Best Way to Heat a Small Room
Restore cozy comfort — without paying a pro
Some rooms are always cold in winter, some get cold occasionally and some that have never been cold in the past develop a sudden chill. Whatever the situation, here are some simple solutions to try before consulting a pro. If you have forced-air heat and central air-conditioning, some of these tips will apply to summertime hot rooms too.
Troubleshooting: Check the simple things first
If the room was comfortable in the past but is cool now, here are some quick things to check:
- ARE THE REGISTERS OPEN?
Every furnace technician has a story about a cold room that was cured by opening a register or two. Don’t make yourself the star of one of those stories.
- ARE THE REGISTERS BLOCKED?
Rearranging the furniture or shoving a rug aside can block airflow.
- ARE THE DAMPERS OPEN?
Some ductwork contains dampers to adjust airflow. Look for handles and markings on the ductwork such as “summer” and “winter.” Set the damper handle parallel to the duct line for maximum airflow.
- IS THE FURNACE FILTER FILTHY?
This is the most common cause of heating (and cooling) troubles. Change the filter and the problem usually disappears.
- ARE THE RADIATORS CLEAR?
Whether you have electric or hydronic baseboard units or old-fashioned radiators, they won’t throw maximum heat unless air can flow through them. If you move the bed against a baseboard unit or toss a blanket across a radiator, the room might get chilly.
- IS THE RADIATOR AIR-LOCKED?
If you have a hot-water radiator that’s not heating, the cause is usually trapped air, and getting rid of it is simple. Use a radiator key, 1/4-in. 12-point socket or a flat screwdriver (depending on your valve type) and slowly turn the valve counterclockwise until water drips out. This will release trapped air and let hot water flow. While you’re at it, repeat the process on your other radiators. Bleeding the radiators will lower the pressure in your system, so you might have to slowly add water to increase the pressure. Do this by opening, then closing, the valve on the water pipe above the boiler. If you’re unfamiliar with your system, call a pro. How much pressure you need depends on how high the water has to rise. The basic rule is 1 lb. of pressure for every 2 ft. of rise. Your gauge may read in pounds, feet or both. A basic two-story house, with the boiler and expansion tank in the basement, needs 12 to 15 lbs., or 25 to 30 ft., of pressure.
Give your furnace a boost
If you have forced-air heat, one of the easiest ways to warm a chronically cold room is to set a duct booster fan (available at home centers) on a register. It works simply by drawing more warm air into the room. There are also in-line fans that can be installed in the ductwork.
Heat the floor
There are two types of in-floor heat: Hydronic, which pumps hot water through tubing, and electric, which heats with cables, much like an electric blanket.
Electric floor heat
To warm a cool room, electric systems are usually more practical than hydronic systems. Some electric systems consist of mats or mesh that contains cables. Others rely on channels to hold cables in place. Electric cables are most often installed with tile flooring.
Not just for tile
Some electric mats can heat floating floors such as laminate or engineered wood flooring. Because floating floors aren’t fastened to the subfloor, you can simply lay the flooring over the mat. Some electric mats also work with carpet, though the carpet acts as an insulator and reduces heat gain in the room.
Hydronic floor heat
Hydronic systems require a hot water source, tubing and a built-up floor to embed the tubing. It’s a major project that can heat an addition or an entire home. But in most situations, there are much more economical ways to add a little heat to a cool room.
If you already have a hot-water heating system and unfinished space below the floor, hydronic tubing installed under the floor may be a cost-effective way to warm up a room. Otherwise, electric systems are far more economical. There are also electric mats that can be installed from below.