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Do we need to add ducts to the returns in our 1200 sf house?

In the deep south this was a excepted way of using the basement as a return. We all now know that this is not the best way to get the air back to the a/h. The only way that this is ok is when there is no open flames ( water heaters driers, ect ) and the basement is fully finished and you heat and cool the entre basement area. You still have to filter the air a your inside unit.

Peace Be With You

David C. Broome

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  • Amy Toulson
    Amy Toulson Member Posts: 1
    Non-ducted returns?

    We recently called to schedule a duct cleaning on our heating system. While on the phone the man we scheduled for the cleaning voiced concern over the fact that our returns are not ducted (they open into the basement). We since got an estimate on ducting the returns for $2,400. Is this upgrade necessary? What kind of air quality issues might we have if we do not upgrade? Is this estimate reasonable for a 1200 s/f house in the Northeast? Thank you for your help, Amy
  • joel_19
    joel_19 Member Posts: 931

    You should find a member of Comfort Institute in your area to evaluate your duct system and recomend upgrades. Having all your return air from the basement is a very big no-no. You are breathing everything in the basement. It is not worth having your ducts cleaned. They are dirty because of the return issue,they will just get dirty again. Dirty ducts are the symptom of other problems. Always ask yourself, it's a metal box where did the dirt come from? How did it get in there to begin with?

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  • Tombig_2
    Tombig_2 Member Posts: 231
    Return Ducts

    Amy, Can you elaborate? Are there no return grilles anywhere upstairs? Joist panning, that is using the space between the floor joists, used to be an acceptable method of ducting return air. Is your furnace returning only from the basement space? This is not good.

    $2400, while not astronomical sounds a bit steep for adding a central return somewhere in the upstairs living space. As much at issue is the cost related to patching any drywall/plaster. Is this included? Get a few bids, ask questions, and be a knowledgable consumer.

    Good luck, Tom G.
  • Al Letellier_9
    Al Letellier_9 Member Posts: 929
    return ducts

    Just from a code standpoint, you may be in violation. The fact that the cellar is used as the return makes it considered a return plenum and that effects everything in it, as mentioned in another post along with some wiring issues. Let alone the air quality, I would recommend you have the work done. Get several estimates and use the find a pro feature on this site
  • joel_19
    joel_19 Member Posts: 931

    Since her duct system would register as a 100% loss on the return side in the cold of New England it won't take long to save that cost back. Not to mention the health consequences,sounds like a good investment to me.

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  • Jim Bennett
    Jim Bennett Member Posts: 607
    Not to mention....

    if the return grills get restricted, as in furniture or carpets blocking them, you may put the basement into a negative (low pressure) balance and begin to pull flue gas back down the stack.

    Not a good scenario.


    There was an error rendering this rich post.

  • Brad White
    Brad White Member Posts: 2,398
    Standing back a bit, another view

    While we do not speak of costs in this forum, I do agree that getting three bids for equal work is the best approach on that score.

    As for the need for return ducting- it is all about control. You expend fuel to heat the parts of the house where you live. Your basement can and will benefit to a point by default, but do you really want to give it the head seat at the table?

    Conditioned air whether heated or cooled is to benefit your prime living space. If a finished basement, it too qualifies. Only with sealed ductwork do you have any say in where your space-conditioned air source is -and it should be the same space that contains your thermostat.

    Your basement, if like most folks' basements, is not sealed or insulated to anything close to what the main part of the house is, yet you invite it to preside over your fuel consumption- that volume gets first dibs.

    I agree with the other fine points, especially about depressurizing the space around the furnace itself and particularly if it is not sealed combustion. Your basement will become your flue at some point and who needs that?

    Ducting is the safe, practical and recommended approach regardless of cost. That part we must leave to you to seek.

    My $0.02

    "If you do not know the answer, say, "I do not know the answer", and you will be correct!"

    -Ernie White, my Dad
This discussion has been closed.