Ask Our Experts: HVAC Supply Registers in Floor vs. Ceiling

December 30, 2016 | 3:15 pm
Cool grille, right? It's an historic, ornamental HVAC grille - the one in your building may look a bit less flashy, but with a similar purpose!
Cool grille, right? It’s an historic, ornamental HVAC grille – the one in your building may look a bit less flashy, but with a similar purpose!

Question for Our Experts:

Which is better – HVAC supply registers/grilles in the floor or the ceiling? Is there even a difference?

Our Experts’ Answer:

Short Answer

Neither is “better” per se. The optimal placement of HVAC supply registers in your home or building depends upon the building’s design and your unique comfort needs.

Detailed Answer

Great question!  Quick context and definition for those who may be unfamiliar: supply registers are the vents that deliver warm or cool air from your central heating/cooling system to each room (these are not to be confused with the “return” registers in each room that pull air back into the central heating/cooling system).  You’ll sometimes find them located in or near the floor, and other times you’ll find them located in or near the ceiling (the same can be said of the return registers – so, again, be careful not to confuse the two). In some buildings, one room may have floor registers while another room may have ceiling registers.  This begs the question – “What’s the deal?”  Is there a difference?  Is one design better than another?  If I have ceiling registers, should I be jealous of my next-door neighbor with floor registers?  Well…

In a perfect world, the ideal system would have both high and low (ceiling and floor) supply registers – but that would be very cost prohibitive (more material, more labor, additional installation steps, etc).  So, when designing a new heating/cooling system, design professionals make a supply register placement decision for each room based upon various factors.  All supply registers are rated by the manufacturer as to the amount of air they can deliver, the distance that they can throw the air, and the pattern of the air flow.  Generally, design specialists match the supply register to the area or room that it is covering – taking into consideration the cubic feet per minute of air needed for the area or room to maintain a comfortable temperature, and the throw or coverage of the area.  Either type of register (ceiling or floor) can be used for this as long as the need for the area or room is matched.

There are a few notes worth mentioning about special circumstances.

New vs. existing homes

Obviously, the HVAC design professional has the most design flexibility when working with a homebuilder on a newly-built home.  Special circumstances can be taken into consideration during the homebuilding process, and custom HVAC system designs (with optimal placement of supply/return registers/grilles, etc) can be implemented.  Some HVAC companies attempt to utilize what we call ‘cookie cutter’ solutions for new homes – they do new homes en masse and simply install the same system over and over again, regardless of whether the design is truly the best fit for the home or its owners’ unique comfort needs.  At Tuckey Mechanical, that’s not our style.  We love to deliver custom solutions for customers who care about optimizing both the comfort and efficiency delivered by their home’s mechanical systems.

If we’re replacing an existing HVAC system in an existing home, our options for register placement are a bit limited (or maybe even pre-determined).  Most existing homes will only allow for ceiling or floor registers (one or the other) unless extensive reconstruction is done.  In this scenario, we’ll work to optimize your existing configuration, and/or we’ll make appropriate recommendations if changes need to be made.

Two-story homes

Some two-story homes will have a temperature difference between floors, but this is due mainly to natural convection and in no way reflects the type of supply register installed.

In conclusion, no matter which type of supply register is used, if it is sized properly and installed in the correct position, it should provide excellent comfort and efficiency.

Has anything here piqued your interest?  We’d love to speak with you about it.  Give us a call today!

Tuckey Mechanical Services provides HVAC system installation, maintenance, and repair services throughout South Central Pennsylvania.  Tuckey (PA HIC # 15821) can be reached at 717-249-1535 or

[Photo by GSA ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]

DISCLAIMER: This article is provided as a reference guide only. A qualified, professional contractor like the Tuckey Companies should handle all interior design, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, remodeling, metal fabrication, and restoration projects. Information presented here is of a general nature that may not be applicable in all situations. Tips, articles, and accompanying information do not represent an official recommendation of the Tuckey Companies.

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