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Question DetailsAsked on 7/24/2017

Do I need a separate return in each bedroom?

My contractor says that one return on the second floor is sufficient. I thought I needed one return in each bedroom. which one is correct?

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1 Answer


Generally, no - but depends on individual area/room heating/cooling loads, number of doors between different areas, and especially zone limits. Commonly - though not necessarily best - each room with an inlet register has a return vent but only the most used rooms where more precise temperature control or ventilation is desired have vents, though in many cases that is not the most efficient airflow or the most energy efficient. In the "ideal case", and some houses are working toward this, every room would have its own supply and return AND thermostat, and the airflow would be regulated at each room, effectively treating each room as a separate zone - but that is not economic or necessary forthe normal home, though I have seen it in some mansions, as well of course in critical commercial situations like climate-controlled process or hospital settings, and in zoo and arboretum situations.

Basically speaking, you need air supply registers in each room where you want to be able to regulate heating/cooling (using an adjustable register, which sould be standard but is considered an "option" these days) - returns need to a located where they will collect the "used" air and return it for recirculation. Tbhis might be one per room in a very well ventilated house, may be only in larger rooms (common), or may be only a couple of places per floor - like maybe supply registers in each bedroom but all venting under the doors or through open doorways to a hall return and a main living area return.

Consideration also needs to be taken of rooms like basements, bathrooms, kitchens, indoor pool or spa or greenhouse areas which can generate objectionable humidity or odors so should many times have their own returns to prevent spreading those to the rest of the house.

However, one return for an entire floor - unless a VERY open floorplan in a very small footprint house I can't see that being realistic, though I have seen it - especially with really cheap new construction. Saw one a couple of weeks ago which was probably the ultimate in cheapo HVAC design (though I am sure did not meet ASHRAE or ACCA standards) where it had one duct on first floor to a point furthest from the air handler, and one on the second floor also at furthest extent - and ZERO return ducts - the contractor's theory was put the air as far away as possible from the air handler, and let it return to the air handler (which just pulled the return air at the blower intake - zero return ducting.

Minimum ducting requirements and sizing are regulated by the ACCA Manual S (S for Sizing of ducting), but proper layout for a specific structure is halfway an art, requiring visualizing the airflow in the building and the heat/cooling, air loss, humidity, airflow friction losses, and other factors controlling where ducts should run and where vents should be.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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