Adjusting Cold Air Return Vents During the Fall Season

 In Home Care

Winter is coming and we wanted to simply remind you to properly regulate your vents before the cold takes over. Most homes across the U.S. have forced air systems and in newer homes there will be cold air return vents placed at both the ceiling and the floor of many rooms. Having two air return vents allows you to seasonally control which air is returning to the HVAC system. In older homes, this may not be an option.

The theory is that in the Summer cooling season, you want to be circulating warmer air back through the HVAC system to be cooled. Since that warmer air is at the top of your room, you will want to make sure the highest air return is open and the lowest is closed.

Conversely, in the Winter heating season, you will want to pull the coldest air back to the furnace to be warmed and create circulation. In these months, you’ll want the lower air return open and the upper air return closed.

Properly Regulating Your Cold Air Return Vents

Operable cold air return vents have a lever that enables you to open or shut the vent depending on the time of year. It is a small lever that you just push up or down to control louvers, similar to the variable dashboard vents in a car. Some homes might not have operable vents, but still have an upper and lower return in a room. In these cases, many homeowners put a magnetic cover over the vent to stop air from creeping in.

When to Open Your Cold Air Return Vents During the Winter Season

Before the winter weather hits, it’s important to draw cold air from the floor into the system. Just like with many home maintenance checklist items, we recommend using Daylight Savings as a time to check the regulation of your cold air returns. In winter, enable the bottom cold air to return and in the summer, enable the upper return. It’s that simple.

The Importance of Closing and Opening These Vents

The most important reason is that you simply need the air to flow in an efficient way. Having seasonally adjusted returns allows your home to maintain the proper temperature at the highest efficiency.

Completed in Minutes

This is a simple task to complete and can be completed in minutes only twice a year.

In some cases, cold air returns are fixed and don’t have a control. In that case, we most often see them align with return ducts and these vents cannot be seasonally controlled.


Pharo Heating & Cooling is a full-service HVAC contractor in Madison. Our team provides top quality service for new construction and replacement furnace and air conditioner needs. For more information about annual furnace inspection or concerns, give us a call at 608-849-5410 or submit a contact form through our website.

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