Cleveland HVAC Blog

Air Returns- A Critical Part of your HVAC System

Posted by Paul Wadsworth on Wed, Jun 16, 2010 @ 11:15 AM

If you’re like most people, you don’t give much thought to your return air ducting.  It’s just part of your system and as long as it doesn’t cause any problems you’re fine.  But, your air returns are actually a major reason why you feel comfortable (or don’t) in your home.  Return ducting takes air back to the furnace, creating the flow of air necessary to evenly heat and cool your home.  As part of your ventilation system, air returns play a role in ensuring that no rooms are stuffy, too cold or too hot.

Why do you need return air?  Well, in forced-air systems, the furnace is essentially a pump that constantly recirculates air.  In order for it to work, it needs something that will “feed” it cold air so that it can heat and release it back into the home.  Air returns, located near or on the floors, will catch heavy cold air and draw it back to the furnace.  Returns located near the ceiling can take advantage of the fact that hot rises and capture this heat and return it to the system.

Without air returns in every major room, heated supply air has to push the air in your rooms out of the way.  With air returns to draw existing air out of the room, supply air can freely enter rooms and keep them comfortable.

So, your returns are important!  Unfortunately, many people don’t have enough returns to keep every room comfortable, and this is a major reason why HVAC systems perform poorly.  Additionally, people can inadvertently, block returns with furniture, wall coverings and stacks of personal items.  We always check air returns when the customer complains of the following problems:

  • Stuffiness, especially on the 2nd floor
  • Rooms that are too hot or cold
  • Noise or odors coming from returns


Maintaining your air returns will not only maximize comfort but increase the efficiency of your system.  You can save money, and prevent problems before they affect your family, simply by having a technician check your return air ducting during regularly scheduled maintenance.  He will seal any air leaks, check for air flow and make sure you have enough properly placed vents.

Topics: hvac systems, air ducting, ventilation system

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