AC Vent Location: Does It Matter?

The placement of the vents in your home makes a difference, believe it or not. It may be something you've never paid attention to before, or it may be something you've always wondered about but never sought out the answer. But the truth is, there are certain reasons why home builders will install the intake and output vent registers in your house either higher — near or on the ceiling — or lower — near the floor.

Both placements have their place, and today we're exploring why.

Does Vent Location Matter?

Short answer: Yes. The placement of vents affects everything from your home furnishing options to how comfortable your house will be in the winter and summer. If you're building a new house soon, the location of vents may be something you want to consider when planning the design of your home.

It's something many homeowners may not realize can make a big difference when it comes to cooling and heating your home.

4 Reasons Ceiling Vents Are So Common

Ceiling vents tend to be more common than floor vents in our region of the US. If you think back to the times you've been in various homes and noticed the vents on the walls, you're more likely to remember vents on the ceiling as a more common occurrence than vents placed low, near the floor.

Why is this? Well, there are several reasons:

  • Location
  • Cost
  • Thermodynamics
  • Furniture

1. Proximity to Ductwork

One reason is pretty common sense: The ducts leading to the vents are closer to the attic. The attic is a very common area for the bulk of ductwork to be housed. Homeowners and builders are quick to take advantage of available attic space, which is empty, readily available, easy to access, and does not detract from living space, subsequently making ceiling vents the easiest location for delivery.

2. Cost-Efficacy

Simply chucking vents up in the attic without the added expenses of installation in conditioned or lived-in areas (drywall, framing, etc.) offers a more cost-effective solution, upfront at any rate.

3. Thermodynamics

Another big advantage of placing output vents in the ceiling relates to our climate. Living in the southern United States, homeowners in Austin deal with extreme heat much more regularly than extreme cold. In fact, this past winter, many may have noticed a distinct lack of extreme cold weather all winter long.

Regardless of the winter weather, we all know to expect some punishing heat as soon as summer starts to rear its head. To combat this, we want the design of our house to help us battle this heat the best it can. Enter: The ceiling vent.

Because hot air rises and cool air sinks, ceiling vents are the delivery system of choice for cooled air, particularly in hot, humid climates with a predisposition for cooling. In geographic locations where heating needs predominate, however, the story changes, putting floor vents in the spotlight. All this means is that it's a matter of thermodynamics, and in the south, you're going to see predominantly ceiling vents.

4. Floor Plan Friendly

When building a house, your design should account for the fact that the home won't remain an empty shell for long. Rugs, carpet, and furniture will fill up most of the rooms of your house, and those things need floor and wall space. It's never a good idea to cover up vents with furniture. Blocking vents can have a number of negative effects, such as making the house less comfortable and making the HVAC system work harder.

Ceiling ducts don't hog existing or potential closet, wall, or ceiling space, making an interesting, or worse, unsightly decoration. Ceiling vents also don't present the decorative dilemma floor vents often will, forcing homeowners to place furniture in strange locations to prevent blockages in airflow.

To recap: Hot air rises and cold air falls, meaning in places where the delivery of cool air is more important than warm air, you're going to want your air coming from above.

But what about the other half of the equation, the return vents?

Some Considerations for Return Vent Placement

The location of your return vents largely depends on what your needs are and how your HVAC setup looks. First off, let's quickly establish some basic information concerning return vents.

What is a return vent?

A return vent sucks in air and delivers it to the heating/air-conditioning system to be treated. The treated air is then forced out of the air vents into the rooms of the house, starting the cycle over again.

Location Matters

For heating-only applications, a low return duct is ideal for bringing back the coldest air otherwise stagnant in the room. This is true regardless of the supply register location, floor, or ceiling. It's the opposite when you're cooling the house. In cooling-only systems, we want to return that warm, stagnant air near the ceiling first. This works well for attic systems due to the ease of installation. Adding a return duct to every room keeps the temperature difference between conditioned spaces low. In the cooling season, warm, stagnant air tends to remain high in rooms.

But most of us have both a heating and a cooling system in our homes. That's where you're going to have to make some compromises. For combination heating and cooling duct systems, we have to decide on a location knowing that the performance of heat or cool will suffer. That is unless you install a high/low combination return duct in a wall. The problem with this configuration is that contractors were not ducting in the return, just using the open bay in walls and floors. Since this is not a sealed return air path, it is likely that very little air came from the conditioned space. So, most make a choice of either a high or low return.

Another thing to keep in mind is the placement of the return vents and the output vents in relation to one another. One big no-no is having these two types of vents too close to one another. You don't have to be an HVAC design engineer to see why having the air conditioning supply register above and just a few feet from the central air conditioning return grille is a bad idea. Cool air delivered to this room will mostly fall down to be simply drawn right back into the return. Poor supply and return duct locations like this can severely reduce the effectiveness of the cooling system and increase its operating costs.

Vent Placement and Heating Repair in Austin

Vents are something we rely upon greatly but rarely thought about. Their placement is important when it comes to building design, and, believe it or not, even the professionals don't get it right all the time. That's because there are many factors involved, such as what kind of HVAC system you're working with, the climate you live in, the shape of the home, the location of the ducts, to name just a few.

One thing you can be sure of, if you need heater repair in Austin, look no further than AC Express. Our experienced technicians can get you the repairs you need at competitive prices. We do same-day heater and AC repair from Cedar Park and Georgetown to Lago Vista and Lakeway. If you need air conditioner repair or any kind of heating service, don't hesitate. Call today! (512) 866-5520