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What is a Cold Air Return

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Most people realize that their furnace is the appliance responsible for heating their homes in the winter. They understand that the warm air blown through the vents heats the air to a more desirable temperature. However, few people realize that the furnace also pulls in cold air, performing double duty to keep the home warm. When the cold air return isn’t functioning properly, the furnace operates less efficiently. Fortunately, there are HVAC contractors who can service your furnace when the cold air return needs repair.

HVAC Heating Explained

The cold air return is a small vent located on the furnace and it’s covered by a filter. Like all ventilation systems, the furnace has to “breathe” to properly operate. Anything that breathes must inhale as much air as it exhales. If you barely inhale and deeply exhale, it won’t take long for you to pass out from shortness of oxygen. The furnace, likewise, must also inhale as much air as it blows out to achieve maximum efficiency. When the return on the furnace gets clogged, it performs poorly because it isn’t breathing properly. This decreases the furnace’s efficiency, and it has to stay on longer to warm the room. This contributes to a higher electric bill, and it increases the amount of wear on the unit. Something as simple as a clogged filter on the furnace can significantly decrease the amount of cold air being drawn in.

Return or Register

Some people may accidentally decrease the air flowing to the furnace in an attempt to regulate the temperature in certain rooms. There may be return vents in a room that are identical to a register vent. Register vents distribute warm air throughout the home, while return vents take air to the furnace. Before you close any vent you should check to see if it’s a return or a register. This is best done by holding a strip of paper towel to the vent while the furnace is on. If the paper is blown out, than the vent is a register. If the paper is pulled towards the vent, than it’s a return which should be left open. If your system isn’t as efficient as you’d like, HVAC contractors can help by increasing the cold air returning to the furnace.

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