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How to heat the basement of a front split level

breathlessrrt's picture

In the winter we have a heating problem. All the warm air rises and the downstairs never really gets to a nice comfortable temperature. Plus the heat never turns off because it never reaches the set temp. I love the open concept of being able to see the front foyer. It keeps it nice and bright in the livingroom. Currently, we put up a white blanket along the side and in front of the stairs. There needs to be another option. My front foyer is larger than most split entrances too. Someone mentioned puting a ceiling fan in the front foyer to help push the air down. Has anyone tried this? Any idea's?Thanks for the helpImageImage

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breathlessrrt's picture

What about putting a mini ductless system above the door, I guess it work the same as a ceiling fan but a little more forceful?

Nestor_Kelebay's picture

Breathlessrrt:Non-uniform heating in a house is a common problem in many homes in Canada.You should be aware that thermostats have something called a "heat anticipator" inside them. Since the thermostat is typically located in the MIDDLE of the heating zone that it controls, and the radiators or heaters are located around the exterior walls of the house, by the time the heat diffuses from the radiators or heaters to the thermostat and satisfies the thermostat that the room temperature is right, the whole room is often actually hotter than the thermostat setting.  Imagine a one room school house with the thermostat in the middle of the room and the heaters around the perimeter of the room.  If you set the thermostat to 75 degrees F, then by the time the temperature at the thermostat in the middle of the room is 75 deg. F, the temperature everywhere else in the room is higher than 75 deg. F.Also, in homes with hot water heat, when the thermostat detects that the temperature has reached the 75 degree F setting and shuts off the boiler, the radiators are still full of hot water at 160 to 180 degrees F.  Even if the thermostat shuts off the boiler, those hot radiators are going to continue convecting warm air into the room for another hour or so, and again you have the temperature in the room overshooting the thermostat setting.To avoid these temperature overshooting problems, thermostats have "heat anticipators" built into them.The purpose of the heat anticipator is to avoid that overshoot in temperature by shutting the heat off earlier than the thermostat otherwise would.   Essentially, the heat anticipator is nothing more than a tiny electric heater inside the thermostat that fools the thermostat into thinking that the temperature in the room is higher than it really is.  That causes the thermostat to shut the heat off earlier than it otherwise would, thereby preventing that temperature overshoot that would otherwise occur.It's very possible that the heat anticipator setting on your downstairs thermostats is set way too high so that it's producing too much heat inside the thermostat housing, and that's fooling the thermostat into thinking that the room is warm when it really isn't.I'd get the make and model number off your downstairs thermostat and phone around to the heating contractors in your area to find out who or which agency is the sales representative in your area for the company that made your thermostat.  That sales rep or someone at that sales agency should be able to explain how to set up the heat anticipator on the thermostats in your house to achieve a more uniform heating of your indoor space.Or, just turn the heat anticipator on the downstairs thermostat all the way down so that it produces very little heat and see if that helps in warming up that area of your house.  If it does, then you know that you're on the right track.PS: To people reading this that have hot water heating in their house:Non-uniform heating in a house with hot water running through the radiators can be due to another cause...If you have hot water heating in your house, then you have hot water from a boiler going through radiators located around the exterior walls of your house.  If you live in a one room school house, then there will only be a single radiator loop that goes around the perimeter of the building, and that would ensure that the water flow rate through each radiator is the same as in all the other radiators.  However, in most houses there is more than one radiator loop in the house's heating system, and that creates problems because water is always going to want to flow through the shorter loops in preference to the longer radiator loops. To address that problem, the heating contractor that installed the heating system in your house will have installed gate valves in all but the longest radiator loop in the house.  The purpose of these gate valves is to allow the heating contractor to reduce the flow through those shorter radiator loops, thereby increasing the flow through the longer radiator loops and establishing a much more uniform heat distribution throughout the house.The problem is that newbie home owners will come across these "balancing" valves, and not knowing what they're for will decide it's safer to either open them wide open or close them completely.  And, predictably, the heat distribution in the house goes all haywire as a result.So, if you live in a house with hot water heating and only one thermostat that controls the boiler, and you have a problem with non-uniform heating in the house, the problem very well could be that someone has changed the settings on one or more of the balancing valves on your house's heating system.  If you find the balancing valves on your heating system's piping, make a point of counting the number of turns needed to open or close each valve so that you can always restore the balancing valves to their original settings.  Then, it's just a matter of closing the balancing valves on the shortest radiator loops the most and the longest radiator loops the least to establish a more-or-less unform flow rate of hot water through all the radiator loops.The longest radiator loop in the house won't have a balancing valve on it.  In the event that the home owner closes all of the balancing valves until he finds out what they're for, all the hot water from the boiler will be pumped through that longest radiator loop. 

gmcauley's picture

That's tricky, Breathlessrrt. I think the ceiling fan is a good idea, too, it would help push warm air from upstairs to the downstairs.

Gwen McAuley (gmcauley at

breathlessrrt's picture

We do not have a furnace. It is electric heat and the thermostat is in the livingroom. Each room in the house has their own thermostat.We thought of a hidden pocket door and just pull it out in the winter? Thanks for the help 

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