Top 5 Options for Heating Your Basement (so your lady will snuggle with you)

When these two eventually come into the basement, they will want it to be warm!

When these two eventually come into the basement, they will want it to be warm!

I get it, you'd like your finished basement to be warm, toasty and comfortable even on the coldest, darkest winter nights.

You didn't build that kick ass movie theater room just so you could freeze your butt off alone!

You need it to be warm so your lady will come down and snuggle with you. Get'cha snuggle on!

So what are your options for heating your basement?

I scoured the internet for weeks, collected pages of notes and asked hundreds if not thousands of my readers what they use.

Here are my top 5 ways to heat your basement:

1. Add registers to your existing or expanded HVAC duct work. (get $$ out and your tin snips ready)
2. Buy a vented stand alone "system" to heat your basement. (like a pellet stove)
3. Buy an electric (unvented) stand-alone unit. RECOMMENDED !!
4. Buy something that can heat a small room.
5. Suck it up you big baby - the cold is good for your lungs. (like tiny Siberian babies)

If you haven't read my article on HVAC for your basement - go read that first - you may not even need any extra heat.

Option 1: Add Registers to heat your basement

my basement register

Here's a picture of one of my register extensions.

This is sort of what I did with my finished basement, at least in the beginning anyway. The builder had installed 1 register in my main trunk line, I added a second one about 15 feet away.

This helped but my basement was still "cold" on days where the outside temps dropped below freezing. By "cold" I mean between 63 and 66 degrees.

Now… some people's heads are going to pop off their necks reading this because they're going to claim that this will completely throw off the "balance" of my HVAC system. Relax… 3 registers ain't gonna do much. You can click here to read a whole discussion about this.

If you are still having a heart attack about adding registers or just want to add like 8 or something like that - then you might have to "beef up your HVAC". My advice then would be get your wallet out and call the professionals.  (I'll try to write a separate article on the cost of a separate HVAC unit in the future)

If you're ready to cut a hole in your main duct line, and let's face it who doesn't want to do that, click here to see how I installed my register.  If this idea scares the poop out of you, just remember that worst case, you buy a $5 piece of metal and cover it back up (but relax, you most likely won't have to do that).

Option 2: Buy a vented "stand alone system"

pellet stove in the corner on a tile hearth

Note, you have to build a "stone or concrete hearth" below the stove. It cannot sit on vinyl or carpet.

What I mean by that is, don't tap into your HVAC, instead buy something like a Pellet Stove.

Here are some happy pellet stove facts.

  • A medium size pellet stove can heat about 1750 sq. ft. That's more than enough to heat your basement.
  • They have a auto-pellet feeder systems (so you can set it and forget it)
  • Actually burning something to heat your house is kind of bad ass, even if it is a pellet.
  • You can install it yourself (but it's not exactly an easy job)

Here are some not so happy facts about pellet stoves

  • A new pellet stove costs around $1,500
  • The pellets cost money - you should ballpark around $150 to heat your basement for 1 winter.
  • You need to go down there and clean the ash out every few days. So it's not really set it and forget (this was the deal breaker for me)
  • It takes up some significant space in your basement
  • It must be vented outside, aka you have to cut a hole in your house
  • It must sit on a hearth or stone/concrete floor.

For a entire article on pellet stoves, including a cost discussion, click here.

Another option for heating your basement would be to buy a wood burning stove - which I think is really cool - but I would not want to deal with "wood", loading wood into the stove or cleaning up wood ash all the time.

Don't get me wrong here guys and gals. I personally think having a pellet stove would be awesome, I just wouldn't want to deal with cleaning out the ash and having bags of wood pellets in my house - I'm just not that mountainy of a man.

Option 3: Buy a Large Room Electric Heater

The Delonghi basement heater.

Designed in Italy. This champ puts out a ton of high quality, comfortable heat.

This is it!  This is what I recommend you buy.  This is what I bought for my basement.

This a 1500 watt oil filled electric heater.  It can heat my entire finished basement. When I plugged this dude in it was about 61 degrees in my basement and 10 below freezing outside with snow everywhere.  Now it's 70 degrees and awesome.

Okay, time for some pluses and minuses.

What's Good about it:

  • Can heat a really large area, like my whole basement (1200 square feet)
  • Makes no noise at all. No fan noise, no metal crackling noise, nothing.
  • Has a built in thermostat
  • Has a built in timer, so it can turn off at night.
  • Great price! Check Amazon here for exact pricing.

What's Bad about it:

  • It stinks (smells bad), but only for the first day or so; then nothing, you won't smell a thing.  But for one day, you will hear a bunch of complaining from your significant other.
  • Uses 1500 watts - that's just about a full circuit - so you can't have something else that pulls a lot of watts on that circuit. Like a treadmill or a bunch of electronics.
  • It gets hot. If you have really young kids (4 or younger), you'll need to make sure they don't touch the top of it. My youngest is 6  and he totally gets it. They won't catch on fire if they touch it, but it can burn them.

Oh, it also has wheels on it, in case you need to move it, but frankly it's not really that heavy, you can just pick it up. I use this from December through March. I live in Northern Virginia where it can get as low as -10.

There are a few different models.  The exact one I bought is the "TRD40615T".  You can see all of the various models here on Amazon.  This model received 4 stars out of five.  (this is an affiliate link)

Delonghi basement heater

Option 4 : Buy a Room Sized Electric Heater

for heating your finished basement

This is a great option for heating a small room in your finished basement.

Let's say you have a small home office or maybe a "crafts" room or a guest bedroom.

(WAIT, do you actually have a crafts room?  You big nerd, an entire room for crafts! Ok, I'll admit, it is kinda fun.)

 

What ever it's for you want this room to be warm in the winter but you'd rather not take up valuable space with an electric heater.

And, perhaps the heat from the rest of the basement just never quite makes it into this extra room; which is a strong possibility if it's walled off and has a door.

What you need is a small, single room heater, that takes up almost no space, costs almost nothing to run and presents almost not fire risk.

Presenting…. The Econo-Heat 400 watt Wall Panel Convection Heater.

In brief, it's an electric heater that's flat and sits on the wall. The key to it's goodness is that it draws cold air from the floor and heats it, causing a natural rotation without using an electric fan. There are no moving parts. This diagram clearly demonstrates this using a ton speeding of arrows.

Stuff that's Good About it:

  • Only costs around a $100 bucks (free shipping from Amazon with Prime)
  • Only uses 400 watts - so you can plug it into any circuit.
  • You can paint it the same color as your wall (admit it, you know you're stylish)
  • Safe for kids and pets - hot but not emergency room burn your skin hot.
  • No wood or pellets to load - No ash to clean up!  BOOM, major win!
  • You can add a thermostat and basically leave it on all winter.
  • Easy to install
  • Flat design means it takes up very little space (leaving more room to get your grove on)

The BAD stuff: 

  • It only heats about a 144 square feet. If you have a big open basement floorplan this won't be enough heat.
  • Takes awhile to heat up a cold room (like a full day awhile).  But you are basically suppose to leave these on all winter. Buy one with a thermostat or add one to it and it will turn on and off as needed.
You can paint it beige. 'Cause beige is f*ing awesome and no one will think you're boring.

You can paint it beige. 'Cause beige is f*ing awesome. No one will think you're boring.  (I can say that because half my house is beige)

Finally, this heat "feals" fantastic. Here's how one person described it (she's a women, so you know she knows what she's talking about)

"The heat feels different. Regular plug-in fan based heaters feel like a hair-dryer on my face. This heat is more subtle and more cozy. Feels more like being in a blanket of warm air in summer time." - A Lady from the Interwebs

A blanket of warm summer air! Who doesn't want that! Yes, please!

 

basement finishing jason 300

Well? Are you going to get warm or what?

 

For $80 you're rocking a warm and toasty basement. Get the Delonghi heater - it is perfect.

Cheers - Jason

ps. If you have some other great ways to heat your finished basement without spending a ton of money - let's hear it! Sharing is caring.

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Questions and Comments

Click here to ask a question or leave a comment.

  1. Patrick Gallagher says

    Great article, thanks! I'm having a house built (will be finishing basement myself) and this is something I know I'd had to figure out eventually. My "wrinkle" in deciding between these options is that we plan on building a bedroom in the basement for my oldest daughter (12). Would that change the type of heating you would do? And what about A/C?

  2. Jeff says

    Nice layout of options. I ended up putting in a gas fireplace with a blower. I recommend this over the pellet stove for several reasons.

    • Toby says

      I'll double what Jeff said about the gas fireplace with a blower. It will beat any pellet stove in the long run and it can be customized to suit the area.

  3. Chad says

    Hey Jason, great ideas! Working on finishing my basement. How does that large room electric heater affect your electric bill? And would a single unit work to heat my basement even with multiple bedrooms?

    • says

      Hi Chad - I'll have to get back to you on the electric bill impact. My unit also has a built-in timer - so it clicks off at night and comes back on in the later morning (just before my fam might be using the basement)

      Remember too that basements should hold the heat fairly well and any heat that does escape is going upstairs to where you're living anyway - so in a way it can be very efficient to keep you basement warm. - Jason

  4. Mike Boelter says

    Liked the article, Jason. We lucked out, in that the furnace and A/C for the main floor is a bit oversized. A buddy of mine is in HVAC, so for a couple hundred bucks in time and materials, he rerouted some ducts (poor placement when the house was built) and added three registers. We will have about 850 square feet when it's finished. Now our oversized system is suddenly just the right size.

    • says

      Nice! And a good reminder. Some systems ARE oversized; it can be worth the time to get an opinion and see if you can just spend a few hundred to take advantage of the HVAC and ducts you already have. Especially if you have a friend who can help! - Jason

  5. Tony says

    Hey Jason- thanks for the article. The open portion of my basement is around 300 sq ft. Is it possible to use two (2) panel heaters in a situation like this, spaced appropriately, or do they not really overlap well? Seems like it is one of simple and most cost effective options since it's virtually "plug and play" but I wonder how they perform in larger spaces with multiple units. I appreciate all your help.

    • says

      Hey Tony - Well... maybe. You'd be cutting it close. They are designed to heat a max of 144 square feet. They do overlap well so that's not an issue - they just aren't crazy powerful. They work best in a single isolated room like an office or bedroom that isn't able to pull in heat from the main room. If you have a spot for it and aren't worried about kids burning something - I'd probably recommend the electrical oil filled radiator heater for a space that size. - Jason

    • says

      Tom - A 220 volt baseboard heater will put out a lot more heat that those panel heaters. I can literally touch and hold my hand on the panel heater even when on full blast - I could not do that with the oil filled electric radiator heater or a 220v baseboard heater.

      Now, I think a baseboard heater is a good option for a basement. it can heat up a large area and is generally out of the way. And, if you plan ahead with your electrical circuits - you can have it totally isolated (on a dedicated line) from other more sensitive equipment. I'll try to add a review of the baseboard heater to the page in the coming weeks. - Jason

  6. Chris says

    Nice Options.... But what about someone who runs on a boiler system?
    I had a 10' baseboard heater (hydronic radiator). I cut this out and put in what's called a Hydronic toe kick heater underneath some built in cabinets.
    It heats the whole main room (25'x15') and keeps it toasty warm... best part the heat starts at the floor and rises.
    The toe-kick runs on a thermostat and is tied into existing electrical (very low power usage). To properly install one of these into hydronic pluming, it is best to use whats called a "venturi" copper tee and run on it's own "zone" to avoid pressure build-up.

    Thanks Jason for your website! it has given me great ideas for my basement reno!

    Chris W.

  7. Nathan Clausen says

    I have a Delonghi electric heater, but I am not sure the watt size on it. But my concern with a electric heater in a Minnesota full sub level basement is the electricity over time cost more than gas heat from the furnace. I believe my current furnace is large enough to handle it, its just a matter of adding some duct work off the main lines. Is there something I am not thinking of the would still make option 3 a better and cheaper option?

    • says

      Hey Nathan - You're right! This heater is costing me quite a bit more than my gas furnace. I'm working on an update to this blog to show the costs. If your system can handle the additional volume (which it very well may be able to do) then yes, adding a few extra registers would be the best option for heating your basement. - Jason

  8. John says

    Hi Jason -- This is really informative and presents options I didn't know existing. I'm about to finish a 1,000 SF basement and not sure how to heat it. My HVAC guy said he thought tapping into the ducts that feed upstairs would tax the system and it would run nonstop. We are putting in a wood-burning stove at one end, but are afraid the other end of the room will be cold (especially in the enclosed bathroom). We were considering electric radiant but installation is a fortune. Don't want hideous baseboards or mini-splits. Maybe the stove is sufficient. It's a weekend house though so it will take a while to heat up the entire room which will be a problem. Maybe radiant in the bathroom, the stove and a couple wall-mounted electric heaters (option 4)? Thoughts?

  9. Tim says

    What about floor heating? I have a floating wood floor and was thinking about a below carpet electric heater. How does that compare to the other options?

    • Jael says

      I was considering the same thing: Floating floor in basement of about 400-450 sq ft. Also a bathroom down there, no HVAC to area. Considering convection panel in bathroom and under-floor electric in the main area. Love to hear thoughts about costs of running electric floor heating.

      • says

        Jael - I was looking into under-floor heating for an upstairs room that we had and it's really not to expensive for a reasonable sized room. I think it would be a great option and would really ad a nice cozy touch to the basement (which is typically considered a bit of a cold, secondary space in the house). If you end up going with it please take some pictures and check back in with us here. - Jason

  10. Alice says

    this was very helpful - thinking about going with the DeLonghi TRD40615T Full Room Radiant Heater - I hope that it will heat the basement I have, its a large open living room space, full bathroom and 3 small rooms...thanks for the information!

    • says

      Hi Craig - Yup, I like radiant heating panels. They're just not great for large rooms. Anything more than 200 sq ft and you'll have a tough time generating enough heat.

  11. Nancy says

    Hi, I have a old house with a basement suite all finished and rent by renter but they said that it is cold during winter because my furnace is control by upstairs so I was wondering if adding another furnace for the basement to have their own heat will be a great an efficient option ? I don't think I read that anywhere in the blog but I wrote down all the option given thank you

    • says

      Hi Nancy - Yes, they can get chilly in the winter. I would go with option 3 above. Adding an entire furnace for one room is very expensive and probably overkill. - Jason

  12. Rocco says

    One of these heaters and I am planning to put it in my bathroom but the box does he shouldn't use it in the bathroom is anyone ever used it

  13. Jamie says

    Jason - I am looking at something like Quartz Infrared Heaters such as Eden Pure. Do you know anything about these and have thoughts about them. I am looking to heat a 600sf room in almost finished basement. Thanks!

  14. Mia says

    Hey Jason-
    We have a 950 sq ft basement we are finishing, we don't have enough money to finish it exactly how i want-thanks to pinterest;) would you please give me your advice, we would like to have a HVAC installed but the price we were told to run ducts and put a new unit was 4 grand! so i figured maybe in the future since we are getting a drop ceiling anyways(i heard this was cheaper? lol) I was thinking of a gas log fireplace for down there, the wall panels you were talking about, can you put more then 1 on a wall? or it will add up in cost with electric bill and such? also, what do you suggest for A/C?

    • says

      Hi Mia - The wall panels are only good for smaller rooms (140 sq ft or so). A gas log fireplace would be the most economical choose for that size area. As for AC, you would need a stand alone unit installed - not too cheap - but are you sure that's a must have? Does your basement get a lot of sun? Does it really heat up during the summer? - Jason (ps. Yes, any electrical heater, while very effective will add to your electric bill. But no matter how heat a space some additional cost will be incurred - we just don't have free energy yet)

  15. Wendie says

    We're renters and I'm turning 400 sq ft of our 1000 sq ft UNfinished basement into liveable space with foam flooring, curtains to cover cement walls, and some kind of space heater I can plug in. Debating between electric oil space heater and an electric fireplace for more ambiance plus heat. Which would be best for heating the area and staying energy efficient? I'd love for the fireplace idea to work, but am concerned it won't heat the area well or run costs will be too high. My reading tells me the infrared Quartz fireplaces heat 1000 sq ft while other reading on infrared says it only heats what's in front of it so I'm confused. Would an infrared fireplace heat the room? And how much more expensive are they to run then the oil heater? As for the oil heater, part of room will be play area for our toddler which leaves me somewhat concerned about it being hot to the touch (although I think my 2 yo would learn). Thoughts?

  16. Bill says

    Tony, Great site..we are finishing 1,000 sq ft of our 1800 sq. ft. basement...trying to do it all "right" for guest bedroom & en-suite as well as an office and open area for socializing. We put R-16 insulation on the exterior walls and towards the unfinished areas. Friends are recommending baseboard heating (we are adding 6 extra circuits dedicated to this area) however we are concerned about heat exposure and young grandchildren. Although we haven't had professional HVAC persons evaluate we do not believe our current heating system (gas forced air) would be sufficient to heat this lower level in addition to the 2,000 sq ft main level. After all of that...the question is...would it be reasonable to add several of the wall panel heating systems in each individual rooms and a few additional in the larger area or go with the baseboards?? Thanks!

    • says

      Bill - 1,000 sq ft probably will need some help even if you add in a couple of register off of your main trunk. A lot depends on your basement layout - how much is below ground and how much exposed above. For the larger rooms (anything over 130 sq ft) I don't think you'll be happy with the wall panels. Baseboard or oil filled stand alone heater are good options. Hope that helps. - Jason

  17. Bill says

    Jason, Geez, no idea why I addressed my comments to "Tony" on the email...he's the buddy helping me with this basement redo...my apologies!!

  18. Nick Hinge says

    I am pulling out an old steam boiler from my basement and installing a couple of direct vent Rinnai heaters on the main floor to heat the house. i live in Vermont and my concern with removing the furnace is that there will be no hear source in the basement. It is not a finished basement and does not need to be maintained at 70 degrees but I would like to maintain it at aroudn 50 degrees so that a) the space above is easier to heat and b) the pipes don't freeze. The basement is about 1200 sq feet. Do you think this is a good application for the DeLonghi Oil filled electric radiator?

    • says

      Hi Nick. Yes, I think it would fill in perfectly actually. Depending on how "underground" your basement is you'll probably get close to 50 if not higher without any heat. The DeLonghi can really crank out some heat and has a thermostat so you should be good to go. - Jason

  19. Diane says

    Any update on the cost of the freestanding heater? We're trying to decide between this recommendation and baseboards. Our basement is about 1,000 sq. ft. (We live in Northern VA.) Thanks!

  20. Monica Skraastad says

    Hi we had a new furnace installed in June 2016.
    The furnace is adequate for the sq footage of the house. My basement is 1000 sq feet and cold. We removed walls in the bedroom found the installation only half way down. This action corrected the coldness in the bedroom the bedroom sits below ground. I am unsure if this would correct the problem in the bedroom?? My basement has three outside walls. A sliding glass door and one window. Our floor is cement with a wall to wall carpet. I have split level heating air conditioners in a another home which works great. They are very costly. I live in an area electric isn't very expensive 9 cents a kilowatt. What do you think would be the best route ??

    • Monica Skraastad says

      I meant to say I am unsure if this action removing the walls putting installation would correct the problem in my family room??

    • says

      Guy Answer : Maybe... I know one two vents are fine and don't require any extra returns. Beyond that you've reach the max of my HVAC knowledge. Ok, actually, that wasn't a guy answer - a guy answer would never be to admit that he doesn't know the answer. But... I'm a guy who's secure in myself. - Jason

    • Tim says

      Jason, finished 900 SqFt of my basement. Like you I did everything except drywall. Had everything permitted for insurance and liability reasons. I added 3 ceiling ducts and during rough inspection, was asked about my plans for a return air duct. He told me they like to see at least 1, which I had planned for. Thanks for all your info.

  21. Jenny M. says

    I love how you write and what you shared - makes me smile and gave me ideas over my ventless fireplace that is lovely - but the carbon monoxide, not so much! Anyway, thanks and God bless you. Thanks for the approach of humor and normalcy, with knowledge. :-) Your kindness is seen and appreciated and I will search out your leads.

  22. Frank says

    I am looking at supplementing my large basement (rectangular 39' x 12' x 9' (4212 Sq.Ft)) with an electric heater and most of the ones I have seen only heat up to 1000 Sq. Ft.! I live in Chicago suburbs and on cold days it can get down to about 60 degrees. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    • says

      that is a very large and rectangular basement indeed. Well, I still recommend the Delonghi heaters - they're great and 1 heater should be enough - they can really crank out heat. You may need a fan or something to get the air circulating. Otherwise you're talking about installing a new addition to your system which can get really expensive. - Jason

  23. Anna says

    I'm in a basement right now with two small heaters that already conked out. One was my ex bf's and it was too loud (didn't want landlords hearing me using a heater when I'm home) and now this one just broke. I am frustrated and now I'm using the oven. At this point I have little regard for how much hydro I am using. As far as I'm concerned this is all-you-can-use hydro and I'm trying my best to use up less electricity but I don't care.. I'm freezing. At night I woke up shaking!

    • says

      Hi Anna - Please stop using the oven for heat. It's extremely dangerous. Try the Deloghi oil heater, I think you'll like it. I'll repeat just for emphasis, DO NOT USE AN OVEN!! BTW your landlord is probably required by law to provide heat. - Jason

  24. Aina says

    Great article! Thanks for spending all that time resaearching it and then putting it into a text format for others. :) Cheers!

  25. Martha says

    Thank you! We want to stay in our little (but awesomely located and almost paid off!!) house...but we would have to move some kids downstairs, and I just worried so much about them being cold at night. Not only was this informative but it was fun to read!

  26. John says

    I am considering building a master bath and laundry room over my unheated garage. Live in Wisconsin so does get cold. Impossible to tie into home HVAC. Don't like looks of minisplits and ventless not possible with layout. I was thinking of either 220 perimeter electric or several if they make 220 small wall panels. I know electric is most expensive way to heat. Also is it dangerous to run baseboard under a shower door, also was thinking of having it near a stand alone soaking tub. I know water and electricity are not compatible but don't how thers units are built.

  27. Amanda says

    This is very helpful! Thank you for posting! My only question is what about the electric bill? Which is the most energy friendly?

    • says

      Hi Amanda - I guess it depends on what you mean by energy friendly? The lowest cost? The lowest monthly cost or overall cost? The pellet stove is probably the cheapest monthly cost but the Delonghi electric oil filled heater is only $100 bucks or so and doesn't require a lot of installation costs. - Jason

  28. Tori says

    Hi!
    We have a finished basement that gets really cold when it gets warmer outside. There are 2 rooms that we use as bedrooms that are about 350 sq ft. What would be our best/safest option? One of the bedrooms is a toddlers room (we have egress windows installed for safety). So I love the concept of the panel heater but it doesnt cover enough area. The idea of having heaters going around the kids constantly has always made me nervous (fires, burning the kids, etc..) If you could give me your opinion on the best option, I would greatly appreciate it!!

    • says

      Hi Tori - 350 sq ft is probably too much area for the panel heater but that would be the safest - you can literally touch it with your hand and be fine. The Delonghi heater would be my recommendation - while it does get hot it won't instantly burn your hand if you touch it - it would hurt if you held it there awhile but it's nothing like the heat of a kerosene or wood stove heater. - Jason

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