Vent placement for your HVAC system shouldn’t be an afterthought.
Their final location depends on an array of factors including the climate of your region, size of the home, the height of the ceiling, number of stories, and so on.
Can An HVAC Vent Be Relocated To The Wall Or Ceiling?
Yes, but will depend on how you plan to use your HVAC system among many other factors. Vents are placed on the floor by default because of the general physics law – “hot air rises, cold air settles.” Ceiling vents sound like a great idea if you plan to use your system for cooling purposes. If you plan to use it for heating, ceiling-based vents would be a bad idea because your HVAC system will be compelled to work harder to push the hot air from the ceiling down to the floor.
The Location of Your Furnace Has a Say
Whether you can move your floor vents to the ceiling will also depend on the location of the furnace.
If the furnace is housed somewhere in the basement or outside the home (near or almost ground level) and the ductwork runs under the floor, you’d rather let your vents stay on the floor than move them to the ceiling.
Forcing your vents on the ceiling in such a situation would increase the distance traveled by the air from the furnace via the ceiling to your room.
If you go ahead down this route, you will end up with an overworked and energy-inefficient HVAC system.
Ceiling vents may work with a furnace situated away from the basement or outside at the ground level.
If your furnace is in the attic, garage, interior closet, or laundry room, ceiling vents are probably a great idea (only if you insulate your attic – more on this later).
This way, the distance between the vents and the furnace will be short.
Additionally, you will have an easier time switching your vents from the ceiling to the wall and vice versa if need be.
But that doesn’t mean ceiling vents with short ducts (and the fact that the furnace is closer) will be effective and efficient.
Unless you use your system solely for cooling, you will have a hard time circulating the conditioned air in the room (you’re dealing with hot less-dense air in this case).
In heating situations, as mentioned earlier, your ceiling vents are defying the aforementioned law of physics – “heat rises” – because they are facing downward against the gravity and convectional flow.
However, there’s a trick around the above obstacle: you can install a ceiling fan to relieve your furnace from the labor of pushing and dispersing the warm air downward to ensure maximum heating.
If you install a fan solely for this purpose, you should operate it in reverse and slow motion.
How About the Wall? Can You Move Your Floor Vents into The Wall?
Yes, certainly. In fact, it makes more sense to relocate your vents from the floor to the wall than the ceiling.
Both your exterior and interior walls are in the middle of the ceiling and the floor, meaning they can work harmoniously with both floor-based and attic-based furnaces and ducts.
Remember that the length of your ductwork should be as short as possible if you don’t want to waste your dollars on wasted energy.
Another reason why you’d rather move your vents from the floor into the wall than the ceiling is the all-important law, again – “hot air rises.”
If you plan to use the heating setting on your HVAC system sometimes, go ahead and place your vents on the wall.
It is easier for hot air to flow out of the wall vents into the room than from ceiling-based vents.
Wall vents won’t struggle to deliver conditioned cold air either.
Can You Extend Your Vent?
Absolutely. It’s probably not the right thing to do depending on the location of your furnace but it’s very much possible.
Just make sure everything is in the line with your local code. Also, as mentioned before, don’t extend it too far from the furnace.
But Why Would You Move Your Vents from The Floor to The Ceiling/Wall?
There are a few compelling reasons why you’d move your vents to the ceiling/wall.
1. Accessibility Problems
Floor vents restrict access to your crawlspace because of the obstructive ductwork. You will have a hard time correcting leaks, animal encroachment, and insulation problems.
2. Furniture Problems
Having floor vents means arranging your furniture not to obstruct the air inflow.
Floor-based supply and return vents can pose a serious challenge when trying to plan your floor especially if you live in a small home.
Also, you can’t (at all) install them in the middle of the floor. The floor perimeter and corners aren’t the best locations either (consider your beds and chairs).
Another problem with these vents is that you must keep your floor clean all the time or else the dirt and other debris will be sucked via the return vent into the ductwork and the rest of the HVAC system.
Duct cleaning is harder than keeping your floor debris-free.
The curiosity of small children is worse than what you’d get from pets. If they are not pushing things down the vents, they are pulling them out.
‘Ceiling Vents Are a Bad Idea,’ Says NREF (National Renewable Energy Lab)
In some damning findings that would end up on EnergyVanguard, moving your vents into the ceiling isn’t a smart thing to do because it would render the system inefficient.
This has nothing to do with the length of the ductwork but where they are forced to sit – in the attic. See, unless you insulate your attics, it can get very hot up there in the summer.
If you allow your ductwork to pass there on its way to your ceiling vents, they will be exposed to great levels of heat.
As a result, the conditioned air in the ductwork will flow down your room with a few more degrees.
Even worse, your furnace could be overworked.
In the middle of the summer, the temperature in the attic can soar to approx. 130°F.
But this is around the same time you want your conditioned air to hit you at about 55°F or you might pass out.
The ductwork can be long sometimes, meaning the large surface area will expose much of your conditioned air to more summer heat (ΔT 75°F in this example).
Consequently, you can be assured that the temperature of the conditioned air flowing out of your ceiling vents is a bit higher than 55°F.
Your furnace will certainly have to work a little harder to deliver it where you are seated.
A leak could worsen the situation. A ceiling can help improve your situation though.
So, can an HVAC vent be moved from the floor to the wall or ceiling? In one word – “yes.”
But it will depend on how you plan to use your HVAC system among many other factors.
If you get your insulation right and reduce the length of the ductwork, you probably won’t face any hardship.