How To Install Return Air Duct In Wall: Step-By-Step Guide

July 8, 2023
Avatar for ganit greyganit grey
how to install return air duct in wall

If you’re looking to enhance the ventilation in your home and ensure a healthy indoor environment, knowing how to install return air duct in wall is essential. Proper airflow and circulation are vital for maintaining optimal temperature and air quality throughout your living spaces. 

In this detailed step-by-step guide, we will walk you through the exact process of installing a return air duct in the wall. By following these instructions, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge and skills to successfully complete the installation and enjoy improved air circulation and comfort. 

So, let’s dive into the details and discover how to install a return air duct in the wall effectively.

What Are Return Air Ducts?

Return air ducts are an integral part of HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) processes that help maintain a balanced airflow and temperature in your home. 

Here are the key points regarding the purpose of return air ducts in walls:

Air Collection 

Return air ducts in walls collect stale air from different rooms and spaces within your home.

Air Circulation

They circulate the collected air back to the HVAC system, ensuring proper airflow throughout the house.

Balanced Airflow 

Return air ducts help to improve airflow by evenly distributing air from different areas back to the HVAC system.

Indoor Air Quality 

By collecting air from various rooms, return air ducts contribute to improved indoor air quality. They remove contaminants, allergens, and odors from the living spaces.

Energy Efficiency 

Return air ducts facilitate energy efficiency by allowing the HVAC system to recirculate conditioned air. This reduces the load on the system and helps save energy.

Comfortable Living Environment 

By ensuring proper ventilation, return air ducts contribute to a more comfortable and pleasant indoor environment.

Temperature Regulation 

Return air ducts on the exterior wall assist in maintaining consistent temperatures throughout the house by collecting air from different areas and returning it to the HVAC system for conditioning.

Pressure Balance 

Return air ducts help maintain balanced air pressure, preventing issues such as doors slamming shut or uneven airflow.

How to Install Return Air Duct in Wall

How to Install Return Air Duct in Wall

Return air ducts usually start in the space within the ceiling joists. From there, they connect to an existing duct that runs at a 90° angle to the wall studs. This configuration allows for efficient airflow and ensures proper distribution of air throughout the HVAC system.

If you’ve decided to save some money by installing the ductwork for your HVAC system on your own, follow these step-by-step instructions to install a return air duct through the wall successfully:

Determine Location

Begin by selecting the locations where you want to install the return air ducts. Cut a small hole in the drywall at each chosen spot close to the floor. Take a look through the hole to ensure there are no pipes or electrical wires behind the wall. Size the hole appropriately to fit the return air grille or register.

Locate Holes 

Identify the corresponding holes in the basement or crawl space beneath the wall cut holes. This alignment ensures a proper connection between the wall and ductwork.

Notch and Bend the Panning 

To effectively seal off the space, notch the panning at the farthest hole to fit and bend it upward, securing it tightly to the floor. Nail it securely to the bottom of the ceiling joists, ensuring a strong attachment.

Stop at the Furnace Location 

Bring the panning to a stop near the furnace. Notch this side as well and continue it up to the floor level. This step ensures a clear path for air circulation.

Create Air Entry Points 

Cut holes in the panning in a line perpendicular to the joists. These holes serve as entry points for air, allowing it to flow into the return air duct.

Block Off Ductwork


Install the return air duct perpendicular to the joists, forming a 90° angle. This ensures proper alignment and efficient airflow.

Cover Holes 

Place the square return air duct over the holes you cut in the panning. This covers the openings and directs the airflow into the duct.

Create Air Entry Points

Cut corresponding holes in the top of the return air duct that aligns with the holes in the panning. These holes allow air to enter the duct from the room.

Secure Attachment 

Connect the return air duct tightly to the bottom of the ceiling joists using s-slips and drive cleats. This ensures a secure and stable installation.

Insulate for Energy Efficiency

Consider wrapping the return air duct with fiberglass duct wrap. This insulation helps prevent heat loss and improves energy efficiency in the system.

Secure Air Return Duct to Furnace

Cut a hole at the bottom of the return air duct near the furnace. This hole will be used to attach another duct that connects to the furnace. Similarly, cut a hole in the side of the furnace that aligns with the size of your filter rack. Make the necessary connections from the bottom of the return duct to the filter rack, and then attach them to the furnace. If required, cut the duct as necessary to ensure a proper fit.

Install Air Filter

Insert your HVAC filter into the filter rack, ensuring it is properly secured. This filter will help capture dust and other particles, improving indoor air quality. To prevent air leakage, caulk all joints and seams of the duct using high-quality clear silicone caulk.

Install Return Air Register Covers 

Screw the return air register covers over the holes that you cut in the wall. These covers serve as the visible part of the return air duct, allowing air to flow in and out.

Clean the Ductwork 

It’s essential to clean the return air ducts before use. Ensure that you do not install the return ducts in kitchens or bathrooms, as moisture and odors can circulate throughout the ductwork system. Cleaning the ducts will prevent the circulation of debris, dirt, and allergens, improving indoor air quality and preventing potential respiratory issues.

Additional Tips to Follow

Here are some additional pro tips for installing a return air duct in the wall.

  • Plan the layout and path of the ducts before starting the installation.
  • Use proper tools and high-quality materials for durability and efficiency.
  • Familiarize yourself with local building codes and regulations.
  • Ensure airtight seals at all joints and connections to prevent air leakage.
  • Consider seeking professional assistance if unsure or inexperienced.
  • Schedule regular maintenance and cleaning of the ducts.
  • Prioritize safety by following proper installation procedures.
  • Optimize energy efficiency by insulating the ductwork.
  • Perform periodic inspections for leaks, blockages, or damage.
  • Keep clear of kitchen and bathroom areas to avoid moisture and odors.
  • Maximize indoor air quality with regular filter replacements.

Wrapping Up

In essence, by following our step-by-step guide on how to install a return air duct in the wall, you can achieve balanced airflow, improved indoor air quality, and energy efficiency in your home. Don’t hesitate to seek professional help if needed to ensure a successful installation and a comfortable living environment.


1. How to install air return in the wall by yourself?

If you want to install an air return in the wall by yourself, start by determining the location, cutting holes in the wall and basement, planning the installation path, securing the ductwork, and insulating for energy efficiency. 

2. Is the return air duct and return air vent the same?

No, the return air duct and return air vent are not the same. The return air duct is the pathway that carries air back to the HVAC system, while the return air vent on the wall is the opening or grille through which the air enters the duct.

3. Can I install a return air duct in the basement?

Yes, installing a return air duct in the basement is a common practice as it allows for efficient air circulation and helps maintain balanced airflow throughout the house.

Leave a comment

Call Now