All About Heating Vents

A heating vent.

If you are like most people, you probably don't pay too much attention to your heating vents until they stop working. Heating vents are an important part of your household heating and cooling system, and understanding their role in the home will help you save on your heating and cooling bills every month. Understanding how hot air circulates and establishing efficient direction will allow you to optimize your heating to make your home more comfortable.

Labeling Ductwork

Knowing where air is going when it leaves your furnace will help you to direct warmth to where you need it. Start at your furnace and label the cold air intake and the hot air vent. Identify the hot air vent by placing your hand on the ductwork while the furnace is working. Follow the hot air duct until it disappears into the ceiling; you will recognize it as a vent by its rectangular shape. Circular vents will be on the second floor. Follow one duct path at a time, identify the room it vents to and work back to where the duct divided, labeling the room directly on the duct at this point. You will now be able to open and close heating ducts as and when you need them.

Vent Placement

When building a new home or office, a little forethought as to where your heating vents are located will let you heat your living space with optimal efficiency. Draw up a plan for each room, locating both windows and furniture. Avoid placing heating vents directly under windows where warm air will rise and escape. Avoid putting vents and cold air returns where large pieces of furniture will be located. Although air will circulate around a sofa or bookcase, blocking airflow will cause uneven heating and will force your furnace to work harder to fill cold pockets.

Redirecting Air

Heating vents cannot always be placed in the most ideal location. If you find warm air flowing directly out a window or cold air blowing on your neck from a ceiling vent, you need to redirect the air to get the best possible ventilation. Your local hardware store will carry a range of vent redirectors. Look for vent redirectors that will adjust to your vent size and attach to your vents so they won’t be easily dislodged.

Seasonal Use

Remember that hot air rises and cold air sinks. Open and close heating vents in your home depending on the season. When heating your home in winter, close heating vents on the second floor to let warm air rise through the house. During the summer, close vents in the basement and on the ground floor. Cold air pumped to the second floor will sink to the basement, cooling your home.


Heating vents not only circulate air through your home, but they also circulate dust, hair, and insects. There are a few tricks to keep your heating ducts clean. Attach a piece of paper towel to the grates that cover your heating vents. This will keep dust and animal fur from getting into your ductwork in the first place. Change your furnace filter at least twice a year. When you switch from heating to air conditioning can be a good time to remember. Having your ducts professionally cleaned every spring will also clean out dust that has accumulated over the winter.