Supply vs. Return Air Vents: What’s the Difference?

air vents supply vs returnYou are probably aware that your home was built with a network of ducts hidden behind the walls, but do you know their purpose? The ducts provide a pathway for air to cycle through every room in your home, to and from your HVAC system. This circulation process; however, would not be possible without the supply and return air vents you see throughout your house. But what is the difference between supply and return vents?

Supply & Return Air Vents

It’s easy to think that your AC and furnace simply blow heated or cooled air to the rooms in your house. But another very important part of the cycle of air is happening as well – sucking air out of the rooms. This is where the difference between supply vs return vents comes into play.

Supply Vents: These air vents blow conditioned air out. They are easy to identify as they are the ones you feel the cool air coming from. The air coming from these vents has traveled through your HVAC system, through the ducts and out of the supply vents. Supply vents are usually found high up on the walls in your home, or on the ceiling.

Return Vents: These air vents suck air from the rooms in your home back into your HVAC system. They are typically larger in size than supply vents and you will not feel air blowing out of them. Return vents are usually found closer to the bottom of the walls in your home, near the floorboard, but depends upon the location of your ductwork.

Ductwork and Vent Connection

The HVAC system in your house is meant to maintain a balance environment inside the ductwork. In order to do this, the amount of air the ducts blow out should be nearly equal to the amount of air that’s being sucked back into the ductwork. If there is an inadequate amount of supply and return vents, the pressure inside the ducts becomes unbalanced, causing your home to feel less comfortable. If you’re building a home or installing a new system, make sure precise measurements are taken of your home’s air flow needs before the HVAC system is installed.

How to Maximize Your Air Vents Performance

There are a few things you can do to make sure your supply and return vents are performing at their best, even if you have the correct amount in your home.

  1. Don’t block supply or return vents with furniture or other objects to optimize air flow
  2. Avoid closing the supply vents in any rooms of your house, even unused rooms, to prevent an increase in pressure inside of the ductwork.
  3. To save energy in unused or rarely used rooms, consider investing in a zoned HVAC system and section those rooms off into separate zones.

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