The basement offers valuable extra space that you can use for several purposes. You can turn your basement into a private home office, some people use it as a storage space, and others also use it for emergency shelter.
An increasing number of people also use the basement as an entertainment center to entertain guests and hold small parties.
Whichever way you choose to use your basement, you’ll need to keep it clean and livable – and that means a need for heating during the cold weather (and cooling when the hot season comes around).
Gas (natural gas and propane) heaters are some of the best heating solutions for basement heating. These heaters generate tons of heat, usually up to 12,000 BTU or higher, which is more than enough to warm a medium-sized basement comfortably. They are also straightforward to maintain and very durable.
Read on to learn why you should consider one of these fuel options, how to pick the right gas heater, and maintenance tips once you take the heater home.
Why is it So Cold in My Basement?
The basement tends to get extremely cold, even in the summer, which could leave you asking all kinds of questions. There are three explanations;
It’s Located Underground
The mere fact that the basement is located below the surface of the earth makes them inherently colder. Since hot air rises, all the basement heat is likely to rise to the home’s upper floors, leaving the basement colder than the rest of the house. Secondly, the basement has no windows and doors to let in sunshine.
You’ve likely noticed that the basement is also a little more humid than the rest of the house. Even if there’s no standing water in the area, moisture migrates through the foundation, increasing the basement’s humidity. Humidity plus low temperatures can make the basement feel even colder.
Location of the Thermostat
Finally, the location of the thermostat also plays a crucial role in basement temperatures. In many homes, the thermostat is located on the main floor, therefore only focusing on meeting the floor’s heating demands. The upper floors naturally benefit from the fact that heat rises. This leaves the basement unaccounted for.
Is it Better to Heat a Basement or Not? Basement Heating Pros
It’s in your best interest to heat the basement, whether you actively use it or not. Although you might be actively using the basement, consider the following;
As we’ve mentioned, basements are some of the coldest places in the home. In fact, the basement can be several degrees colder than the main floor.
Since air is continually moving, this cold air eventually finds a way into the main floor. This is known as the stack effect. It occurs due to buoyance or the need for the environment to achieve temperature balance.
When cold air rises into the main house, the result is cold spots and drafts that can significantly compromise comfort. Cold can escape into the main house through the floor or entry points, such as doors.
A cold basement can also cause heating inefficiencies in several ways. For one, since hot water lines in most homes run through the basement, you may need to heat the water more because some of the heat will be lost to the extremely cold basement.
Secondly, if the ducts are completely sealed, there’s a risk of drawing cold air from the basement into the main house.
These two processes plus the stack effect can increase your heating costs sharply. According to some studies, the basement contributes 20% of heat loss in the home and can increase heating bills by 30%.
Finally, when the air is stagnant in the cold weather, basements become an incubation zone for mold and mildew. The warm moist air condenses on the walls that reach dew point temperatures resulting in watery walls that serve as breeding points for these microorganisms.
Mold and mildew are known to cause a range of health issues. The two can cause wheezing, itchy throat, and eye irritation.
According to the CDC, some people, such as those with allergies and asthma, may have more intense reactions when exposed to these two organisms. The two also aggravate pneumonia and may trigger the development of asthma in children.
Advantages of Gas Heaters for the Basement
The good news is that there are endless options when shopping for a gas heater for your basement. From baseboard heaters to radiant floor heating systems and electric space heaters, the choice is yours.
However, gas heaters have a few clear advantages over these other heater types. The following are just a few reasons why you should opt for a gas heater;
This is perhaps the biggest advantage of gas heaters – it’s a very reliable fuel. Electric heaters, for instance, are another good choice for basement heating. But no one knows when the power will go out.
In stormy winters, especially, power can go out without notice. Gas never goes off/out. Indeed, with propane, you can fill your tank and even store a spare gallon or two for rainy days. This way, when everything else isn’t working, your propane heater would come to the rescue.
Gas is also one of the most affordable energy sources. According to the Consumer Affairs website, using gas for heating can save you 30% in energy bills.
A unit of gas costs, on average, 4p/kWh (kilowatt-hour), whereas electricity costs approximately 16p/kWh. The reason why some people still choose electricity over gas is portability.
But when you can have a portable propane heater for the basement, even that advantage is lost. Propane is slightly more expensive than natural gas but still far cheaper than electricity.
Of all fuels that you can use for heating in the basement, natural gas is the cleanest, followed by propane. In both cases, the emissions mostly comprise water vapor and small amounts of carbon dioxide.
Indeed, the two gases produce up to 45% less carbon dioxide than coal and 30% less CO2 than wood fuel. Remember that these two gases are also smoke-free. These two qualities make it much safer than both wood and kerosene.
Types of Gas Heaters for the Basement
There are several gas heating styles to consider, from gas stoves to fireplaces and portable gas heaters. You can then also categorize the heaters by mode of heating, i.e., radiant or convective. Let’s begin with the heating modes.
Types by Heating Mode
There are two broad categories of gas heaters – radiant and convective heaters when it comes to heating mode.
- Radiant gas heaters: Whenever we think of portable gas heaters, we’re mostly thinking about radiant heaters. Radiant gas heaters transfer heat primarily through radiation, i.e., the heat is absorbed directly by objects rather than air particles. Typically, the gas heats ceramic tiles, which radiate heat into the room. Radiant heaters are incredibly efficient. However, they can get extremely hot on the surface.
- Convective gas heaters: Convective heaters feature a fan that helps disperse heat evenly throughout the room. In some heaters, the fan is also responsible for sucking cold air into the heater for heating. The units are not as efficient as radiant heaters. But, they are much better at heat distribution. More importantly, convective heaters don’t get as hot as radiant heaters because the fan always blows the heat away from the heating element.
Types by Style/Design
Regarding design, the three main types of gas basement heaters are gas stoves, gas fireplaces, and portable gas heaters.
Gas stoves are freestanding heating appliances powered by different types of gases. Natural gas stoves connect to the gas line, removing the need to stock gas cylinders in the house. However, if you choose to buy a propane-powered model, you’ll need to budget for fuel sourcing.
The units are also available in two designs – vented and unvented. Vented gas stoves feature a unique vent that removes combustion fuels from the room. Unvented models don’t have this vent. As a result, vented models are considered slightly safer.
Gas fireplaces aren’t very different from the stoves, except for the dancing flames that create additional ambiance. You have three options here; gas logs, gas inserts, and the traditional gas fireplace. Gas logs feature ceramic logs that sit inside an existing fireplace and have a burner that produces the flames.
Inserts are almost similar to gas logs, but the ceramic logs sit inside a metal box surrounded by a larger metal box that goes into the fireplace. Finally, traditional gas fireplaces feature the same metal box within metal box architecture as inserts. The only difference is that they don’t require an existing fireplace.
Portable Gas Heaters
Finally, the portable gas heater, also known as unflued because it doesn’t require installation, is the most popular gas heater for basement use. They are powerful and efficient. They are also built to withstand the challenging conditions of the basement.
However, you need to know that portable gas heaters also create a small safety risk because they vent inside the room. For this reason, you want to consider models with an oxygen depletion sensor (ODS). The built-in ODS automatically turns off the heater when a dangerously low level of oxygen is reached.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Gas Heater for the Basement
Whether you prefer a natural gas heater or propane model for your basement, the following considerations should help you pick the right unit for your needs;
This is perhaps the biggest factor. How much heat do you need in your basement? What size heater would meet those heating needs? Gas heater power is rated in British Thermal Units (BTU).
According to professionals, you need about 50 BTU for every square foot of the basement, translating to 40,000 BTU for an 800 square-foot basement.
Remember, however, that this only applies to finished basements. If you have an unfinished basement, consider insulating it before you go shopping for a heater. Heating a drafty basement is a waste of money.
Flued or Unflued?
A flue is a small pipe that carries exhaust gases from your gas heater to the outdoors. It’s a vital part of the heater because it vents unsafe gases, including excess carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide outside the room.
As such, flued gas heaters are inherently safer for use in the basement. The only downside is that flued gas heaters are typically permanently installed.
If you desire a more portable heating solution, unflued models are the alternative. A key advantage of this type of heater is that you can carry it from the basement to the garage and even on camping trips.
This flexibility gives the portable greater purpose. However, they vent combustion gases inside the house, which makes them not-so-safe.
You need to consider three types of costs when shopping for a gas heater for the basement – purchase costs, installation costs, and running costs. Gas heaters are not cheap.
Many of them are priced at over $1,000. However, that doesn’t stop you from shopping around to find one within your budget. At the same time, consider whether you’re prepared to folk out the installation costs, which are about 50% of the purchase costs. If not, then a portable model is a better idea.
About running costs, we’ve seen that natural gas is 3x cheaper than propane. So, you want to keep that in mind. However, natural gas heaters also require professional installation, thus higher initial costs.
The best gas heaters for the basement are laden with useful convenience features to make the user’s work a little easier.
Key features to consider are the presence of a thermostat and digital control panels/remote controls so you can change thermostat settings without leaving the setting. Filter-clean warnings and programmable timers that let you program your heating can also be very helpful.
Above all, many consumers desire the flexibility to use either natural gas or propane in their heaters. If so, consider models marked as dual-fuel. These units usually come with LPG conversion kits that allow you to use natural gas or propane.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How Many BTUs Do I Need to Heat My Basement? It depends on your location and prevailing temperatures in the area. However, on average, you need 50 BTU/square-foot for finished basements. That means about 50,000 BTU for a standard-size, 1,000 square-foot basement.
- Propane vs. Electric Basement Heaters, which are Better? Propane heaters are more powerful than similarly rated electric heaters. They are also more affordable to run. However, electric heaters are more affordable (upfront) and more environment-friendly.
- Propane vs. Natural Gas Basement Heaters, which are Better? Both propane and natural gas are potent heat sources. Both are also clean burning. However, natural gas just tips the scale. Not only is natural gas cheaper than propane (costing about one third the price of propane), but the gas is also cleaner. Propane, however, is the more available of the two.
- What temperature should I keep my basement in the winter? The ideal thermostat setting for the winter is 71°F to 72°F. However, when you’re not at home, you can set the thermostat to 62°F to 68°F.
- Will putting a space heater in the basement help the whole house? Yes. Some studies show that 20% of heat losses in the home come from the basement. Heating the basement alongside the rest of the house can help reduce inefficiency.
- Should you put heat in an unfinished basement? Yes, you should heat your unfinished basement. This can specifically address the issue of cold floors. However, it would help if you insulated the area first. Heating an uninsulated unfinished basement is the same as burning money.
- Will insulating the basement make the house warmer? Yes. The basement loses a lot of heat, especially via the walls and floor. Insulating the area can prevent the heat from escaping to the outside of the house or surrounding ground.
Best Gas And Propane Heaters For Basement
1. Heater Corporation MH18B Portable Propane Heater
- 4, 000, 9, 000, or 18, 000 BTU per hour
- Heats up to 450 sq. ft.
- Hi-Med-Low heat settings
- Automatic low oxygen shut-off system (ODS) and accidental tip-over safety shut-off
- THE USE OF UN-AUTHORIZED ACCESSORIES/ATTACHMENTS WITH THIS HEATER ARE EXPRESSLY PROHIBITED, MAY CAUSE SERIOUS INJURY, AND WILL VOID THE .
- This unit no longer comes with an included fan assembly or switch
Mr. Heater MH18B is a 4,000 – 18,000 BTU liquid propane heater that connects directly to a 1LB cylinder, making the perfect heating solution for small to medium-sized spaces.
It features two swivel regulators that allow it to adapt from a disposable cylinder to a remote gas supply. All you need to do is change a single hose and filter.
The unit uses piezoelectric ignition. To ignite it, push and rotate the knob, and the piezoelectric function will take care of the rest. It has three heat settings – Hi-Med-Low, equipped with an oxygen depletion sensor (ODS), and an accidental tip-over switch.
The unit initially came with an included fan assembly or switch. However, these components are no longer part of the package.
- Get up to 18,000 BTU/hour.
- Heats up to 450 Sq. Ft.
- Hi-Med-Low heat settings
- Oxygen depletion sensor
- Swivel regulators
- No remote control
- No fan assembly
2. Comfort Glow GCH480 Propane (LP) Cabinet Heater
- Not for use in living areas; Variable output (6K-12K-18K BTU's)
- Instant radiant infrared heat.Heating Area: 450 sq. ft
- Hose and regulator included; 20 lb. propane(LP) cylinder (not included)
- Protective front grill; Four rolling casters for easy mobility
- ODS, oxygen depletion sensor, safety feature
- Push button ignition
- Operates on 20 lb liquid propane cylinder
- Adjustable heat control
- Built-in wind shield
- 18000 BTU's and heats up to 650 square feet
The Comfort Glow GCH480 is a cabinet heater that runs on a 20LB propane (LP) cylinder tank, which tucks neatly at the back. It offers 6,000, 12,000, and 18,000 BTU at Low-Med-Hi settings, respectively and has an ODS sensor and safety shutoff switch.
The unit comes with four sturdy wheels for easy movement. The front wheels lock to keep the heater in place. Other key features of the GCH480 include instant radiant heat, a protective front grill, and a tip-over safety device.
It also comes with a hose and regulator included and is recommended for spaces up to 450 square feet. The heater isn’t for use in living areas.
- Instant radiant infrared heat
- High-Medium-Low setting
- Priced at just over $100
- 1-year warranty
- No remote control
- Fuel tank not included
3. Camco 57331 Olympian Wave-3 3,000 BTU LP Gas Heater
The Olympian Wave-3 is a unique heater that operates on low-pressure gas and can be recess mounted or used as a portable unit.
It delivers up to 30,000 BTU of raw heat and can be used in the basement or even when camping. It doesn’t need an electrical or battery connection to work.
The heater is impressively silent – there’s no fan to or blower noise. It also very safe thanks to a safety shutoff valve that prevents accidental non-ignition fuel discharge. It’s best suited to small spaces, up to 100 square feet.
A recess mounting kit is included and optional legs if you decide to use it as a portable unit. It is 99% efficient.
- Mounted or portable use
- Piezoelectric ignition
- Convective radiant heat
- Silent operation
- Not a very attractive design
- The grill can get very hot
4. Mr. Heater MHVFB30NGT 30,000 Natural Gas Heater
- 30,000 BTU Natural Gas heater to heat spaces up to 1000 square feet
- Blue flame burner for even convection heat. Maximum Elevation (Ft)-4500. Fuel Consumption/Burn Rate (Gal/Hr)- .030 MCF
- Automatic low oxygen shut-off system (ODS). CSA Certified
- Operating this heater at altitudes over 4,500 FT above sea level could cause pilot/ODS to shutdown the heater.included.Theromostat, legs and wall mounting hardware
- Fuel Type:Natural Gas.Not for use in bathrooms, bedrooms, or recreational vehicles
The Blue Flame Mr. Heater MHVFB30NGT is a vent-free natural gas heater, perfect for supplemental heating in the coldest winters.
It’s conveniently equipped with a thermostat for superior heat control and uses battery-powered piezoelectric ignition for easy starting.
The 30,000 BTU heater is ideal for large spaces, up to 1,000 square feet, and features a low-oxygen shutoff system (ODS) and legs for portable use. Wall-mounting hardware is also supplied if you wish to recess it into the wall.
A blower fan kit is available, as well as a high limit safety shutoff (HLS). The unit comes with a one-year warranty.
- Powerful 30,000 BTU heater
- Ideal for up to 1,000 square feet
- Features a thermostat
- Multiple safety features
- Hose not included
- Regulator not included
5. Mr. Heater #MH40NG 40,000 BTU Natural Gas Heater
- Efficient, cost effective infrared heat
- For use in buildings with 12 to 15 ft ceilings
- Clearances: Top - 36", Sides & Back - 30", Below - 68"
- Heats up to 1000 sq. ft.
- No electricity required, Maintenance free; no moving parts
One of the pricier products on this list at over $400, the Model MH40NG heater from Mr. Heater is a 999% efficient natural gas heater that transfers almost all the heat it burns into safe, radiant heat. The required millivolt thermostat is included. However, you have to buy the wires separately.
This unit, too, is recommended for spaces up to 1,000 square feet. It generates gentle and safe infrared heat and includes an adjustable thermostat for individually controlled warmth. It’s also very easy to install.
The heater is exceptionally durable, with no corrosive materials used throughout the construction. It’s backed by a one-year warranty.
- Ideal for up to 1,000 square feet
- Built-in thermostat
- Easy installation
- 1-year warranty
- Match lit
- Wires sold separately
6. Rinnai FC824P Propane Gas Vent-Free Fan Convector
- Rinnai FC824P Vent-Free Space Heater - Propane
- Input range 8,000 to 22,000 BTU/hour
- Ideal supplemental heating solution for room additions, basements, and sunrooms
- Tilt Switch - Push-Button, Electronic Ignition
- Cool-to-the-touch cabinet keeps you and your family safe
The FC824P is a flexible, easy to install vent-free fan convector with a 22,000 BTU output – the perfect solution for rooms and spaces that are hard to heat. The output range is 8,000 to 22,000 BTU, ideal for areas up to 1,000 square feet.
A programmable thermostat controls the heat settings. You’ll also love the digital display. It offers two fan speeds marked low and high. There are no vents or ducts on the unit, so heat loss is minimized.
The unit comes with an in-built oxygen depletion sensor (ODS) and is backed by an impressive three-year warranty.
- Very powerful heater
- Ideal for up to 1,000 square feet
- Extremely efficient
- 3-year warranty
- Doesn’t come cheap (priced at over $700)
7. Dura Heat 360-Degree Instant Radiant Double Tank Propane Heater
- 360° of instant radiant, infrared heat in a small and portable design; utilizes two disposable 1 lb lp cylinders
- Can also use a 20 lb refillable tank with optional extension hose (for outdoor use only)
- Protective grill guard; built-in carrying handle for easy mobility
- Built-in oxygen depletion sensor; safety tip-over shut off
- Swivel valve for easy tank loading; single 1 button lighting/heat control
One of the most portable propane heaters around the LP18-360 heater from Dura Heat is a unit you can take anywhere.
It uses two disposable 2-LB propane cylinders, making it completely portable and invaluable in emergencies. However, it can also hook to a 20-LB refillable tank with an optional extension hose.
Convenient carrying handles (it has two) make it easy to move from one application to the next. It has two heat settings, with the maximum setting set at 18,000 BTU.
Other things you’ll love about the heater include the protective grill guard built-in oxygen depletion sensor, safety tip-over switch, and swivel valve for easy tank loading. It’s backed by a one-year warranty.
- 360-degree instant radiant heat
- Use 2-LB or 20-LB tank
- Single-button heat control
- 1-year warranty
- Built-in carry handles
- Propane tank not included
8. Bluegrass Living B20TPB-BB Liquid Propane Heater
Finally, the Bluegrass Living ventless blue flame heater is a 20,000 BTU cabinet heater ideal for supplemental heating in up to 950 square feet.
It’s a clear-burning, fuel-efficient, and safe-to-use heater that circulates warm, comfortable air throughout the room.
The heater is equipped with a thermostat for convenient temperature control and features easy push-button ignition for simple starting.
An oxygen depletion sensor and automatic shutoff offer protection in case of high carbon monoxide levels. The unit can be mounted on the wall or used on the floor. Mounting hardware is included.
A pre-installed blower makes the B20TPB-BB an even more valuable find. The heater can also operate without the blower.
- Thermostat blower
- Wall mounting brackets included
- Base feet included
- Low-priced (under $200)
- 1-year warranty
- Propane tank sold separately
- Hose sold separately
If you’re in a hurry, we strongly recommend that you pick from the above list. All eight heaters have been tested and determined to be exceptional workhorses that will keep your basement warm and cozy throughout winter.
However, time allowing, it’s always nice to learn a few things about the product before you make the order. The rest of this guide focuses on helping you evaluate gas heaters to understand better their advantages and how to make the best use of one in the basement.
Natural gas and propane heaters are incredibly popular thanks to their powerful heat outputs and energy efficiency. Gas heaters are also generally less maintenance-intensive. There are no ashes to clean or soot/smoke to worry about.
However, remember that the heaters aren’t created the same. Some are more powerful than others. Some are also more efficient than others. Take your time to understand each model and always comparison shop before making a decision.