Usually built from one to three feet off the ground, a crawl space isn’t accessed frequently. But many savvy homeowners have found ways to make use of the space.
A crawl space is an area many homeowners and renters use for storage. In more practical terms, if you live in a damp area you might have a crawl space. Typically, the crawl space keeps your abode slightly off the ground and protects it from water damage.
For many people, a crawl space is a convenient and less expensive alternative to a basement. But, it also may make your home chilly.
To avoid frozen pipes, you may want to consider heating your crawl space. In a best-case scenario, you might just turn on your faucet during an unusually cold day and see the liquid only comes out at a trickle or not at all. However, if the frozen pipes have burst underneath your home, you are going to be facing expensive repair costs.
There are even people who try their hands at crawl space gardening. They reason that this small area underneath the home is an ideal place to store fragile bulbs and temperature-sensitive plants.
Maybe you’ve got a lot of learning to do before being able to brag about your well-developed green thumb and figure, “If these plants don’t thrive, at least I can keep them hidden away down here rather than letting the neighbors notice that gardening was never one of my gifts.” Granted, a crawl space stays protected from drastic temperature fluctuations, but you may still want a warmer crawl space for the plants kept there.
Because of these realities, many people think a logical step to take is to heat their crawl spaces. Let’s look at the practicalities of that approach.
Before having a hope of a well-heated crawl space, you first need to insulate the crawl space walls. This serves to protect from exterior temperatures and seal off the area to protect it from moisture coming through the dirt floor. A wet crawl space could quickly turn into a moldy one. Plus, insulating the crawl space and creating a moisture barrier could be enough to make the crawl space warmer, meaning you wouldn’t have to explore other methods.
If, after trying those two possibilities, you still think your crawl space is too cold, put plastic over the crawl space floor. Next, install foundation vents or other varieties you can open and close easily. Foundation vents are particularly handy because they have metal springs that react to the outside temperature. Once it drops low enough, the vents close, so you don’t have to remember to head down to the crawl space and deal with the vents yourself.
The relatively straightforward combination of plastic sheeting and closable vents raises the air temperature down there while lowering humidity, and these effects naturally make the environment under your feet warmer. However, be sure to follow the recommendations here rather than putting plastic on the floor joints of the crawl space. Doing so could trap moisture and lead to wood rot.
While researching your options, remember that if something sounds too good to be true, you’re probably right. There’s widespread “wisdom” populating the internet that heating your crawl space is as easy as using a light bulb.
Unfortunately, though, building experts have squashed that solution. Those in the know thoughtfully argue that a little, lone light bulb is just too small to heat the whole area. Not to mention, it might burn out at any time and you wouldn’t know because the crawl space isn’t a living area
Instead of using a light bulb, you could invest in a crawl space heater. Bear in mind though, the electric kinds could make your monthly utility bill much higher than expected. Conversely, if you decide to go with a non-electric, natural gas-powered solution, the risk of starting a fire in the crawl space goes up.
One safety-conscious solution involves putting a remote temperature probe near the crawl space near the heater and placing the gauge in your living area, making it easy to check conditions regularly. If the reading shows the area beneath your feet is too toasty, you can intervene and shut off the heater.
After exploring some of the typical reasons why people heat crawl spaces, as well as techniques for taking that approach yourself, you’re ready to decide if it’s worthwhile for you. Before determining a route to take, be sure to weigh the pros and cons carefully.