Warming the whole house during the cold months is possible when you heat below-grade level rooms. If you have a crawlspace, you might think that placing a heater there will help. To help you find out the truth, we have gathered the facts from the experts.
Yes, you can place a heater in a crawlspace to warm up the upper floor levels. However, there are also disadvantages. By keeping the heater running during the winter, you will spend more on your electric bills. Even with the low vertical clearance, you must monitor the heater's temperature to avoid fires.
If you see that adding a heater is the best course of action, you must follow the tips on operating the heating system. Keep reading for suitable heaters that are cost and energy-efficient. If a heater is not a viable solution, we'll discuss if there are still other ways to heat the crawlspace.
Are Heaters Good For A Crawl Space?
Installing a crawl space heater is a common solution for homeowners during the cold months. The IRC does not prohibit the use of heaters. However, you should ask the manufacturer or look at the label if it is suitable for crawlspaces.
The heater works by raising the heat to warm the cold upper floor house levels. As a result, the upper floors require less energy to heat the area. Also, the heater prevents crawlspace pipes, wires, and other fittings from freezing. Without heat, it will be a problem to defrost the fittings.
It is a misconception, though, that you can save if you heat the crawl space. Most homeowners do not realize that a heater will consume more electricity. Especially with longer chilly months, you might leave it running for hours.
Also, the high humidity and condensation in the winter will trigger moisture problems. The more issues, the more you will spend on repairs.
There are also dangers of using a heater in a crawl space. It is a must to check the temperature of the space if it gets too hot. Your crawl space is also at risk of fire because of the low ceiling. As per IRC Section R302.13, the floor above the crawl space must be fire-rated.
If you decide to install a heater in the crawl space, below are some recommendations.
Crawl Space Heater Recommendations
The ideal crawl space heater must be safe, cost-efficient, and code-compliant. Here are some heater options you can choose from:
1. Dr. Infrared Heater
Get your crawl space a durable and efficient heater. You can mount this on the wall and ceiling, and it has a remote control thermostat.
2. Fahrenheat Portable Electric Heater
With the limited space in the crawl space, this portable heater is a must. You can also be safe from fires and allergens because this uses natural convection heat.
3. Sunday Living Infrared Space Heater
This indoor heater will heat a large room in just 3 seconds. Besides a remote control, this unit is safe with child-lock, timer, and tip-over protection features.
How To Reduce Costs When Heating A Crawl Space
Heaters can be expensive and will require periodic maintenance. There are practical solutions to help you save on costs when you heat a crawlspace. Here are some ideas:
- Insulate pipes and joists of crawl space encapsulation. You can also let a tap drip water to avoid frozen pipes.
- Install some incandescent lights with thermostat control. Although less efficient, this option is safer to heat the crawl space.
- Use low-wattage infrared lights. The energy from these lights also converts to heat. As long as you keep a distance of at least 18 inches from the nearest solid object the main beam reaches.
- You can also DIY a crawl space heater. You will need a thermoelectric switch and some incandescent bulbs. With the switch, you heat the space only when the temperature reaches a below-freezing point.
- Have a proper circulation of air between the crawl space and the house. You can achieve good air circulation if you have encapsulated the crawl space to filter the air.
- You can also use a crawl space fan or install an air system like Crawl-O Sphere. Just make sure to allow a return airflow and avoid a vacuum in the space.
- For the summer, it is best to use a crawl space dehumidifier. Learn more from this other post: What Size Dehumidifier For A Crawl Space?
By following any of these ideas, you can keep your home comfortable in the winter.
Should Vents In Crawl Spaces Be Open In Winter?
Opening the vents during winter avoids the freezing of the pipes. In that way, you can control humidity levels and allow a natural flow of moist air to the outside. But then, it can be a burden for your energy costs.
It will also be a different case if one of the vents is near a water line. If that is so, you should seal the vents permanently regardless of the climate.
You can read more from this post: Should Crawl Space Vents Be Open Or Sealed?
Is It Bad To Put An HVAC In Crawl Space?
Installing an HVAC or furnace will cause more problems in the crawl space. If you have one, you might smell musty odors or feel uneasy inside your home. According to Branch Environmental, here are the reasons why you should not have an HVAC in the crawl space:
- Access to the HVAC unit is challenging. The limited vertical clearance of crawl spaces will not allow you to stand up or move freely.
- If the air filter is also with the unit, you will duck to clean it or ask a professional HVAC cleaner to help you.
- The air in crawl spaces is always humid, dirty, and stagnant. The air quality will not be safe if you spend long fixing or cleaning the HVAC.
- HVAC units are prone to leaks that reduce efficiency. As a result, you will incur more energy costs.
- Unfortunately, the HVAC will cause more moisture, allowing mold and mildew growth in the space.
After considering the facts, there are more drawbacks than benefits of an HVAC unit. However, you can still battle the cold. Find out below how insulation can help regulate the temperature in the crawl space.
Can You Insulate A Crawl Space?
If you still feel cold after opening the vents and installing a heater, the available remedy is to add some insulation. Insulation methods will also vary due to your location.
Dry to moderate climates will need insulation between the floor joists. Otherwise, you should insulate and seal the whole crawl space for extremely cold regions.
Cut off the moisture in your crawl space by adding a 6 mil polyethylene vapor barrier as a basic solution. You can also use spray foams with high R-values to seal and fill holes and gaps. Apply the foam on the walls, behind studs, and inside cavities.
Remember to follow relevant building codes that require fire protection over foam products.
You can add EPS foam boards over the concrete as another vapor barrier for the crawl space walls. Mineral wool board is another option, but you should add a layer of poly membrane on the concrete.
When installing any insulating material, follow some of these tips:
- Clear the space from any obstructions so that you can move freely underneath.
- It is best to place a sump pump at the lowest point of the crawl space to catch heavy water leaks.
- Remove sharp objects that might tear the insulating sheets or boards.
After all, insulating is effective and safer to regulate the temperature in crawl spaces. If you don't have the experience, you can always ask a professional to do the insulation.
You can place a heater in your crawl space, but this is only a short-term solution to add heat to your house. There are effective heaters to suit your needs. But then, installing a heater might not control the moisture and air quality in the space. If you don't monitor the temperature, the heater will cause a fire.
If you want to heat the crawl space, look for safer and more cost-friendly alternatives. If you have an HVAC or furnace, closing and opening will depend on the climate. Insulation is also a great solution. Nonetheless, heaters are still beneficial to crawl spaces.