How to Heat a Finished Attic
LESLIE: Alright, rising heat costs. Everybody’s going to be feeling it in their wallets but John in New Jersey is looking for some heating advice for his home.
How can we help?
JOHN: Well, I have a two-bedroom ranch. Right now, the attic is strictly storage. In fact, part of it is exposed beams in the floor, yet it’s not all a completed floor.
JOHN: And in the lower level, we have gas-fired, forced-air heat and I’m told that the system is roughly 25-percent oversized for the living area of the house. And stretching it a little bit, it could probably heat the entire house even if we did finish the floors and so forth upstairs.
JOHN: What I’m trying to figure out is should we try to stretch out the existing heater or might it be worthwhile to put unit heaters upstairs at the same time we do the flooring and put in the half-bath and the other things that we’ll be doing the same time as we do the flooring project.
TOM: OK, so John, the upstairs is going to be what; bedrooms?
JOHN: Right, bedrooms and Daddy’s playroom with the workbench (Leslie chuckles) and the tools and …
TOM: OK. Alright, well there’s another consideration before you build that home improvement palace upstairs. (chuckles) And that is whether or not you can put heat upstairs off the existing system is really a function of two things: number one, the BTU capacity of the furnace and if your information is correct that it technically is big enough to heat that space, great; the other part of this, though, is getting the heat to that space. Do you have ductwork that already goes up there or do you have to add ductwork?
JOHN: I have ductwork that goes up and then ends a couple of feet above the – what would be the floor line. So it’s to the point where I could add onto it and go from there without too much trouble.
TOM: So it sounds to me like it was roughed-in for this purpose in mind. Is that correct?
JOHN: Yeah, there are some houses in the neighborhood that were built with a full second floor already set up for bedrooms in it.
JOHN: And between that and having sold real estate at one point, I tried to take a little part of one house and a little part of another and …
TOM: Yeah, a little mishmosh. (Leslie chuckles)
JOHN: Yeah, yeah.
TOM: Yeah. Well, I would say then it sounds to me like the house has been pre-ducted out for this purpose. You know, it’s already had the ductwork roughed-in and so it probably is OK to just extend that. What I was concerned about was if you had a duct system that was only designed for your first floor and now you have to double that duct system, you’re going to be taking away air from the first floor space and shifting it upstairs and you may not be happy on either floor if you do that. But it sounds to me like the home was originally ducted out for both upstairs and downstairs to be off the same heating system and all you need to do is sort of connect the dots on this one; you’ll be good to go. So in this particular situation, I think you’re going to be OK.
JOHN: I appreciate your help and what does your crystal ball say (Leslie chuckles) about availability of the gas itself?
TOM: What do you mean about availability of the gas itself? You mean …?
JOHN: I’ve heard some stories about shortages and if not the shortages that would get to you in the natural gas, then it might be the prices.
TOM: Well, I’ll tell you what my crystal ball says. It says you’re going to pay more for natural gas this year but, over the long haul, it’s probably still the least expensive way to heat your house.
JOHN: That’s what I’m looking for. Thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome, John. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.