Basement Heating and Air Conditioning Options (Podcast)

Basement Heating and Air Conditioning Options

In this podcast, Mike Cappuccio, founder of N.E.T.R., Inc talks with John Maher about the challenges of heating and cooling a basement. Then, he explains how ductless or air source heat pumps can meet these challenges perfectly.

John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Mike Cappuccio, founder of N.E.T.R., Inc., a heating and cooling company in Massachusetts, with a focus on Mitsubishi ductless heating and cooling products. Today, we’re talking about basement heating and air conditioning options. Welcome, Mike.

Mike Cappuccio: Hi, John. How are you?

Is an Electric Heater Right for the Basement?

John: Good. Thanks. Michael, when a lot of people go to finish their basement, maybe they want to expand their home a little bit, get a little more usable space, maybe create a family room down there, maybe even a little extra bedroom for one of their kids or something like that, they realize that their current heating system doesn’t heat their basement. So then they look into other options. Is an electric heater a good way to heat a basement?

Mike: When you look at basement heating options now and how they flow. I mean, electric heat is definitely one of them, but it’s the most expensive way to heat the basement. And what they usually find out is when they put that in, all of a sudden, they’re now paying a $200 or $300 electric bill every month from adding an electric baseboard in their basement. Because it’s the cheapest way, but the most inefficient way.

And I’m going to also put this in there too, that it’s actually one of the most dangerous ways. Example, the reason why I want to point this out is I saw this happen actually once where an electric strip, a baseboard heater, was put into the basement and it was basically a playroom for the kids. Well, the kids don’t really know that that electric baseboard heater gets hot. And there are very sharp elements in there and they tend to want to stick toys in there, stick their fingers in there.

And I mean, there was actually a fire that was started by paper that was put in there… The kids were down there coloring with big pieces of paper and they put it inside the electric heater and the paper caught on fire. And these heaters are right at the ground, they’re right where the kids are. So they can put their hands in there, they can put things in there. That’s a risk. These heaters are definitely warm, but they’re the most dangerous, inefficient way to heat a basement.

Advantages of Heating a Basement With an Air Source Heat Pump

John: So you’d install a lot of air source, heat pump or ductless heating and cooling systems? Why is an air source heat pump a better way to heat a basement?

Mike: Well, first off, you’re not using an electric heating element in the air source heat pump. An air source heat pump is combined of two pieces of equipment. It’s an outdoor condensing unit that basically can air condition your basement as well and heat your basement. So there’s an indoor and an outdoor unit, like I said.

And the indoor unit could either be a floor mounted unit that would mount on the floor of the basement and the piping would run up and go outside to, what we call an outdoor condenser that would sit outside. No heating element is in it, nothing where you can really stick your fingers in there, or put your hands in there to do anything dangerous or harmful to anyone.

And the other thing is that there’s refrigerant that’s flowing through the two pipes from the indoor unit to the outdoor unit. So it’s basically just warm refrigerant that is running through there to heat the basement. And then in the summertime, just vice versa, there’s cold refrigerant going through there that’s air conditioning the basement

Using a Ductless Mini Split to Dehumidify Your Basement

John: Talk a little bit about the summertime… basements are usually cooler in the summertime anyway, so maybe you don’t really need a lot of air conditioning. But what are some of the problems that can arise in the summertime in a basement?

Mike: Well, I mean, I want you to think about a basement. It’s usually a damp, cold area, John. And a lot of them don’t have vapor barriers in the floor and they’re looking for a way to dehumidify that space a little bit. A lot of times you do need a dehumidifier system in your basement, in the summertime to run along with the air conditioner that you’re going to put into this.

So you want to put a basement air conditioner, which would be the wall mounted or floor mounted air source heat pump that would go in there that would heat and cool that space as well. But there also is a dry mode on a Mitsubishi mini-split that you could put in your basement where you could put the unit on dry mode.

The only thing is you’ve got to be a little bit careful, they’re not dehumidifiers, and they can tend to get a little chili down there if you put it onto the dry mode for long, long periods of time, but it will pull out the moisture in the air. It will definitely remove that moisture from the space.

Using Ductless to Air Condition Your Basement

John: And there might still be times in the summer when it does get hot. Can you use a ductless system as an air conditioner in a basement?

Mike: Oh, absolutely, John. Yeah, we do it every day. Sometimes people put a kitchen in their basement sometimes, and it does get hot down there. And we put the wall mounted unit, a floor mounted unit.

I mean, you can put duct work in a basement as well with a ducted system that you can use, and these can be air source heat pumps too. But a lot of times what’s going to happen with that is you’re going to end up with low headroom in a basement. I mean, most basements don’t have nine, 10 feet of height in there. They’re usually around seven to eight feet most times.

John: Sure.

Mike: And when you start adding ductwork, now you start losing head space in the basement as well. That’s where our wall units in floor mount units are a perfect fit. Most times it’s a wall mount unit that will go into the basement. And I’ll tell you why… because, when you look at the outside of a home and you think about it, you usually have two or three feet of foundation above the ground. That’s where the wall mount unit would go so we could drain right outside at that point.

Installing Ductless Into Your Basement

Mike: Basically, what we do is we come in and we core the foundation, put a three inch core hole right through the foundation, run the pipes right to the outside, seal the hole with epoxy sealant that we’re going to put into that hole and then let the drain drain right outside at that point. If you’re putting a floor unit and it’s down low, we’re going to have to put a condensate pump to pump that water up and pump that condensate that unit is going to make to the outside.

And sometimes a pump, it’s not the best way to do it, it’s just another thing that can go wrong in the system so we don’t usually like to do pumps if we don’t have to. Condensate pumps are like a last resort on a unit, if you don’t have to. So most times it is a wall mount unit that would be put into the basement on that exterior foundation wall at that point.

Electrical Considerations When Cooling and Heating Your Basement

John: Okay. Any final thoughts on doing air conditioning and heating in a basement?

Mike: Yeah. I mean, it’s also looking at your electrical service too. Let’s make sure that the electrical service can handle the unit that we’re putting in there. Might need an electrical upgrade. If we have knobs and fuses and things like that, we’re going to have to come in, look at the electrical.

But these systems are absolutely designed to air condition a basement, heat a basement. There’s a lot of different basement heating options you can look at, from a floor mount to a wall mount. Maybe even duct work, if there is space, maybe on the other side of a wall that maybe might not be in the area where you’re going to lose that headspace.

John: All right. Well, that’s really great information, Mike. Thanks again for speaking with me today.

Mike: Thanks, John.

Contact N.E.T.R., Inc to Learn More

John: And for more information, you can visit the N.E.T.R. at or call 781-933-NETR. That’s 781-933-6387.