiency and safety of electric heating units before investing in a heating system. While baseboard heating is often the simplest option in a basement apartment, other options include combination heating and air conditioning wall units and electric fireplaces.

  • Install the unit according to the manufacturer's instructions. Use an electrical outlet close by; avoid the use of extension cords. If possible, plug into an outlet that is not attached to other appliances, such as a washer or refrigerator.

  • Install a dehumidifier. Often basements feel damp due to the high humidity inherent in a below-ground dwelling. The damp air clings to your skin, making the room feel clammy. The optimum humidity in a home is 35 percent. Less and your skin will lose moisture, cooling your body like sweat on a hot summer day. More and you risk mold and mildew forming in closets and behind furniture. If you are uncertain of the humidity level, purchase an inexpensive hygrometer to measure the water in the air.

  • Install exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathroom. Cooking and bathing add unwanted humidity to the apartment. However, do not run an exhaust fan for more than 15 minutes or it will pull the warm air out of the apartment.

  • Install a ceiling fan if there is enough headroom. You might be able to repurpose the wiring from an existing light fixture, and perhaps even fit in a ceiling fan that includes lights. A ceiling fan running clockwise pushes the warm air down, back into the room. Leave it on the low setting day and night during the winter.

  • Use fans to circulate the air. A simple box or floor fan moves the heat around the apartment, preventing cold spots. In addition, if you pull the furniture 2 to 4 inches away from the walls, mold and mildew cannot form on the walls and upholstery.

  • Use the sun to heat your apartment. If you have a south-facing window, open the curtains during the day and let the sun shine in. Close the curtains at night to keep the heat in.

  • Insulate and caulk to prevent drafts. A drafty room negates the careful consideration and work put into the new heating system.

  • Decorate for warmth. Warm paint colors, rugs, heavy curtains and wall hangings all help in providing the warm and cozy feeling of a room.

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