16 Ways to Warm Up a Cold Room That Actually Work

Updated: Apr. 11, 2024

Learn how to warm up a room without using a plug-in electric heater. Consider built-in radiant floor or ceiling heating, duct booster fans, toe-kick heaters and other safe heating techniques first.

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cold room warm up with tea and heater
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The Problem: A Room That’s Always Cold

Do you have a room in your house where there always seems to be a chill in the air? Many choose to solve the problem with a portable electric space heater. But portables have their drawbacks. They can burn curious kids, they’re often unattractive obstacles, and larger models take up a lot of floor space and may overload an electrical circuit.

Instead, try one of these alternative heating options to warm up a cold room, including a few common troubleshooting solutions.

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Courtesy Aria

Check for Closed or Blocked Registers

Every furnace technician has a story about a cold room that was warmed by simply opening a register or two. Be sure to check all the vents in the room to ensure they’re open.

Furniture and rugs can also block airflow, so do some rearranging if needed. Check out these other common heating problems you might run into.

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damper warm up a cold room
Family Handyman

Make Sure Dampers are Open

Check dampers to make sure they’re not restricting airflow to the rooms that need it. Some need to be adjusted differently for winter and summer.

You’ll usually find them near the supply-air plenum on the large ducts that feed the rooms in your house.

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change furnace filter

Replace the Furnace Filter

The most common cause of heating (and cooling) problems is an easy one to solve: dirty filters. A clean filter improves air quality and helps your heating system run more efficiently.

If your heater isn’t warming every room in the house, check the filter — it probably needs to be replaced. During the winter you should change your furnace filter about once a month.

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Keep Radiators Clear

A radiator won’t produce maximum heat unless air can flow through it. If your room feels chilly, make sure furniture or other items aren’t restricting airflow.

These radiator cover ideas hide ugly radiators while still allowing air to safely flow through.

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Nestor Bandrivskyy/Shutterstock

Release Trapped Air from Radiators

If you have a hot-water radiator that’s not heating, the cause might be trapped air. Releasing it is simple. At the top of your radiator, look for a small valve.

Use a radiator key or a flat screwdriver and slowly turn the valve counterclockwise until water starts dripping out. This will release trapped air and let hot water into the cold fins.

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Electric Toe-Kick Heaters

Another option for warming up a cold room is installing electric toe-kick heaters. These small heaters with blowers fit into the hollow space under kitchen cabinets, stair treads and vanities.

To power the heaters, you’ll need to run a dedicated circuit from your main electrical panel. Look for a model that you can control with a switch, and includes temperature control.

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Duct-Booster Fans

If you have forced-air heat, you can take advantage of a duct booster fan like this one. Duct booster fans are designed to increase the flow of warm air through your ducts into a problem room. In-line duct booster fans fit inside standard-size metal ducts.

Mount the blower near the outlet end of a duct, then install a pressure switch (some models have one built-in). Cheaper units can be noisy, so it’s worth buying a quality model with a powerful motor.

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Wall-Mounted Heater

Installing an electric wall-mounted heater gives you all the benefits of a portable heater without taking up any floor space. This highly-reviewed wall-mounted heater includes WiFi so you can control it with your phone. It stays cool to the touch so it’s safe to use around kids. They are a preferable choice to a DIY terracotta heater.

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garage with in floor heat heated floors
Family Handyman

Electric Floor Heat

If you happen to be remodeling the flooring in a room that could use extra warmth, consider installing electric heated floors. They’re especially great for warming up a cold bathroom.

The in-floor heating system consists of one thin continuous cable heating element woven into a mat that you install under the tile. Here’s how to install it yourself.

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Close-up Of Person Hand Applying Silicone Sealant With Silicone Gun On Window

Seal Drafty Windows

Cold air coming through a window might be what’s preventing a room from warming up. There are a few solutions for sealing your windows and keeping those chilly drafts out. You can try a window insulator kit that includes all the supplies to cover the entire window with a layer of heat-shrink plastic. Are you looking for more insulation ideas? Here’s our list of things you must insulate before winter to keep your house warm.

You can also try sealing drafty windows with caulk.

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Ceiling fan
Lisa Kingdon/Getty Images

Reverse Ceiling Fans

Typically your ceiling fan is used to keep your room cool during the summer. But did you know that it can also help with keeping a room warm during the winter? All you have to do is switch the spinning direction.

Since warm air rises, a ceiling fan can help push that warm air back down to the ground. When the fan is moving in the “forward” direction (counter-clockwise) it pushes down cool air. But putting the fan on “reverse” (clockwise) on a low speed will gently draw up the warm air and push it back down, circling the warm air around the room.

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shutterstock_150550232 aluminum foil
Sergiy Kuzmin/Shutterstock

Use Foil Behind a Radiator

If you have a radiator attached to an external wall, use some aluminum foil behind the radiator. The reflective nature of the foil will prevent heat from disappearing through the wall and instead will reflect it back into the room.

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Electric Fireplace

No fireplace? No problem! Install this electric fireplace equipped with a touchscreen and remote control to keep a cold room warm this winter.

The flat fireplace is designed to mount right on your wall (it’s only five inches deep) and can provide heating for a room up to 400 square feet. It comes with faux fire logs and crystals to resemble burning coals, and features three flame colors and three fuel bed colors.

Don’t miss these other faux fireplaces and electric fireplaces that are almost as good as the real thing!

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Family Handyman

Insulate HVAC Ducts

Cracked and broken HVAC ducts cause substantial energy loss, so repairing and insulating them can help improve efficiency. Start by replacing or sealing open or poorly sealed ducts.

To maintain temperatures in the longer duct areas, add insulation around the duct work. Proper sealing and insulating can save energy in warm and cold climates.

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Draft Stopper

A simple draft stopper like this one can stop cold air from coming in under a door or window. Simply lay it in place wherever you feel a cold breeze. Here are five more draft stopper ideas!

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spray foam insulation

Seal Gaps

Sometimes the smallest cracks can cause intense drafts and will make a room feel extra cold. So seal any openings in exterior walls with expanding foam, particularly around pipes to minimize air loss. Adding foam insulation is also a cheap way to stop drafts from wafting in behind switch plates.

Next: learn how to adjust storm door sweep to make your house warmer.