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Finishing Your Basement? What You Need to Know About Basement HVAC

UPDATED July 2019 – Finishing your basement adds value to your home, offers additional square footage to enjoy and offers refuge for severe weather but have you considered your basement HVAC? 

Before you can finish your basement and choose decor, consider what it needs to maintain comfortable temperatures. Do you already have basement HVAC ducting installed or will you need to decide where and how to install more?

If your HVAC system impacts your remodeling, discuss your plans with a professional HVAC contractor. Contact Douglas Cooling & Heating to have our NATE-certified technicians inspect your current system. We offer affordable suggestions so heating and cooling your finished basement goes smoothly. 

In this blog, we’ll cover what you need to know about remodeling and basement HVAC.

Keep Your Basement HVAC System Hidden but Safe

Many homes have air handlers, furnaces, water heaters, water softeners and other mechanical equipment housed in the basement. While planning how you will finish your basement, consider how to enclose your HVAC system and mechanicals. This keeps the focus on the entertainment areas. Incorporating a utility room, for example, conceals the equipment but allows access via a door for maintenance and repairs. 

Many homeowners find they like having some unfinished space too, for seasonal decor and other storage. Just be sure to allow for adequate space around your mechanicals. They need proper airflow. 

In addition, gas furnaces need to meet gas code requirements for ventilation. The National Fuel Gas Code specifies the number of cubic feet required to vent your furnace based on the BTU output. Your design must allow proper room around the heating unit for safety.

Know Your HVAC Codes and Permit Considerations

Building codes vary depending on different factors. If you don’t have windows in your basement or you don’t have enough for proper ventilation, installation of a mechanical ventilation system might be required to create a healthy and safe environment.

Most unfinished basements don’t have ductwork present for heating and cooling. We recommend you determine what and how much new basement HVAC ducting you need. Put it on paper. 

If you need to obtain a building permit, it usually requires you to provide a visible plan. Include in your plan the location of your current system, the supply and return ducts, plus additional basement HVAC ducting you plan to install. Contact your local municipality to find out if you need a building permit. 

If you choose a professional HVAC contractor like Douglas Cooling & Heating, our team designs the system and helps with any plans for permits. 

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Determine the Size of Basement HVAC System You Need

This is important. It’s critical to plan the appropriate size and design of the ductwork to match the capacity of your HVAC system. If the addition of your basement HVAC is more than your heating and cooling system can handle, it creates new problems. 

We see this in cases in older homes and buildings, especially, which have had additions over the years. 

If your system is over or undersized for the heating and cooling needs of the building, you’ll have uneven temperatures. It also strains your system to keep up and sets you up for more repairs and even early replacements. 

Avoid that when you use a qualified and skilled heating and cooling technician to determine the correct size HVAC system needed. If you add supplemental heating and cooling equipment, size only the new finished space for the add-on basement HVAC. Lean on our NATE-certified team for success.

Additions Versus Upgrades

You have two options if your current HVAC system doesn’t meet the capacity needed for heating and cooling your finished basement:

  1. Upgrade your existing HVAC system to a larger capacity unit
  2. Add a second HVAC system to provide the necessary heating and air to your finished basement

The best option depends on your situation and personal preferences. If your HVAC system is fairly new, an upgrade might not be the most cost-effective choice. 

However, if your system is old and requires more frequent repairs, upgrading to a higher capacity HVAC unit might be the perfect choice for your home and basement. This might be the perfect excuse to upgrade your system’s efficiency too! 

Technology and energy efficiency in heating and air continues to evolve. Previously, an 80 percent efficiency furnace was standard. Now, you can get a gas furnace that uses 98 cents of every dollar spent to heat your home. 

Air conditioners and heat pumps are also more energy-efficient. At Douglas Cooling & Heating, we offer Bryant central air models like the popular Evolution ® 189BNV. It’s quiet and thanks to its variable-speed compressor, it offers an ENERGY STAR-qualifying SEER up to 19. 

If you prefer a heat pump, we recommend the Bryant Evolution ® 288BNV or 280A. Both use variable-speeds for greater comfort and efficiency. They offer top-of-the-line SEER and HSPF ratings. The 288BNV was named to the list of Most Efficient of ENERGY STAR 2019 while the 280A is specifically known for excellent dehumidification.

New Kid on the Block: Ductless Heating and Cooling

What to do when basement HVAC ducting isn’t available, complex or when a system’s capacity can’t meet the needs of the additional square footage? Try a ductless system. Ductless, used for decades in Europe and Asia, continues to win fans in the U.S. 

The heat pump condenser installs outside while the indoor air handler installs on a wall or ceiling. This allows you to comfortably heat and cool your newly-finished basement without ductwork. 

The indoor units offer flexibility for installation, and they can be set up on a zoned system for increased efficiency. Depending on the model, you can connect up to six indoor units to a single outdoor AC compressor. 

At Douglas Cooling & Heating, we install Bryant ductless heat pumps with cooling efficiencies up to 30.5 SEER and heating ratings up to 10.3 HSPF.  

Basement HVAC Design and Installation Experts: Douglas Cooling & Heating in Birmingham, AL

Make the best choices when it comes to heating your finished basement! Contact Douglas Cooling & Heating to schedule a free estimate for a new unit or to schedule service. Questions about whether your current system is sized correctly? We’re happy to help. Our HVAC technicians are NATE-certified and the best in the industry. 

After basement HVAC installation, make routine maintenance easy with a service plan membership. We offer three different plans to fit any budget. So call Douglas Cooling & Heating today and schedule an HVAC maintenance visit for your heating and cooling system. 

Our team serves homeowners throughout the Birmingham, Alabama area, including Vestavia Hills, Pelham, Mountain Brook, Homewood and Hoover. You’ll also find us in Bessemer, Calera, Chelsea and Helena, Alabama. 

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