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Supply Vents and Return Vents: Identifying HVAC Vents in Your Home

Your HVAC vents distribute summer coolness and winter warmth to all rooms in your home. Household ductwork and vents that circulate conditioned air actually comprise two separate systems:

  • Supply HVAC vents push cooled or heated air from the central air handler into each room. Usually, the supply vent is located high on a wall near the ceiling.
  • Return vents are under slightly negative pressure and draw air out of rooms, then return it to the A/C or furnace. Return vents are typically larger than supply vents and located lower on the wall near the floor.

What Can Go Wrong?

When the duct/vent system is functioning properly, the volume of conditioned air entering through supply vents is just slightly more than the volume of air removed through return vents. This creates the optimal positive air balance. If the system becomes unbalanced, however, temperature and comfort control, energy efficiency and even indoor air quality may be compromised. Here are some ways to preserve air balance and promote proper vent airflow.

Check for closed or obstructed vents. A closed vent or one obstructed by furniture, drapes or other obstacles creates an air imbalance in that room as well as throughout the entire system. Keep all vents open to allow full airflow at all times.

Clean dirty vents. Dust, lint and dirt on the vent grille as well as just inside the duct can impair airflow. Vacuum the grilles regularly to remove dust. Shine a flashlight through the grille to check for buildup inside the duct, as well. Remove the grille if necessary to clean inside the duct.

Change your air filter. A clean system air filter promotes maximum airflow through the vents. It also helps reduce dust and dirt accumulation. Ideally, the filter should be changed monthly during the cooling season.

Have your ductwork inspected. Residential ducts typically leak conditioned air over time. This decreases airflow at the vents and creates air imbalances. Have your ducts tested by a professional, then sealed if leakage exceeds allowable amounts.

For more information about issues affecting HVAC vents in your home, contact Beyer Boys.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the greater San Antonio, Texas area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).