Can this air return be moved? If so, by whom?
December 23, 2020 4:54 AM   Subscribe

Our main air return is located in a central hallway. For many years it was never an issue aesthetically, but then we cut through a wall in our kitchen to bring in more light. Now it's kind of an eyesore and taking up good wall space that could be used for something prettier.

Is it possible to relocate the register - keeping the ductwork in the same spot, but with the grille under the chair rail rather than over? Would that affect performance of the system at all? If it is possible, who do I call - our HVAC company and/or a drywall contractor?
posted by Sweetie Darling to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I’d talk to your HVAC company first so you have a good understanding of why it was placed there and what options you would have. A general contractor could help you with moving it. It’s likely that whole vertical section would need to be opened in order to make this change but if it’s doable, it would be worth it.
posted by amanda at 5:07 AM on December 23, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Being high on the wall means the return is optimized for returning hot air to the air conditioner. Dropping it down will leave more hot air at the level of your face and the thermostat. A general contractor can easily relocate the vent, but you should check with an HVAC specialist on the potential impact of doing so, which will depend on the size of your system and the number and placement of returns.

If moving the vent turns out to be impractical, one other possibility to look into is making the return more aesthetically appealing while remaining in the same place.
posted by cardboard at 5:22 AM on December 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

What is directly above this hallway? I.e. does the home have a second floor? What about below? I ask because some older homes without a second floor have the ductwork and air handler in the attic. Occasionally, that duct may connect to the joist space above and travel laterally in the joist space to connect with the air handler elsewhere.

If the ductwork is, instead, in an unfinished basement below (which is more common), you have more options.
The simplest may be to shift the return down the hall, visually out of the way.

However, this may take quite some doing - the stud space to which the register would move, would have to be prepared, bottom sills cut's going to take some serious construction.
posted by notsnot at 5:36 AM on December 23, 2020

A very simple solution is a decorative air return grate.
posted by Crystalinne at 5:37 AM on December 23, 2020 [10 favorites]

Is your HVAC unit located behind that door on the right side of the picture? The duct between grille and unit might be very short, making it tough to modify. Or there might be space for an elbow in the duct and maybe it won't be a big deal. As long as you keep the size of the grille and associated duct the same, it shouldn't have a huge impact on performance.

If there are ducts on the other side of that wall, go take a look at them (or post a picture)!
posted by beandip at 9:06 AM on December 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Relocating it seems like more trouble than it’s worth. I’d get one of the decorative grilles and surround it with a gallery wall of geometric art. You could paint patterns on the new grille to art it up more.
posted by sageleaf at 9:57 AM on December 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Perhaps a painting or poster that could be glued to the front of the register, then sliced open to match the register's openings?
posted by ShooBoo at 1:15 PM on December 23, 2020

Ooh, check out this sexy air return. I don’t know anything about installation but this located anywhere would be less obtrusive.
posted by amanda at 7:13 PM on December 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, all - really appreciate the input, particularly cardboard's note about the current placement being optimal for air conditioning (we run it ~7 months out of the year in NC). I think for now, we're opting for a more attractive cover, but I'll get input from the HVAC guys the next time they're here for routine maintenance. Thanks again!
posted by Sweetie Darling at 6:34 AM on December 30, 2020

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