How to warm up a cold living room.
January 11, 2011 6:30 AM   Subscribe

Help me warm up a cold living room.

Turns out my living room is the coldest room in the house and (of course) is the room where I spend most of my time. Can you help brainstorm some ideas on how to take a cold room and make it cozy? Details:

Most of the residence is a single story--there is a small, second story loft.

No basement, house stands on a concrete slab.

Heat is forced air, gas. One thermostat, in the hallway 25 feet from living room.

Living room has high ceilings, the peak is around 25 feet or so.

There are a two windows and a door in the living room.

Living room has gas fireplace and the floor is carpet.

Two intake vents near the ceiling, two output vents near the baseboards (in the wall, not in the floor).

No too constrained on budget--I'd be willing to spend the money for a good solution.
posted by sexymofo to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
How drafty are the windows? A tube of caulk and some very heavy curtains would probably go a long way.
posted by kmennie at 6:33 AM on January 11, 2011

In-floor heating is the standard solution here in chilly Norway. It's easily the most comfortable type of heat available. When your feet are warm, the rest of your body will feel warm as well, allowing you to keep the room at a lower overall temperature, saving energy and money.

Low-profile solutions that build less than 2 mm are available. Maybe you can get away with just removing the carpet, and putting on a new floor covering with built-in heat. Depends on the state of your floor.
posted by Harald74 at 6:35 AM on January 11, 2011

I live in an old house in New England, and out place is pretty cold during the Winter. Last year, we got our windows resealed, bought a few cheap rugs, and got a $40 space heater. These few things make a huge difference.
posted by toddst at 6:42 AM on January 11, 2011

Our neighbors say the blower for their gas fireplace really help keep the room warmer.
posted by crush-onastick at 6:42 AM on January 11, 2011

Do you have a ceiling fan in the living room? (Or would you install one?) You may be losing all your heat to the 25-ft ceiling and a ceiling fan (set opposite the way you set it in summer, there should be a toggle switch) can disperse the hot air at the top of the room down into the rest of the room.
posted by mskyle at 6:45 AM on January 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

Close off the vents in other rooms - particularly rooms that you don't use often. That may help force more warm air into the living room. Also, do you know what humidity your living room typically is? Dry air feels colder than moist air. I have a whole house humidifier in my home and it allows me to keep the thermostat several degrees lower than I otherwise would in the winter.
posted by COD at 6:47 AM on January 11, 2011

Also, we have 25 foot ceilings in our family room, and a ceiling fan. I have never found the reverse the ceiling fan bit to help in the winter. Any benefit from pushing warm air down is offset by the cooling effect of moving air against your skin.
posted by COD at 6:53 AM on January 11, 2011

We have a living room with a vaulted roof, three large windows along the west wall, and open to the kitchen and entry way/front door. The ceiling-fan-in-reverse trick does work for us, with the fan on low to minimize blowing. We also have cellular blinds (like these), which help insulate against heat loss through the windows. On super cold nights we turn on the gas fireplace, which does a great job of keeping that room cozy. We even used it to keep the whole house warm one night when the furnace went out -- does your gas fireplace add any heat to the room, or is it more for appearances? That might be another upgrade to consider.

We have a basement, though, not a slab. If I were on a slab, I'd be looking at radiant heating as Harald74 suggests.

ps: we live in Michigan, and this is the time of year when I'm pretty sure I'm never going to be warm again...
posted by hms71 at 7:08 AM on January 11, 2011

insulating honeycomb shades, complete with siderails to close the gaps on the side, have made a HUGE difference for us. We got the sheer ones so that we can leave them down during the day but still get light. (And, no, you can't see what's going on in our living room at night when the lights are on, we tested. But you could always add curtains if it's a concern.) They also make light-blocking ones, which we have in the baby's room.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:20 AM on January 11, 2011

How's your insulation status? We just had proper insulation put in the attics of our house and the difference between now and before is absolutely stunning.
posted by cooker girl at 7:24 AM on January 11, 2011

I hung canvas curtains (dropcloths from Home Depot, actually) in the archway between the front room and my living room. This has cut my gas bills significantly just in the month they've been up. In my super-drafty bedroom, I hung dropcloth curtains over the French doors and two windows; over the windows, I also put up blackout panels that are vinyl with a thin foam padding. These panels not only block drafts - it turns out that they are very good at moderating the noise and light from my partying collegiate neighbors.
posted by catlet at 7:30 AM on January 11, 2011

The easy answer is to adjust the dampers on the heater, or close the vents in the warmer rooms. Done correctly, this will balance the heat flow to all the rooms equally, and the thermostat will have an accurate "view" of the heat. Once you get it right, mark the settings on the dampers for "winter". You may have to adjust for the cooling season, if you have central air. Mark those settings too.

Caulking windows makes a difference, as does putting in some of that clear window sealer film stuff. Obviously, if you can add insulation to an attic, consider it.

If you go ceiling fan, what you want to do is make sure the fan is blowing "up" in the winter. This pushes the heat and air to the walls and it gently cascades down, equalizing the temperature in the room. Without actually blowing on anyone.

Humidifier makes a HUGE difference.

Running the blower on the furnace 100% of the time keeps things a little more comfortable, but can get expensive.

See if you can eliminate any "negative air pressure" in the house. One source of this is the heater itself (if it is gas/oil). Some of the air in the house goes up the chimney, and gets made up by sucking in cold air through every nook and cranny in the building. If your heater room has an outside vent, there are automatic dampers available that open it when the burner is operating, and shut it when it isn't. For optimal comfort, you want to get the pressure slightly positive, so that conditioned air drafts out.

Make sure the fireplace is sealed up. Or use it to warm the space.

Get a space heater that is the radiant type, and point it at your furniture. If the couch is warm, you will feel warm.
posted by gjc at 8:35 AM on January 11, 2011

For the cozy factor, we use a Dimplex electric stove. It looks like a woodstove with flames but it's really a glorified space heater blowing hot air at you. Very cozy. Of course, with the high ceilings, you might have trouble keeping that warm air down, as you've already mentioned. But the look of a fire in the fireplace helps my mental state!
posted by Knowyournuts at 9:26 AM on January 11, 2011

The person I know with a ~100 year old house with high ceilings got an electric space heater that looks like it's a fireplace (you can turn on the fire, or the heat, or both), and stuck it IN her (non-working) fireplace, to warm up the living room. Worked really well, is very attractive.

Fireplace is apparently one of those words you only have to use a couple of times before it starts to look wrong.
posted by galadriel at 9:46 AM on January 11, 2011

We have been house-hunting lately and paying a LOT of attention to how easily a house's energy rating can be upgraded. The thing that seems to make the biggest difference is putting in heavy curtains and pelmets. Followed by improving insulation (rating should preferably be around R4). If all of that is okay, it might be time to look into double-glazing.

Smaller tricks that can make you feel cosier, apart from wearing more clothes!, are:
- throw rugs on the couch and chairs, so you can wrap yourself up (or just put them over your lap or feet)
- rugs on the floors
- warm colours in the decor
- candles
- drink lots of hot tea
- a small electric heater near you - even if it's not putting out much heat. The fact that you can put your feet right up against it means it doesn't have to warm the whole room for you to really feel the difference.
- hot water bottles. I often have one on my lap while I'm sitting and reading.
posted by lollusc at 3:05 PM on January 11, 2011

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