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What is the Role of Cold Air Returns in the Heating Process?


When we think about heating our homes, most of the attention is given to the warm air that comes out of our supply registers. But often overlooked, and just as important, is the job of our homes’ cold air returns. So let’s dive deeper into what cold air returns are and what you can do to maximize their performance.

What is the job of cold air returns?

Similar to the human body, your HVAC system “inhales” and “exhales” the air around your home. In order for your furnace to run efficiently and your home to heat evenly, this airflow must be in balance. In other words, the amount of air that your furnace “breathes in” must equal the amount of air it “breathes out.”

Cold air returns are what allow your furnace to “inhale” your home’s air. These registers are typically located low to the ground in different areas around your home in order to capture the cold air that sinks to the floor. When warm air is delivered to a room, the existing cold air in that room is pushed into the cold air returns. Once inside your cold air returns, that air travels through your ductwork back to your furnace where it is filtered, heated and sent back to warm your home.

How can you maximize the performance of your cold air returns?

  • Don’t block your cold air returns. In order to allow for proper air flow, the space around your cold air returns needs to be clear. If you have furniture, TV’s or other household items blocking your registers, it can prevent your cold air returns from doing their job.
  • Add more returns if needed. Unfortunately, many homes were designed without the proper amount of air returns. Some common symptoms of this include stuffy rooms, uneven heating, high energy bills and unbalanced pressure. If you suspect that you don’t have enough cold air returns in your home, Jerry Kelly can analyze your home’s airflow and make improvements to your ductwork design to correct the problem.

If you have any questions about a cold air return, or if you’d like a heating system serviced or installed in your home, contact Jerry Kelly, your St. Louis heating and air conditioning company. We service the St. Louis area and surrounding towns like Creve Coeur, O’Fallon and St. Peters.

photo credit: bionicteaching via photopin cc