The location of your heating and cooling system’s air registers might seem like a minor detail, but it has a noticeable impact on your comfort. Floor, wall, and ceiling registers each have their own strengths and weaknesses that make them suited for different situations.
The ideal register placement for each room depends on a variety of factors, including energy efficiency, ease and cost of installation, appearance and, of course, comfort.
Floor Registers: Ideal for Efficient Heating
If you live in a climate where you need heating more often than cooling, floor registers are usually the most logical choice. Warm air naturally rises. When your warm air comes from the floor, it heats the room as it rises toward the ceiling. Place your registers on the ceiling, however, and much of your warm air will pool in the upper part of the room where it won’t do you much good.
Floor registers are typically placed under windows to let the warm air they deliver mix with the cool air coming from the windows. Near an interior wall is another common location. Depending on the location of your air handler, if you want floor registers, you might also need to build a duct chase under the floor, which will increase the cost and complexity of installation.
In very small rooms, floor registers can make it difficult to put in the kind of furniture you want in the arrangement you want, especially if the register is near a corner. Covering the register with furniture not only limits the amount of air delivered, but can also contribute to a pressure imbalance inside your heating and cooling system that stresses the components.
Another minor downside of floor registers is their tendency to collect dust and debris. They’re also more vulnerable to becoming blocked by a dropped toy or other object, something to consider if you have small children at home.
Ceiling Registers: a Good Choice for Cooling
In a warm climate where you need cooling most of the year, ceiling registers are generally preferable. As warm air rises, cool air falls, so the cool air from your ceiling registers will pass through your whole living space instead of pooling near the floor.
Over a window, with the register directed to blow air toward the window, is a popular location for ceiling registers. Less often, a ceiling register is placed near an interior wall so that it blows toward the wall opposite the door or toward the room’s biggest window. This placement requires less ducting than a register over the window, making it a little cheaper to install.
A four-way register near the middle of the room is another possibility. If the exact center of the ceiling is already occupied by a light, the register can be moved a little toward an exterior wall.
Having your registers in the ceiling frees up floor space and gives you more options for arranging your furniture. Ceiling air registers are also less prone to debris buildup than floor registers. Even so, you’ll need to climb up and clean your ceiling air registers once a year to keep them efficient and maintain your indoor air quality.
Wall Registers: Helpful for Air Circulation
Wall registers are positioned either low on the interior walls in cold climates or high on the interior walls in hot climates. Unlike ceiling registers, high wall registers don’t blow air directly down on you. Instead, the air they deliver flows across the upper part of the room and mixes with the room air. As this air moves, it draws room air up toward it, which improves air circulation even more.
As with ceiling registers, wall registers give you more free floor space. On the other hand, they’re more visible and can look out of place among your wall art or other decor.
These registers are tricky to install and connecting the ducts to them is a challenge even for a professional. When you’re upgrading an existing heating and cooling system, wall registers might not be an option unless you’re also doing extensive remodeling. In most existing homes, you’ll have to choose between either floor or ceiling registers.
Other Factors to Consider
For optimal temperatures and airflow, you’ll need not only the right locations for your air registers, but also the right type of registers. For example, two-way and three-way registers are used in different situations.
Heating and cooling professionals follow the Air Conditioning Contractors of America’s (ACCA’s) Manual T to choose the right registers, grilles, diffusers, and related equipment for each situation.
Even if you decide to install your registers yourself, consider investing in a consultation with a professional. A little guidance can help you keep your rooms much more comfortable with less energy.