Heating system for your rec room

If your home is heated by forced air from a gas or oil furnace, extending the existing system will usually be sufficient for heating your basement rec room.  

Some may choose to use an extension of their existing system in conjunction with supplementary electric heat. Supplementary electric heat is an asset in the fall and the spring when the furnace does not come on regularly.

If you have a conventional basement with the furnace located in either its centre or at one end, with the heat distribution pipes and ducts running along the ceiling next to the beam, supplying heat to a rec room is easy. 

There are likely a number of heat pipes now opening into the basement area. If they are positioned properly, just extend them so that the openings are located about 16 inches from the outside walls. It may be necessary to install additional openings. To determine the number required, simply check the area on the main floor that is equal to the rec room and install the same number of heat outlets.  

A five-inch pipe is usually used to take heat from the main duct to other areas of the rec room. At the end of the supply pipe, install a boot and, after the ceiling is installed, install an appropriate register, one that can be controlled if the room gets too warm.

Cold-air returns are just as important as the warm-air inlets. They are installed at floor level in partition walls. When determining the number required, use the same rule as determining the number of warm-air inlets.  

A cold-air take-off can be installed in the main return-air duct of the heating system with a metal take-off and elbows.  Then you can sheet in the area between the two studs with joist liner, creating a cavity between the studs. When the room is finished, cut a hole in the wall panels and install a cold-air return register. The reason for not cutting the return air in until the job is completed is to keep dust from getting into the heating system.

Sometimes this method of heating a rec room with the heat outlets in the ceiling and return air on the floor is questioned. Many heating experts are used to designing heating for the main floor. On the main floor, heating outlets are located on the floor because the heat that comes off the heat exchanger in the furnace rises and continues to rise through the main ducts of the heating system.  

But, if you try to get the heat to rise in the main duct, travel across the basement and get it to come out at floor level, it won’t work unless the entire system is rebalanced.

Because warm air rises, it is difficult to force warm air down from the main ducts to the level of the basement floor. Many professional rec room builders use this system and it works.

A question often asked is whether the present forced-air furnace will be able to cope with the extra load placed upon it by extending the system. The answer is usually yes, as long as the present system is now working efficiently.  

By proper insulation of the outside walls and installation of a vapour barrier, the extra load on the system is compensated by the reduction of heat loss through the basement walls.

Part of the job in your rec room may include the installation of a fresh air vent, supplying fresh-air to the forced-air system. This is important, especially if you have a fireplace or intend to install one.  Combustion air used by the furnace and fireplace must be replaced by installing a fresh-air vent.  

There are kits available and consist of an air intake that looks much like a drier vent, but has a screen instead of a flap.  It usually is five-inches in diameter and is connected by a five-inch pipe to the main return-air duct of a forced-air furnace.  The pipe should have a shut-off valve and be insulated to prevent condensation in cold months. Even if you do not have a fireplace, this procedure is a lot healthier for you and your family.