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How Important Is Cold Air Return?

How Important Is Cold Air Return?

You might ask if having cold air return is important when building a new furnace.

Yes, your furnace needs cold air return. However, the purpose of a home’s cold air returns is sometimes overlooked despite being just as significant as the job supply registers perform.

Now let’s talk about what cold air returns do and why your furnace requires them. Along with that, we’ll discuss how many cold air return vents your home requires and where to put them. We’ll also discuss how to improve the efficiency of your cold air return.

Why Do You Need Cold Air Returns? How Do They Work?

In order for your furnace to function properly and to heat your home evenly, the airflow in your HVAC system needs to be balanced. To put it another way, the amount of air that your furnace “breathes in” and “breathes out” must be equal.

Due to chilly air returns, your furnace may “inhale” the air in your home. The cold air that already resides in the room is driven into the warm air and then spat back out again when warm air is supplied.

The air from your cold air returns is carried back to your furnace after entering your home, where it is heated, filtered, and then redirected to warm your house.

These vents, which are frequently on the wall, are incapable of opening or closing their flow due to a lack of a control mechanism. In order to heat or cool the furnace, they serve the purpose of allowing air to flow back into it. Specifically, an air inlet. If your home has returns in the majority of the rooms, this is the ideal design for the best circulation and airflow.

How Many Cold Air Returns Will Your House Require?

The size of your home frequently affects how many vents you need in each room. If your space is larger than 100 square feet, you will need at least two vents to ensure enough ventilation. If the room is smaller, one will do.

Additionally, having numerous return vents—ideally one in each room, though two or three are still better to one—produces consistent air pressure.

Even if your home just has one return vent, it will be fine. Keep the doors to each room open to ensure proper airflow. If you ever need to replace some of your ducts, it could be a good idea to install a few extra return vents.

Where Should Cold Air Return Vents Be Placed?

How Important Is Cold Air Return?

Your furnace operates more effectively when cold air return vents are installed properly. The following advice can help you find your cold air vent:

Learn More About Your Heating System

Check your home’s heating system. It is essential to comprehend the region you are heating. Air input and air output must be equal, as was previously stated.

The pressure within the house will increase if the furnace’s input is less than its output, which might cause potentially lethal gasses to back up. If the return vents are not spaced properly, air will flow through the rooms and downstairs to the furnace. By creating a draft, this defeats the purpose of a forced air system.

Put Them At The Lowest Point Of The Wall

Place your cold air return vents at the lowest point of the structure’s interior walls is located. The return vent pulls cool air from the room’s floor, reheats it in the furnace, and then blows warm air back into the space.

Unlike supply vents, return vents are not required to have a metal casing. They can be placed in wall stud openings, vertically stacked closets, or stairwell gaps.

There should be space under the doors where a single return vent serves an entire zone so that the registers can still draw air when the doors are closed without pressing against the furnace and creating negative pressure within the house.

Give The Thermostat And The Cold Air Return Some Space

Place the cold air return at least 10′ away from the thermostat to avoid incorrect temperature readings caused by the cold air draft.

Avoid Using Them In Kitchens And Bathrooms

Exhaust fans should be utilized to evacuate the air because bathrooms and kitchens have a lot of moisture in them. When placing vents in these rooms, follow local building codes.

How Can You Improve Your Cold Air Return’s Performance?

Use these tips to make the most of your cold air return vents:

Keep Any Obstructions Away From Your Cold Air Returns

For the best airflow, make sure there are no blockages around your cold air returns. If your registers are blocked by furniture, TVs, or other household items, your cold air returns may not operate properly.

If More Returns Are Required, Add Them

Unfortunately, many dwellings’ designs didn’t take enough air returns into account.

These include stuffy spaces, inconsistent heating, excessive energy expenditures, and uneven pressure, to name a few.

What Takes Place When The Cold Air Return Is Blocked?

Blocking your cold air returns, whether on design or by mistake, can be hazardous in a number of ways. What might happen if one or more of your returns are rejected?

Result In Evaporator Coil Freezing

How Important Is Cold Air Return?

The evaporator coil’s function is to absorb latent heat from air moving over it. Without that incoming air, the coil’s surface temperature could drop below freezing, which would lead to moisture and condensation freezing on the coil.

Can Cause Your Furnace To Crack

A blocked cold air return in the blower compartment could cause the heat exchanger to store too much heat and eventually crack. If the cracks are sufficiently large, the furnace could spew carbon monoxide into the air of your house. In situations like this, a full system replacement is usually necessary.

How Can I Tell Which One Is A Cold Air Return Vent ?

You can find return vents by turning on the system fan and elevating your hand or a piece of paper. If the paper is drawn toward the vent or if you experience a suction sensation, it is a return vent.

Return vents can also be recognized visually thanks to their size and lack of louvers.

Cleaning Advice To Keep Your Cold Air Return Operating Effectively

Cleaning your return vents does more than just make your HVAC system more effective. Clean return vents reduce the amount of allergens in your home and prolong the freshness of your furnace filter.

Modify The Filter

The filter is typically located immediately next to the furnace in larger homes. In smaller homes and apartments, it is often put there for simple access, with just one significant return.

Every month when your HVAC system is running, you should replace the filter. In order to remember to modify any filters when the time comes, mark the date of any filters that don’t have a place to do so on your calendar.

Vacuum The Vents Frequently

Turn off your HVAC system and cover any furniture if the vents are in the ceiling. Vacuum your vents with a dust attachment after using a microfiber duster to get rid of any debris the vacuum missed.

Use of water or cleaning agents will spread the dust and transform it into a paste, so avoid using them.

Sanitize The Vent Covers

How Important Is Cold Air Return?

Complete removal of the vent covers will allow you to wash them in the sink with hot, soapy water. Utilize a microfiber cloth, and only soak them briefly. Additionally, try not to rub too hard to prevent the paint from flaking.

If you burn a lot of candles or have vents in the kitchen, you’ll need to remove grease during your deep clean. Oil can be rapidly and effectively removed by rubbing with alcohol.


Your furnace won’t operate properly if there is no cold air return. It is an essential component and is crucial in balancing the airflow in your HAVC system.

These return vents are occasionally seen on ceilings but are typically plastered to the lowest part of your home’s walls. Additionally, your home needs at least one of these return vents, but if you have a larger space, it wouldn’t harm to add more.

Finally, for correct advice on how to handle your cold air return, speak with your reliable HVAC expert.

How Important Is Cold Air Return?

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Written by HVAC Contributor

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