Can You Block A Return Air Vent?

For your home’s HVAC system to operate properly, it needs constant airflow. This is why you shouldn’t block your return air vent. When you block this vent, it ends up restricting the airflow in your home. This results in your HVAC system working twice as hard for minimal airflow. 

While many people make sure they don’t block their heat vents, they often don’t think about their return air vents. This is mainly because they don’t know how they work or how important they are for the HVAC system. Keep reading to learn more about why you should never block a return air vent.

What Is Return Air Vent?

The return air vent in a home is an important part of the HVAC system. They are usually larger than the vents that the heat comes out of and either located close to the floor or directly. Newer homes have started placing them higher towards the ceiling to prevent people from blocking them.

These vents are used to bring the air in the room that has cooled down to the furnace. When the furnace kicks on the heat up the home, this is the vent that you won’t feel any warm air coming out of. This has led many homeowners to believe it’s okay to block it. 

While many people are under the impression that blocking your return air vent won’t affect their home’s heating, putting something in front of them could cause the HVAC system to run less effectively. 

Is a Return Air Vent Necessary?

The return air vent in your home is necessary because the HVAC system operates by recirculating the air in your home. This vent is needed to allow air to flow back to the HVAC system to be heated and maintain proper air circulation. While it isn’t necessary to have one placed in every room, it is still important to have a few placed throughout the home. 

If there isn’t a return air vent in place, there won’t be an effective way to return cool air to the furnace. It’s an essential component of the HVAC system. 

What Happens If You Block An Air Vent? (Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Block Your Air Vent)

Many homeowners are aware of why they shouldn’t block the heat vents. If they do, the heat won’t circulate in their home, causing IT to feel a lot colder than it needs to be.

However, many people aren’t sure what happens if they block the return air vent. When these vents are blocked, it can affect more than just the circulation of air indoors.

If a return air vent isn’t clear, then the HVAC system must work much harder to circulate the air in your home. Since the vent is blocked, it cannot return the cool air to your furnace, so the HVAC system has to resort to pulling in air from the tiny cracks through the home’s exterior.

This causes the system to work extra hard, which leads to its parts wearing out quicker. Eventually, the system is likely to malfunction or even fail. Before it fails, you’ll likely notice an increase in your heating bill.

When your system has to work twice as hard, it does cost you. This means you’ll be paying a lot more money to live in a home that isn’t a comfortable temperature.

If your HVAC system also cools your home in the summer, then blocking the return air vents could cause the air conditioner’s coils to freeze. When an air conditioner’s coils are frozen, the system cannot do its job and could lead to a damaged compressor. 

Other Ways to Hide Your Return Vent Without Blocking Airflow

Is the return air vent in your living room one big eye-sore? While you shouldn’t block your return air vent, there are ways to hide it without blocking the airflow. With a little bit of creativity and some of these great ideas, you can find a way to take the attention away from that ugly return vent. 

It’s important to know that you shouldn’t hide it with any furniture which has a backing. It’s okay to place a table over the return air vent because there is enough of an opening to allow air to get through. Items like a rug or couch should never be used to hide the vent because they restrict the amount of air that can get past.

These are some other items you can use to hide a return air vent:

Ladder Shelves

One of the most popular trends on Pinterest lately for home decor is ladder shelves. They are perfect for hiding return vents because they are open at each of the sides and bottom, with no backing. The open space allows enough room for air to get through, even if you hang some items off the racks. 

Custom Cover

If you are up for a DIY project and have some carpentry skills, you can make your custom cover for a return air vent. This will allow you to customize it to suit your decor. You can make a wooden frame (painted whichever color you like) and then add a decorative style of metal sheeting to allow air to get through.

Foyer Table

As mentioned above, you can use open furniture to hide your unsightly return vents. One stylish piece of furniture that’s perfect for this job is foyer tables. A narrow foyer table is decorative, with a wide enough opening to allow plenty of air to flow through to the vent. These tables are usually around 12 inches wide so that they won’t take up too much space in your room. 


This one sounds too easy, but it makes a huge improvement with the aesthetics of a room. When an old return air vent is painted the same color as the room it’s in, it ends up looking a lot more modern and in place. This small and simple upgrade allows a once ugly focal point to now blend into its surroundings. 

Custom Furniture

Depending on your taste and skills, you could also hide the vent with a custom piece of furniture. This would be a piece you make (or have someone professionally make) specifically for hiding the return vent. It is often a decorative table or shelf, with an attractive screening to allow air to pass through.  

Final Thoughts: Can You Block a Return Air Vent?

For years many people were under the impression that it was okay to block their return air vent because no warm air was coming out there. What harm could come from hiding it? If you block that air vent, you could cause a lot of problems for the HVAC system. This will make it much more difficult to heat your home. 

The return air vent is essential for your HVAC system because it’s responsible for returning the cool air to the furnace to get heated again. This is how the system provides proper airflow. When the return air vent is blocked, the system has to double the work and is likely to break down early.