If you have central air conditioning or heating in your home, then you probably already know what an air vent is and what purpose it serves. For the uninitiated, an air vent is simply a part of a building the helps regulate air quality by removing heat in the summer or keeping it in during the winter.
Most homes come with preinstalled HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) vents, but if you’re building a home from scratch or you’re thinking of ways to reduce your electricity and gas bills, then you should be fully aware of the different types of HVAC vents. You separate types of vents by their function and where they are installed.
Types of Vents by Function
There are three main types of HVAC vents: supply, return, and exhaust.
1. Supply Air Vents
Supply air vents supply air from a centralized cooling/heating system across all rooms where a supply vent is installed. The vents are connected to a series of supply ducts that distribute air to multiple rooms at once.
In general, these vents are smaller in size compared to return vents and have adjustable louvers or slats that let you choose where to direct airflow. If you have an HVAC system at home, you can tell immediately which vents are supply vents by whether it blows air into a room or not.
2. Return Air Vents
Return air vents are almost the complete opposite of supply vents. Return vents connect to the return ducts. These vents suction air from indoor spaces and brings it to the centralized cooling/heating system.
You will not find adjustable slats on return vents, nor will you feel any significant amount of inward air pressure while placing a hand in front of the vent.
3. Exhaust Vents
Exhaust vents work similarly to return vents, but instead of bringing air in for heating or cooling, they suction up air and whatever odor molecules and airborne particles come with it and remove them from your home.
Exhaust vents connect to an entirely separate duct system that directs foul, stale air outdoors. These fans use electricity and can typically be activated by flipping a switch. Some exhaust vent systems work in conjunction with a thermostat unit; after reaching a certain temperature, the exhaust fan will automatically turn on to remove excess moisture.
Types of Vents by Place of Installation
Supply, return, and exhaust vents are all installed indoors, with exhaust fans being the only that with an exit port that directs air outdoors.
There are several other types of vents with specific installation spots. You learn about them all down below.
These vents are placed outdoors and serve to remove heat or introduce cold air into the lowest and highest parts of your home (think basement and attic).
4. Ridge Vent
A ridge vent is installed at the peak of a sloped roof. This vent allows air to escape from attics and/or upstairs rooms.
5. Soffit Vent
A soffit vent is a type of vent installed into the soffit, also known as the underpart of the eaves or edges of the roof that extends beyond the side of the building. Soffit vents work in tandem with ridge vents to promote natural airflow and ventilation into an attic.
6. Foundation Vent
A foundation vent is a type of vent installed at the lowest part of a home. This type of vent draws in cold, denser air molecules to cool the temperature of a room from the bottom.
7. Turbine/Whirlybird Vent
If you’ve seen rotating metal balls on the roofs of homes, apartments, or small businesses, then odds are you have seen a turbine/whirlybird vent. Fins along the exterior of the turbine vent cause it to spin as the wind blows. As it spins, the turbine creates a vacuum in whichever room it’s connected to suction up and remove warm air.
Before we move on, please note that the following type of air vents can be supply, return, or exhaust types. Below, you’ll learn the types of indoor vents and how they function as a supply, return, or exhaust vent.
8. Wall Vent
A wall vent is the most neutral type of air vent (by mounting location) since you can install it at any height in any room. Install a wall vent higher up to improve cooling or lower for improved heating. As an exhaust vent, a wall-mounted vent should be lower to suction and remove excess humidity.
9. Ceiling Vent
A ceiling vent is almost the same as wall vent, but it is mounted on a ceiling instead. Since they are higher up, there is a reduced chance of accidentally covering the vent. Ceiling vents excel at cooling rooms down by pulling in warm air or introducing cold air into a room. Ceiling vents are nearly ineffective at removing excess moisture (water vapor sinks, not rises).
10. Floor Vent
Floor vents can be found on the lowest part of a room—i.e., your floors. This type of vent has the greatest risk of becoming covered by rugs or mats. Floor vents can improve heating by either delivering warm air into a room (which will rise) or remove cold air (which sinks). Floor vents are also ideal for removing humidity and smells.
11. Window Vent
Window vents, also known as trickle vents, are tiny openings built into the frame of a window to promote better airflow. The more window vents you have installed, the less condensation buildup and over-ventilation there will be. Since window vents do not connect so supply or return ducts or rely on an electric fan, they can serve any of the three main purposes depending on whichever direction wind blows in a room.
The following types of vents serve very specific purposes. Learn what they are and what they can do down below.
12. Hood Vent
A hood vent, also known as range hood, is a type of exhaust vent that is installed on top of a stove. The fan suctions up steam and food odors and removes it from your kitchen to the outdoors.
13. Attic/Gable Vent
Gable vents are located on the exterior of the attic’s wall. This type of attic vent follows the same basic principle as non-mechanic, roof-mounted walls: warm air rises and will float outward if given an opening. The gable vent is that opening to the outdoors. Plus, they a gable vent is a decorate piece that can improve the look of your home from outside.
14. Dryer Vent
A dryer vent’s main purpose is to remove excess heat from the drying cycle to reduce the risk of fires. There are two types of dryer vents—indoor and outdoor-
15. Indoor Dryer Vent
Indoor dryer vents are built for those who do not have easy access to the outdoors (apartments, basements, small homes) or those who use gas-powered dryers. This system comes with a built-in filter or water trap to capture flammable lint particles.
16. Outdoor Dryer Vent
Outdoor dryer comes with a duct that connects from the dyer’s vent and run outdoors through an open window or wall with a preinstalled vent cap. The air and stray lint particles that exit the dryer’s exhaust will pass through the duct and exit your home completely. Be sure to place the vent cap a couple feet off the ground to prevent mice from crawling in.
Material Used for Vents
The type of material used to create a vent depends on the type of vent. For HVAC systems, the vents are made from sheet metal with the insulation lining installed the vents and ducts are in place. Nonmechanical vents like gable and trickle vents can be made from plastic or wood, though metal is more commonly used.
How to Clean Vents at Home?
Even though HVAC systems are incredibly complex, maintaining your home’s vents is pretty simple. Want to know the best way to take care of your vents without blowing your budget or having to call in a professional? Let’s find out exactly how you can take care of this simple job.
The air vents in your home collect millions of particles when they’re constantly cleaning the air, so it’s super important to keep them clean.
To do this job, you’ll need to open the vents with a screwdriver, and have a heavy duty vacuum, a brush, and a broom handy to get rid of everything. You’ll also need a face mask to help keep you breathing easy.
Firstly, you should turn off the power to your air vents. Then, unscrew the vents from their position and remove the grate. Clean the grate thoroughly with the brush, or, if they’re covered in grime, clean them with soapy water.
Next you should vacuum the inside of the vents to get rid of the loose particles, as well as the heavier grime that could be stuck to the inside of the vents. It’s best to use a vacuum cleaner with a long nozzle or a crevice tool to get into every corner and open space.
Pop the grate back on and screw it shut again. Now it’s time to tackle any ceiling vents you have. Attempt the ceiling vents with the broom, and knock the dust and dirt free. This is when that face mask comes in very handy, to stop all that dust falling from the ceiling from falling straight into your nose and mouth.
Below a simplified overview of the steps on how to clean your vents
- Turn off the centralized cooling and heating system
- Vacuum the vent with a brush attachment
- Unscrew the vent and soak it in soapy water
- Use a narrow cleaning tool to remove dirt from between the louvres/slits.
- Rinse and dry the vent with a clean towel
- Reinstall the vent, making sure to tighten the fasteners so the vent doesn’t wiggle
How to Remove Mold in Vents?
Removing mold from your air vents is important, as it can be dangerous when left for a prolonged period of time.
Luckily, removing mold from your air vents is incredibly simple. You can either clean the grate, or, if you think there’s far too much mold on the grate, you could buy a new one and replace it.
If you choose to clean your vent, all you need is some hot, soapy water and a scrubbing brush. Scrub away at the mold on the vent with the brush, making sure it’s covered in the hot soapy water. This will get rid of all the mold, and once it’s clean you can simply replace it in the vent.
Related Post: Best AC Vents Buying Guide
How to Clean Car Vents?
Cleaning your car’s AC vents is also a simple task.
For the front vents, simply grab a few foam paintbrushes, which are inexpensive, and dip them into a soapy water cleaning solution. Rub the damp foam paintbrushes on the vent slats, being as thorough as possible. This will remove dust, dirt and any mold growth quickly.
For the AC vents that are built into the car’s windshield cowling, you can take a dry paintbrush and simply brush away the particles that have built up around the vent slats. Then, take a sanitizing spray, and use this to spray inside the vents. This will kill bacteria that are lingering inside the vents, and keep your car’s AC system fresh and clean.
Which type of vent is best for my home?
here is no single best type of vent. You need to decide the most appropriate vent type based on your home’s design. For instance, if you have an attic, then you should consider getting a roof vent or gable vent to remove excess moisture and heat.
You can skip the headache and install an HVAC system in your home. This will help regulate indoor air quality and help keep your home warm in the winter and cool during summer.
How many return vents do I need?
Ideally, you should have at least one return vent in every room. This includes bathrooms, bedrooms, home offices, and garages. However, more spacious areas like living rooms or kitchens may need multiple return vents to remove excess heat and cold air.
Make sure you know the building codes in your city/state/country investing heavily in an HVAC system.
When should I install a vent?
Any time is fine, but ideally, you’ll want to have your home’s HVAC system installed before moving in. Certain vents like whirlybird vents and bathroom exhaust vents can be installed easily and without spending a fortune.
If you have any questions or comments, please add them below in the comment section. Similarly, please let us know if you spot any mistakes or omissions. Thanks!