How to Heat a Floor
LESLIE: Well, it’s starting to get real chilly and I bet Dave in Wisconsin is noticing because you’re having a problem heating the basement?
DAVE: My furnace had a cracked heat exchanger, so we had to replace it. Rather than replace it, we looked at all our different options and we went with electric baseboard heat in the house.
LESLIE: Oh, no.
TOM: Wow. Why did you do that?
DAVE: Well, I’ve been reading a lot about it and the heating elements in the electric baseboard are silicone-filled, so the only time the actual baseboard is run electrically is til it gets the silicone up to temperature and then they shut off. And it’s a programmable thermostat that they claim and our experience with them is it’s relatively true.
TOM: Did this furnace only heat the basement or did it heat more than just the basement?
DAVE: No, we have a story-and-a-half house and it was to heat the whole house.
TOM: Well, it’s interesting. You’ve done just about the opposite of what most people do and that is to go from electric to a fossil fuel. You’ve gone from fossil fuel to electric. So what’s your question?
DAVE: Well, my question is with the cold floors and because of the crawl space and stuff, I’ve insulated the walls of the foundation from the inside of the crawl space and I put insulation in between the floor joists as well. But because there is no heat in the basement, we’re still getting where the floors are a little bit cold and I was wondering if it would be an advantage to put an electric baseboard heater in the basement as well or if there are some more insulation ideas that you would have that we could do in the crawlspace areas.
TOM: No, I definitely wouldn’t add more resistance heat. I mean you’ve probably got more than you need right now. You know, I can’t imagine that it makes any sense to have put in resistance heat over fossil fuel because the cost per BTU is just so much more expensive. If you have one room in your house where the cold floor is really bothering you, like say the kitchen or the bathroom or something like that …
LESLIE: Put in radiant heat in the floor.
TOM: Yeah, exactly. You could put radiant heat right in the floor so you step on the floor it’ll be nice and warm for your tootsies in the morning but it won’t drive your heating bills through the roof. Radiant heat is very modular today. It’s easy to install. It comes in like what looks like mats. It can go under laminate floor; it can go under tile; and in some cases, it can even go under carpet. And it really does a good job of heating that space up and it’s a lot less expensive than going with baseboard with the whole house.
DAVE: We looked at that, the electric as well, for the matting. I have seen that. Actually though, with the baseboard we used and the silicone and the programmable thermostats that we’ve used, our electric bill did not increase last year much over what our gas and electric combined together was the year prior.
LESLIE: And you’ll see this winter gas prices for your home’s heating are going to go way up, so you’ve probably made a good decision in that part. But I’ve noticed that anytime you deal with electric heating, it’s really expensive. So this new system must be pretty good.
TOM: Yeah, it sounds like maybe in this particular case you did OK but we wouldn’t recommend it beyond that.
Dave, thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.