Extend what you have

Any reliable heating and cooling contractor can “size” your existing HVAC system to determine if it can adequately heat, cool, and ventilate your basement’s space. Sizing a furnace and air conditioner is a calculation generally based on square footage/ton of capacity. However, contractors also consider the home’s insulation values and other high-performance building practices to “right-size” the equipment and balance its performance and cost.

If your heating and cooling system is up to the task, your contractor likely will tap into the main HVAC trunk and install vents and a return in the walls and/or ceiling. Make sure new ducts have dampers so they don’t steal all the heat and AC from the rest of the house.

Add a new heating and cooling system

If your existing HVAC setup can’t handle the additional load, you’ll add a secondary heating and cooling system dedicated to your finished basement, or replace your entire existing system with larger-capacity equipment.

Installing dedicated heating and cooling equipment is expensive—$7,000 to $15,000. It takes up additional space inside and outside, and requires adding new circuits to your electrical panel. Upgrading your entire system is a chunk of change, too—$10,000 or more—but you’ll save space and, likely, electrician fees.

Think radiant heat, fireplace, baseboard heat

You’re not required to heat a finished basement the same way you heat the rest of your house. Get creative and add:

  • Gas fireplace: Place on outside wall for easy venting.
  • Wood-burning stove: Inexpensive and toasty heat when you need it.
  • Electric baseboard heat: No ducts needed, easy to install.
  • Radiant heat: Coils installed under flooring or panels on ceiling or walls.