Your return air vent is that larger vent on the floor or sometimes the ceiling. This vent allows air to return to your air conditioner or your furnace and then get pumped back out into your home again. You may read advice that it is important to keep that vent clear, and it is. What happens if you block off the return air vent? Nothing very good. We’ll explain the importance of these vents and how you can disguise them if you’re tempted to block them off, below.

what happens if you block a return air vent?

What Happens If You Block a Return Air Vent?

If you block an air vent with your furniture, with tape, or otherwise, you will negatively impact your HVAC system and the air quality and comfort of your home. Here are a few things that will happen:

  • Pressure on the system: Your furnace and your air conditioner pull in air and pump out the air that they have heated or cooled, respectively. When airflow is restricted, the furnace or air conditioner is under pressure. This can cause premature failure of some of the most key components and, in the case of a furnace, can cause overheating.
  • Less reach: You may find that your cold or hot air from the air conditioner or furnace does not get as far as it should when your air vent is blocked. Your home’s temperature may feel inconsistent, with hot or cold spots.
  • Stagnating air: With reduced airflow, you will have stagnated air through the home. This can lead to greater levels of carbon dioxide in your air. Smells, humidity, and other airborne pollutants can also remain in the air.
  • Reduced efficiency: Your HVAC system will work less efficiently if you block a return air vent. This will make the units use more energy and will raise your utility costs.

If you minorly block off your air vent, these problems will be less severe than if you block it off completely. However, no amount of restriction of the return air vent is okay. You should try to keep a clear area around your return vents of at least six inches.

How to Disguise a Return Air Vent

Many people want to block a return air vent simply to block it from view because they don’t like the look of it. You do have options to disguise the return air vent that won’t block the airflow, including:

  • Open furniture: Furniture with large open gaps, such as side tables and coffee tables can block the vent from your view without actually restricting the air.
  • Shelving: You can place an open shelf in front of the air vent, so long as there is no backing to cover it. The eye should be drawn to the objects further up on the shelf instead of the vent.
  • Decorative covers: You can design open-style covers, like grilles and shutters, to change the look of the return air vent.

You Can Move Return Air Vents

If your return air vent is in a very inconvenient spot you can ask an HVAC professional to move it.