Remedying the Return-Air Problems in Your Home
A common problem in older homes with forced-air heating and cooling is that they lack sufficient return-air ducts to take air out of the room and back into the system. There may be only one return-air grille placed in a central location, or grilles could be in obstructed locations, such as in a closet or behind a door. This can result in pressure imbalances that can cause a number of problems:
- Discomfort caused by uneven room temperatures can send you to the thermostat, raising the temperature and your energy costs.
- If the door to a room is closed, air can become pressurized without adequate distribution. It will escape through cracks and leaks in the walls or ceiling, mixing with unconditioned air, and possibly cause hidden condensation or mold issues.
- The return-air ducts are not able to get the right amount of air back to the system, causing it to pull unconditioned air from any other source available, including leaks or cracks in the ductwork or walls. When building a new home, homeowners can discuss with their HVAC contractor the placement of ductwork to properly deliver conditioned air. Homes with existing ductwork, however, might require adaptive measures to ensure the system is getting effective and efficient airflow.
- The best fix for return-air problems is to install a return-air grille from each conditioned room in your home back to the furnace, A/C or heat pump. Air coming into the room is balanced with the amount returning, regardless of whether room doors are closed.
- A less expensive (although less effective) option is to install either a through-the-wall transfer grille or a ceiling crossover duct. Each provides an escape for air into an area where a return-air grille is located, but with it comes sound transmission between rooms that might not be wanted. Ceiling crossover ducts, if installed in unconditioned attic space, increase the amount of heat loss or gain.
Contact Sobieski Services for more information on return-air problems in your home. Our goal is to help educate our customers in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC & plumbing systems).
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