Home Heat Duct Guide: Should You Choose a Floor or Ceiling System?

heat ductsIn new home construction, the location of heat ducts in a house is typically either in the floor or at the ceiling. In a floor configuration, ductwork serving the room runs through the crawl space. Ceiling ducts, however, are usually connected to ductwork routed through the attic.

Which is Better? That Depends.

  • In winter heating mode, warm air entering rooms at floor level naturally rises and expands upward, warming the space effectively and efficiently. Where heat ducts are at ceiling level, conversely, heated air first fills the region near the ceiling before gradually warming the lower region. Where creature comfort in winter takes priority, ducts located at the floor are usually preferable.
  • In summer, the laws of physics reverse.  Cool A/C air flowing out of ceiling vents sinks rapidly down to the room level where people live, delivering quicker comfort to occupants. Cool air released from floor vents, on the other hand, tends to accumulate near the floor. Because the A/C system has to produce a larger volume of cool air to fill the room up from the bottom, establishing cool comfort with floor ducts may take longer.

Ductwork Routing Matters

Ceiling ductwork that runs through an unconditioned attic may be subjected to extreme temperatures. Heat loss from attic ductwork in winter may affect system efficiency.

Floor ducts, however, typically run through a basement or crawl space and are less affected by temperatures. Also, in homes with a basement, the furnace is usually installed there. Ductwork spans between the furnace and floor ducts are shorter and heat loss is reduced.

Common Factors

No matter whether ducts are installed in the ceiling or the floor, two factors are critical:

  • Ductwork must be carefully sized to deliver the proper volume of heated or cooled air to each room according to its square footage.
  • Ductwork maintenance is important to minimize leakage of conditioned air into unconditioned zones such as the attic, crawl space or wall voids.

For an experienced opinion about locating heat ducts, ask the pros at Paitson Bros. We’ve served our Terre Haute neighbors since 1922.

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