Building Homes or Extensions/cold air return


I live in a single story brick ranch with a full basement, and heat with electric (Heat pump). My basement was always freezing cold in the winter, so I installed a pellet stove in the basement
to heat it, and hopefully cut down on my winter electric bills. It does the job heating the basement, and some heat does radiate to the upstairs, but I was wondering if I could add a cold air return to the basement and hopefully bring some more heat upstairs. The pellet stove is on the opposite end of the basement from the heat pump, and currently there is no cold air return in the basement. The manual with the pellet stove cautioned against placing the stove too close to any cold air return, so I was considering installing one near the heat pump across the basement. Any ideas or thoughts?


I assume that the basement ceiling is uninsulated, so heat from the stove can warm the floor above.  

Yes, you could install a return air duct that is designed to draw heat from the basement.  This assumes that your basement is dry and does not have odors or mold (otherwise you will be drawing bad air upstairs).  When running, the system should equalize, with the heat pump running less because the thermostat upstairs will not call for heat as often.  If your basement door is always closed, then also run a small supply (heat) duct from the heat pump system into the basement.  Otherwise the system will strain, and the basement will be under negative pressure, which can increase radon and cold air infiltration.  

If you do not have carbon monoxide detectors installed, you need to install one on each level  and in each bedroom.  Test them monthly during the heating season.

Lastly, I always recommend installing a small (4") insulated duct from the return trunk to the outdoors, with an in-line damper.  Screen the outdoor intake for bugs and critters.  This will introduce a small amount of fresh air whenever the heat pump runs.  There is a small energy penalty, but the air quality benefits from introducing fresh air and slightly pressurizing the house generally outweigh the slight energy cost.  

Best of luck,

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Stephen Major (Owner--Major Design Group)


I can answer any questions regarding the design and construction of homes and additions. This includes trade-specific questions (how-to) in all major building trades: framing, foundations, site prep, electrical, HVAC, plumbing, water treatment, interior finishing, trim & cabinetwork, exterior finishing, roofing, siding. PLEASE indicate your state or region, so I can provide the best possible answer. PLEASE provide photos whenever possible.


30 years experience in building design and construction, all hands-on, including the construction of dozens of single-family homes and hundreds of remodeling projects in the northeastern US.

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BS Cornell University.

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