How to Reduce Noise from Return Air in Easy Steps?

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Want to learn how to reduce noise from return air? A noisy air conditioner can ruin your quiet afternoons quick naps

While it’s normal for air ducts and HVAC systems to produce some noise- the amount of noise you hear will depend on how close or far you’re from the air conditioning system.

There are different ways you can reduce return air from your air conditioning system and each is discussed below in detail.

A List of Ways on How to Reduce Noise from Return Air

Below are some of the simplest and DIY hacks on how you can reduce noise from return air. Let’s get started.

How to Reduce Noise from Return Air

1. Open the Vents

One closed vent may not make much of a difference, but if two or more of these closed, your system will get noisier.

If the return air in your home is getting unbearable, opening the air vents should be your first step.

 Go a step further and check whether the grill or vent is adjustable.

If they can be adjusted, switch to the most open position to ensure maximum airflow.

Regularly check the vents to ensure they are not closed. Closed vents will put undue pressure on your HVAC and compromise it in the long run.

2. Clean the air ducts/ filters

If the vents are open, but you still can’t hear yourself over the return air noise, you may need to check the filter/ducts.

Filters and ducts cover air returns. As air is sucked into the vents, dust and other particles may get trapped in the filters. 

These particles may cause clogging especially if the return vents are installed in dusty rooms.

With clogged filters, your equipment will have a harder time moving air resulting in a noisier system.

The only way to solve this problem is to clean or change the filters often, say once every month.

Fortunately, filters are cheap and changing them is easy so you do not need to hire a professional.

For a simple clean, use a vacuum to suck dust, cobwebs, and other debris.

If this doesn’t help, remove the grill and give it a deeper clean.

After cleaning the grill, do not forget to vacuum the duct opening in case there is some other obstruction clogging the system.

3. Resolve Ductwork Issues

Many homes have poorly installed or inefficient ductwork. In both instances, a lot of air is forced into a limited space leading to a whistling or whooshing sound.

The only way out of this issue is to get the ductwork sorted either by correcting the poor installation or ensuring the ones in place can handle your system. 

In case you have installed a more extensive system, get a professional to check your house and ensure that the ductwork can handle the airflow.

There are many lined return ducts today with noise-cancellation features.

You can also get some Fiberglass duct liner for your home and kiss your noisy system goodbye.

It is important to note that hard ducts tend to be noisier than their flexible counterparts. When you think about it, air moving against metal will be louder.

This is not to say that flexible ducts are better.

While they may be made with a more friendly material, flexible ducts are more prone to bends and kinks, and this can only result in reduced airflow.

If you choose to go with hard ducts, ensure that they are the right size. In case you want flexible ducts, ensure that are installed with optimal airflow in mind.

How to Reduce Noise from Return Air

4. Get the Right Grills and Vents 

Before thinking of how to reduce noise from return air, you should ensure that you have grills and vents in the right shapes and sizes. 

A good vent should have an ample opening so that air enters easily.

The vents should also not close as easy so that your system is not overwhelmed. 

Restrictive grills and vents and grills have to be corrected not just for the unpleasant sound produced but also because they strain the cooling and heating systems.

Get a professional to check and replace existing grills and vents to the correct ones.

This may seem like a lot of work, but nothing beats a quiet home, and your HVAC system will last longer.

5. Reduce the Static Pressure

Some systems come with too much static pressure.

This pressure often results when the air volume is too high for the ducts to handle comfortably.

High static pressure is common, but the solution isn’t the same for every home.

It is advisable to get a professional who can determine the unique fix suitable for your home.

Some available solutions in case of static pressure:

  • Adjust fan speed to a level that is comfortable for your HVAC system. This can only work if the speed was too high, otherwise reducing speed in an adequately set system will reduce airflow and overall performance.
  • Add ductwork to expand the supply and return plenums. Increasing ductwork is effective in reducing the static pressure hence making the system quieter.
  • Get a bypass duct in case yours is a single multiple-zone system. Just like adding a duct, this solution will significantly reduce the static pressure.
  • Increase return air capacity by adding registers and increasing the grille size. 
  • Switch the current grilles and registers with high-velocity ones.

6. Upgrade and get a variable speed blower

This is an excellent solution if you are in the process of replacing your HVAC system.

With a variable-speed blower, the air in your home will be circulating more consistently, and there will be less air going through the ducts.

While the speed will vary depending on the heating and cooling demands, variable speed blowers tend to operate at low speeds most of the time, which means that you will barely hear the system running. 

7. Resolve the central return problem

Most small homes have one central return. You will often find that the air handler or furnace is fitted right next to the return plenum.

For such a home, keeping the system quiet is hard since the blower motor is close and the limited space may not allow installation of extra ductwork.

This problem may have nothing to do with the system.

You have to think space and design.

If there is a way the system can be rearranged, the problem can be resolved.

For example, an air handler installed right behind a bedroom wall can be changed to a more favourable location. 

A solution can also be reached if space allows more ductwork to be installed.

Final Thoughts on How to Reduce Noise from Return

If none of these how to reduce noise from return air solutions work, then it may be time to resolve the bigger problem and do an HVAC overhaul.

4 thoughts on “How to Reduce Noise from Return Air in Easy Steps?”

    • @Darlene, we bought a brand new home with the same problem and I have no clue what to do—so I sue the builder? Nobody should have to live with a return that makes over 80 decibles of noise when the air conditioner is on.

    • @Deb,
      We just replaced our HVAC unit & have the same issue. The 4 ton unit is a lot louder than our old 3 ton unit. If you find a solution please let us know. I’m very disappointed since we spent a lot of money on a bigger HVAC!

    • @Kim,
      Make sure all vents are all the way open and try a less dense filter that air passes through easier. Allergen filters are denser with fibers closer together making it harder for air to pass through.


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