What Is the Purpose of a Cold Air Return Vent?
Home heating, ventilation, and cooling systems (HVAC) are complex mechanisms. Amongst other functions, these systems use venting to carry cold and warm air through ducts to the furnace or air conditioner unit, heating or cooling our homes as needed. If you don’t know what the purpose of a cold air return vent is, here’s a brief overview. It will help you maintain your HVAC in peak condition.
What are Cold Air Return Vents?
HVAC vents are the entry and exit points for air circulated around the home. They’re easy enough to locate around your home as they will be fronted by a grille or a grate, often matched to the home décor. As an example, timber slotted grilles look smart and neat when embedded into similarly colored timber floors. In contrast, decorative metal grilles can have an elegant impact in tiled bathrooms.
These vent facings are slotted so that airflow into and out of the HVAC ducts isn’t interrupted. The grille also usually allows the air direction to be manually adjusted with little effort. Cold air return vents are typically located on the floor, though they may also be found on the lower part of walls.
What’s the Primary Purpose of a Return Vent?
There’s more than one purpose of a cold air return vent, but the main function is sending cold air to the furnace to be heated. From the furnace, warm air is blown through the ducts, exiting through the hot air returns or vents within the home.
Based on the principle that hot air rises and chill air falls, cold air returns are placed at low levels in the home interior, such as the floor and lower walls. Less energy is then required to extract the cold air and return it to the furnace. Conversely, hot air vents are located in the ceiling or near the top of the walls.
What Other Functions Do Cold Air Returns Perform?
Aside from returning cold air to the furnace, cold air returns do other essential jobs.
Balancing Air Flow
Keeping the cold air vents open helps balance the airflow through the HVAC and throughout the home. Closing these returns will have the unfortunate effect of increasing the air pressure inside the air ducts. In turn, the extra pressure is forced into the ductwork and eventually will cause leaks and other damage to your expensive HVAC asset.
Qualified professional heating and cooling companies should deal with these types of problems. Regular annual maintenance will identify problems, but don’t wait if you notice a problem. Waiting will cost you money in unnecessary energy costs and further damage to your HVAC equipment.
Another purpose of a return vent is to assist with sanitizing the air. Cold air vents typically have air filters behind them, trapping dust, dirt, fungal spores, and other unwanted particles. Filtering at these junctures prevents the airborne nasties from going through to the furnace or air conditioner unit and circulating throughout the home.
Maintaining Energy Efficiency
Having the correct number of cold and hot air vents throughout the home helps lower your energy costs. Rooms without a vent may receive little, if any, benefits of the circulating air, reducing overall energy efficiency.
Return Air Vent Maintenance
The Environmental Protection Agency recommends annual yearly inspections of your HVAC. However, if you lack time or expertise, setting up a maintenance program is a sound way to go.
Some easy tasks you can do to maintain the return air vents are:
- Give them a regular clean. Lightly running the vacuum hose or dust buster over the vent will remove a good amount of dust.
- Change the air filters at recommended intervals. Check your system requirements for how often this should occur.
- Keep the vents clear of furnishings and other objects. Blocking the vents will make the HVAC work harder than necessary and may cause damage to the overall system.
Need Some Help with Your Air Returns?
It’s ideal to have cold air returns in bedrooms, lounges, and other living areas (bathrooms and kitchens excluded). Such a setup enables the peak efficiency of your home comfort system. Unfortunately, older homes may not have this luxury and lack adequate vents.
At Briggs HVAC, we provide homeowners with thorough inspection services, maintenance programs, and expert repairs. Servicing Northern Virginia, we can answer all your questions on cold air returns and advise whether your home would benefit from additional venting. For example, rooms with musty or stale air may indicate that a new return will significantly improve clean air circulation.