Most residential cooling and heating systems operate as closed-loop systems. In a closed-loop system, air returns play an essential role, and it is important not to block them.
Blocking a cool air return means a risk of freezing the air conditioner coils, causing a restriction of air flow. In short, blocking air returns means a lack of air circulation. Energystar.gov recommends checking air returns for leaks; improperly sealed ducts impede air flow. For the same reason, it is important to allow air returns to breathe.
So where are air return ducts typically found? They are usually located on ceilings or in a hallway. In the southern U.S. where it remains warm for a large part of the year, air return ducts take warm air from inside the home and transfer it outside.
Many homes are improperly fitted with return air ducts or simply don’t have enough of them, making it essential that each existing air return works to its full potential.
Take care in designing your rooms to avoid blocking air returns. Place large pieces of furniture such as couches, chairs and love seats at least 10 inches from air ducts. If possible, avoid setting up cabinets, entertainment centers or pianos directly next to walls on which air ducts are present.
Taking these basic steps will ensure that your HVAC system does not overwork itself, potentially saving you from costly and untimely repairs.
T.F. O’Brien services the Long Island, New York area.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about preventive maintenance and other HVAC topics, please download our free Home Comfort Resource guide.