Decorative heat registers for ceilings, walls, and floors, vintage baseboard registers, and cold air return vent covers in styles that include Victorian, Arts & Crafts, Art Deco, and modern designs. Choose from registers and return vent covers with cast iron, bronze, aluminum, brass, and wood grilles.
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Vent Cover 101: Heat Registers vs. Cold Air Return Covers
The term vent cover generically refers to anything used to cover a vent (opening). In residential heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, there are two types of vents; forced air vents and air return vents. Conditioned air travels through a system of galvanized steel ductwork to deliver warmed air (winter) or cooled air (summer) to rooms in the home through forced air vents. It is then circulated back to the HVAC system's air handler through air return vents. Forced air vents are commonly covered with registers while air return grilles are used to cover air return vents.
Register Vent Covers
Registers have a decorative grille to cover the vent and a damper (or louvers) to moderate air flow. The register's louvers can be adjusted to limit conditioned air from heating or cooling a room. Registers can also be used on air return vents but it normally is not necessary to control flow through return vents.
Registers were traditionally called heat registers because homes were heated through vents long before they were cooled through them. The term "heat register" continues to be used today even though the same vent is used for heating and cooling.
Air Return Vent Covers
Air return vent covers are simply a grille. Air return vents do not require louvers because air flow control is typically provided by a register on the forced air vent, not by the return vent. Air return covers can also be used on forced air vents if air flow control is not required. For example, a register's louvers are rarely adjusted in rooms that are frequently occupied so an air return grille will function as well as a register that is always in the open position.
Air return grilles are often called cold air returns even though they no longer just return cold air. In winter months, air return vents return cold air but in summer months warm air is returned to the air conditioner through the air return vents.
Vent Cover Size
Size is the key to selecting the correct register or grille. With a few exceptions, vent covers are sized by the opening they fit. Measure the opening in the floor, wall, or ceiling. If replacing an existing vent cover, do not rely on the outside dimensions of the current vent cover. Outside measurements can be misleading. Remove the register or grille and measure the opening behind the vent cover. Choose a vent cover with inside dimensions that match the width and length of the opening.
Overall size can be important if the register or air return grille is near a wall, built-in furniture, or other impediments. Check the free area around the opening to make certain that it will accommodate the overall dimensions of the vent cover. Outside measurements are also important for choosing flush mount vent covers that recess into the floor or baseboard registers that sit against the wall between a gap in the baseboards.
Vintage Baseboard Registers
Vintage baseboard registers rest on the floor against the wall in a gap between baseboard trim. To replace vintage baseboard registers, measure the gap in the baseboards. Antique reproduction baseboard registers, like the antique originals, have a single large damper to control airflow. It is important to measure the register box (also called a stackhead) behind the baseboard register to make certain the damper will swing open into the register box. Vintage baseboard registers are also called gravity baseboard registers because they were originally used with gravity furnaces.
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