You probably know you have vents in your ceiling, walls and/or floors. Chances are you also try to ignore them because “they're ugly” according to my friend Maria. You might also have one or two vents that are annoying because they blow air on you like the vent in my bedroom. You can't change where the vents open to your living space but you can change the registers and grilles covering these vents.
What is the Difference Between Registers and Grilles?
Both grilles and registers are vent covers … covering a hole in the wall, ceiling or floor in your house, where a duct enters the living space/room. Most are rectangular in shape but there are no standard shapes or sizes. Take measurements (measure the opening only – width by height) before heading to the store to buy a replacement.
What's the difference between a grille, a register … and a diffuser?
- Grilles have slits that allow air to flow through the cover. The air might be warm or cooled air to change the temperature of the air in that room. And sometimes the flow of air is for ventilation to exchange indoor air with cleaner air from outside your home (get 10 Tips on Improving Indoor Air Quality). Some grilles have louvers that allow you to direct the flow of air.
- Registers are similar to grilles with one addition, a damper. The damper is a mechanism (shown above, lower right corner) that allows you to open and close the register to control how much air can flow through the opening.
- Diffusers – like registers, push conditioned air into a living space. What's difference is they control the air flow in a set pattern for optimal distribution of the air being pushed out.
You might prefer a vent cover that's almost invisible. Alternatively, you might want to find a register or grille that adds a touch of class to your home's trim. You can find them made of fiberglass, aluminum, painted metal and wood like these found on Amazon … shown above.
Registers and Grilles are Vents
Vents are simply openings that allow air (gas or liquids) to pass into and/or out of a confined space. So you might wonder how the air flow is controlled and that's where your HVAC system plays an important role.
- Supply vents are ones that deliver conditioned (heated or cooled) air to living spaces. This air travels from your HVAC system through ductwork until it enters livable space through supply vents. You may feel air blowing out through the vent but only when the HVAC system's fans are moving air.
- Return vents are used by your HVAC system to suck air into a large duct that brings the air back to the system where it can be heated or cooled and redistributed. These vents are larger and typically found high up a wall in a hallway or in the ceiling. The air return vent is where you often need to replace air filters.
- Other vents in your house include dryer vents (shown below right), bathroom vents and often a kitchen vent over your stove.
Air Vent Covers: Invisible or Beautiful?
When a house is built, most builders will put in the most basic and inexpensive vent grilles to control costs. If you don't like how they look or want something nicer, you have lots of choices including:
- Artistic covers with geometric designs
- Wood covers popular to match wood baseboards and flooring
- For older homes you might want to use antique cast iron registers.
You can learn more about registers and grilles in this video …
Tips gleaned from reviewing customer feedback on these products:
- Have your own screws for the installation as they're often missing or too short … consistent with my experience running a handyman business for 8 years.
- Measure your vent opening (often smaller than the cover) to avoid buying a register or grille that's too big or too small. Don't be surprised that the big box stores only carry a few of the most common sizes so most often, you'll need to buy online.
- Cheaper vent covers will be plastic and that's okay on the ceiling/wall. Floor grilles and registers need to be made of a sturdier material like steel.
- Loved this comment “It's a vent cover … does what it is supposed to do.”
Alternatives to Replacing a Vent Cover
You might not be comfortable replacing a vent cover even if the air flowing out annoys you. That's why I added a few products ideas to show you what you can add on to the vent. Starting from the left (bottom row above):
- Air deflectors for vents for – can direct air flow in a different direction. The one shown here attaches with built-in magnets so no tools needed (maybe a ladder).
- Magnetic covers – for floor vents to stop all or most of the air flow. I would not suggest trying them anywhere but the floor although I did think about it.
- Air deflectors for split AC on the wall – makes perfect sense if you need to direct the air flow away a desk, chair, bed or other piece of furniture.
- Vent extender – when you have furniture sitting over a floor vent and want to maximize the flow of warmed or cooled air into the room.