Question

What's the best way to heat a large family room with 14 ft. ceilings?

Asked by Robi
Sonoma, CA

My 1500 square foot condo was built in 1980 and came with radiant ceiling heat. Must have been a (poorly thought out) fad back then. It's expensive to use and doesn't work efficiently, or at all in some rooms. Space heaters are fine in the smaller rooms, but the living room/dining room is cavernous. I'm open to short term solutions (baseboard heaters?) and long term solutions as long as they are electrically powered. (No gas.) Any advice? Thanks!

Answer

David Willson

Answered by David Willson

Sebastopol, CA

Advanced Home Performance

October 10, 2012

Robi,

I can imagine the expense of running an electrical resistance radiant ceiling heat. And if it doesn't work very well, that's a double whammy. 

So your options, in a nutshell, as I see them:

  1. Install a full size, high quality ceiling fan that can run on low for hours and set the speed to mix the room's air without creating too much of a draft.
  2. Use electric baseboard heaters. They are marginally more efficient than your ceiling heaters but suffer the same major problem: they don't mix the air so the upper part of the room gets hot before you start to get warm.
  3. For a better fix, consider a mini-split (a small, ductless, heat pump with one or two interior wall units with fans in them) which will be less expensive than a ducted system initially, will likely reduce your utility bills substantially from where they are now, and will improve the comfort in your family room.
  4. For the best fix, consider a ducted heat pump system for your whole condo. A ducted system, though considerably more expensive than a mini-split, will give you a more comfortable room. A heat pump with a ducted delivery system can pull the warm air from the top of the room and circulate it throughout your condo with a highly efficient ECM fan that runs at a low speed for long periods of time. This will greatly reduce stratification, which is that annoying tendency for all your nice warm air to gravitate to the ceiling where it doesn't do any good.

Since it appears you live in California, either of the last two options above will improve your home's efficiency enough for you to get a rebate from the Energy Upgrade California program, and there are a number of financing options available to you.

And since you live in Sonoma County, you have a couple of excellent Home Performance Contractors near you that can advise you in person.

 

For more information:

Read "I can't afford geothermal. Is an air-to-air heat pump my best option for heating?" a Q&A answered by Randy Potter.

Tagged In: energy efficient heating system

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