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How to Install a Return Air Duct in the Wall: 7 Easy Steps

Ensuring proper ventilation in your home is important for maintaining a comfortable and healthy indoor environment. One way to enhance airflow and air quality is by installing a return air duct in the wall. So, if you’re wondering how to install a return air duct in the wall, here’s the brief: 

To install a return air duct in the wall, cut wall holes, connect the return air duct to the furnace, install the filter, and secure register covers for improved ventilation and indoor air quality

In this easy-to-follow guide, we’ll walk you through the process of installing a return air duct, providing you with the knowledge to complete the task successfully.

What are Return Air Ducts?

What are Return Air Ducts?
Return air ducts are a crucial part of your home’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (
HVAC) system. They do several important things:

  • Air Collection: These ducts gather old and used air from various rooms in your home.
  • Air Circulation: After collecting the air, these ducts send it back to the HVAC system, making sure the air moves well around your house.
  • Balanced Airflow: They help spread the air evenly, making sure every part of your home gets the right amount of air.
  • Indoor Air Quality: By pulling air from different rooms, these ducts make your indoor air better by removing things like dust, allergens, and bad smells.
  • Energy Efficiency: The duct allows your heating and cooling system to reuse already conditioned air, making it work more efficiently. This saves energy and, in turn, reduces your utility bills.
  • Comfort: These ducts play a big role in making your home a cozy and pleasant place to live by maintaining good ventilation.
  • Temperature Control: When located on outside walls, these ducts help keep the temperature consistent throughout your home by bringing air from various areas for conditioning.
  • Pressure Balance: The duct helps in maintaining balanced air pressure. This avoids issues like doors slamming shut or uneven airflow, making your home more stable.

Steps on How to Install a Return Air Duct in the Wall

How to Install a Return Air Duct
Return air ducts usually begin in the space within the ceiling joists. They then connect to an existing duct that runs at a 90° angle to the wall studs. This setup makes sure the air moves well and gets spread out properly in the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system.

If you want to save money and install the ducts for your HVAC system by yourself, follow these simple steps to put in a return air duct through the wall successfully.

Step 1: Determine Location

Choose the locations for your return air ducts and cut small holes in the drywall at each spot. Ensure there are no pipes or wires behind the wall, and size the holes to fit the return air grille or register.

Step 2: Plan the Installation

  • Locate Holes: Identify corresponding holes in the basement or crawl space beneath the wall.
  • Notch and Bend the Panning: Seal off the space by notching and bending the panning and securing it to the floor.
  • Stop at the Furnace Location: Bring the panning to a stop near the furnace to clear a path for air circulation.
  • Create Air Entry Points: Cut holes in the panning for air entry.

Step 3: Install Return Air Duct

  • Positioning: Install the return air duct perpendicular to the joists.
  • Cover Holes: Place the square return air duct over the holes in the panning.
  • Create Air Entry Points: Cut corresponding holes in the top of the return air duct.
  • Secure Attachment: Connect the return air duct tightly to the ceiling joists using s-slips and drive cleats.

Step 4: Insulate for Energy Efficiency

Wrap the return air duct with fiberglass duct wrap to prevent heat loss and improve energy efficiency.

Step 5: Secure the Air Return Duct to the Furnace

Cut a hole at the bottom of the return air duct near the furnace. Attach another duct to connect to the furnace and install an air filter to improve indoor air quality.

Step 6: Install Return Air Register Covers

Screw the return air register covers over the wall holes for a finished look.

Step 7: Clean the Ductwork

Clean the return air ducts to prevent the circulation of debris, dirt, and allergens, ensuring better indoor air quality.

Besides, you can visit our insightful blog to learn all about air duct cleaning.

Additional Tips

Here are some extra pro tips for installing a return air duct in the wall.

  • Plan the layout and path of the ducts.
  • Use proper tools and materials for durability.
  • Follow local building codes.
  • Ensure airtight seals to prevent air leakage.
  • Seek professional assistance if needed.
  • Schedule regular maintenance and cleaning.
  • Prioritize safety during installation.
  • Insulate the ductwork for energy efficiency.
  • Perform periodic inspections for leaks or damage.
  • Avoid kitchen and bathroom areas to prevent moisture and odors.
  • Maximize indoor air quality with regular filter replacements.

Visit our informative blog to learn how often you should clean your air ducts.

The Best Places to Put Return Ducts

Places to Put Return Ducts
You might think the best place for return ducts is right across from where the air comes out. That’s kind of true, but not always. While it makes sense, you don’t have to do it that way.

Putting a return duct in every room with an air vent could work, but it’s not the best idea, especially in bathrooms or kitchens. That can make your heating and air system spread cooking smells and moisture, causing problems.

For two-story houses, it gets a bit tricky. The general rule is to put the return duct as close to the thermostat as possible. This helps the thermostat keep track of the temperature in the whole house since it’s usually in a central spot.

Having the thermostat and return duct in one place means you get temperature readings from everywhere in your home. But this might not be perfect for all home designs. In those cases, you might need returns in every room except for bathrooms and kitchens.

Balancing the Return Air

If you want to make sure your duct system works really well, think about adding dampers to the supply and return vents. You can do this even after the initial installation as long as you can reach the ducts in the crawlspace, attic, or basement.

Sometimes, you can use the grill cover to control airflow, but it’s more effective with dampers. Adding these dampers lets you control how much air different rooms pull in. This is important because some rooms might take too much air, affecting the whole system. By adjusting the ducts near the return, you can send more air to areas that need it.

Best Possible Locations

The best spots for your supply ducts are usually near windows or doors. This helps control heat loss or gain in your home. That’s why return ducts should be right across from supply vents. This way, the system can pull air from the entire room. But this works best if you have return vents in every room. If you only have one or two return vents, put them in the middle of your home if possible.

Also, think about where your supply ducts are – on the floor, wall, or ceiling. If they are high up, install the return ducts or grills low. This helps pull air across the whole room, making your system work better.

When setting up return air ducts, it’s good to consider these things for the system to work efficiently.

The Size Of Your Return Ducts

Where you put your return ducts is crucial, and so is their size. The size of your return ducts depends on the size of your HVAC system and the ducts themselves. If you’re putting ducts in each room with a supply vent, it’s a good idea to match the size of your return ducts to the supply vents.

For just one or two return vents, a 12-inch return is good for units up to 2 tons, and for 3 tons or more, go for 14 inches. If you have a 4-ton system, a 16-inch return should work, and for a 5-ton system, go for 18-inch returns.

It’s important to keep your ducts clean. Return ducts play a big role in how your system works, and if they’re in bathrooms or kitchens, they can circulate smells and moisture. Cleaning your air ducts is crucial because dirty return ducts will keep spreading dust and debris around your home.

Contact a Pro

H&H Services is a reliable contractor in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey, specializing in professional air duct cleaning services. With an impressive 4.9 rating from over 769 reviews, we focus on making indoor spaces cleaner and healthier. Our certified experts remove harmful substances, reduce breathing issues, enhance HVAC system efficiency, and ensure safety in air ducts.

We are licensed, insured, and dedicated to ensuring customer satisfaction. Opting for our services means enjoying cleaner air, improved indoor air quality, and a healthier home. If you’re looking for skilled air duct cleaning, H&H Services is a trustworthy choice.

Give us a call at (215) 867-9902 for professional and expert-level services. Schedule a free estimate now!

Wrapping Up

Simply put, if you use our easy guide on how to install a return air duct in the wall, you can get balanced airflow, better indoor air, and save energy in your home. If you’re not sure, it’s okay to ask professionals for help to make sure everything is done right for a comfy home.


How to install a wall vent?

Installing a wall vent involves cutting a hole, fitting the vent with ductwork, and securing it with screws and caulk. Ensure proper ventilation path and follow safety guidelines!

How to install a return air vent?

Similar to wall vent: Cut hole, connect to ductwork, secure with screws/caulk. Remember the proper airflow path and consult professionals for complex installations.

How to install a cold air return duct between studs?

While possible, installing a return duct between studs is complex. It requires careful measurements, insulation, jack studs, and adherence to building codes. Consider consulting a professional for proper installation and safety.



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