ASAP help: Should air vents be right next to celing lights?

Skyangel23March 6, 2014

I would really appreciate any advice anyone could give as we don't know much but this doesn't seem like the greatest idea, at least from a "looks" point of view.

HVAC ducting started today and when we went over to check it out after work we noticed that in several places large vents are very close to the ceiling lights. In the family room, the distance is less than two feet, and in the living room and kitchen, it looks about 3-4 feet each. It seems to me that anyone looking up at the lights I am painstakingly picking out are only going to see the vents next to them!

Shouldn't they be in a more inconspicuous place? Is it normal to have the vents in the middle of the room?

If anything can or should be adjusted, we will have to contact the super right away tomorrow (Friday) morning.
Thank you in advance for your help!

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The living room air vent.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 8:37PM
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I'm not too sure as I've never had any kind of vent in our ceilings other than in a bathroom or heat ducting in a basement ceiling. I hope someone here can give you a better answer. All our ducting for heat comes out on the floor in vents and cold air return low on the wall.

I would call your HVAC company and see what they have planned and if its what you want, but you should of already known this information. My biggest advice is ask for details in every aspect of your build, make sure you and any trades or GC are clear and in agreement on even the smallest details.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 8:51PM
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Have you posted over on the HVAC forum?

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 8:53PM
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Hi Dekeoboe,
Thanks. I just posted over there as well.

I do agree with you. We are trying to do what we can. They are a semi-custom builder, so they change some things but are pretty used to just doing their usual thing. I'm pretty sure I ask more questions than many of their clients. It just didn't occur to me that air duct vents would be placed so close to light fixtures. Plus the model home did NOT have this issue.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 9:16PM
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Actually, I don't think these are "vents". Theyappear to be supply registers (as opposed to return air vents).

As to your specific question, the registers can be located anywhere within the space to be conditioned.

Putting ducts and registers in the attic space is usually the cheapest solution, since they can run the ducts anywhere with few conflicting problems with the house structure. The problem for attic distribution is in how the house attic space is insulated.

It's always best for HVAC efficiency if the duct runs are in insulated space. Thus if your builder is going to insulate in the roof rafter space the attic duct runs will be an efficient installation.

On the other hand, if the builder is going to insulate over the ceiling joists, the ducts will be not be in insulated space, and your HVAC system will have to work much longer and harder to condition your house.

So you have two issues to be concerned about: 1) Location of each supply register; 2) where is the insulated space relative to the duct runs.

Good luck on your project.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 9:34PM
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okay, they are supply registers. Thanks. If they can be anywhere then who would think right in the center of the room next to the lights is the best place? I hope it will not be a big deal to request they be moved to further to the edges of the rooms. If I had any inkling they were going to do this, I would have requested this change long ago.

That is an excellent point about insulating the duct runs. Just thinking aloud here, if insulating the duct runs also is extra--say several hundred dollars (just guessing here), would it be worth it? I have no idea, but I'd want the ROI to be worth it. In theory, it sounds like it would make quite a difference.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 9:50PM
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The openings appear to be for supply air diffusers that will distribute air in different directions like you night see in an office building. Residential ceiling diffusers are usually placed near the outside walls but it saves diffusers shortens the dict runs to put them in the center of the rooms.

The ducts are obviously insulated as they are required to be even if they are in conditioned spaces. If they are in unconditioned spaces they will be required to have additional insulation.

For better efficiency the ducts should be metal except for the last part before the diffusers where the flexible ducting is easier to install and provides some sound reduction.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 10:27PM
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Hi Renovator8,
So would it be reasonable of us to request that smaller diffusers be placed near the walls? Or at least that big one moved further away from the center? I don't want to be unreasonable, but their model home certainly didn't have anything like this or I would have requested these specifications up front. I've never even been in a house with big air supply diffusers centered right next to light fixtures.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 10:34AM
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Skyangel23, I would urge you to ask about having the register/size placement changed to be consistent with the model. At a minimum, the builder should be able to explain why they've made this change from the model so that you can consider those reasons (e.g. if there is some functional benefit).

As one of my former bosses would say, "you don't ask, you don't get."

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 11:49AM
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I suspect there is an upgrade shown in the model unit that they didn't tell you about or it is listed in terms that mean nothing to you. Did you modify the plan to create a larger open space?

Such large attic spaces are difficult to design properly for a hot or cold climate so I hope you are in a moderate one.

It's difficult to think about HVAC design without knowing the climate.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 12:01PM
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Renovator8, we are in Florida. 60s-70s in winter and 90-95 in summer. I did specifically ask for a list of every upgrade in the model to try and make sure something like this didn't happen. Nothing about HVAC.

The living room and kitchen were unchanged in size, but the family room is 5 ft wider, so 22 x 18 instead of the model which is 17 x 18. There are tons of wide open floor plans here in Florida. In our last house, kitchen, living room/family room, dining, and eat-in nook were all one massive room.

Oaktown, I did leave a message with the builder, so we shall see. I would think they would at least be willing to emulate their own model.

It seems to me, if I were a builder, that if a client made a change in anything, I would then explain how that change affected other aspects of the house, and then there would be no surprises and everyone would be on the same page. This builder has already done this with the master bathroom. "By the way, did anyone tell you that we now have to do this" Uh no. In five months, no one told us anything would be different than specified.
Thank you for the input so far.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 1:28PM
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I would also be suspicious about return air from enclosed spaces like bedrooms. If there are no return air ducts from these rooms, there will probably be large door undercuts or you would need to leave the doors ajar.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 10:05AM
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Hi Renovator8,
Thanks for the info. Okay, there are return air ducts in each of the bedrooms and in the office/craft room. So that's good! Do they need to be in other rooms, such as the master bathroom (dimensions 12 x 17)?
I left a message with the builder yesterday. Will wait and see on Monday.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 1:05PM
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Bathrooms don't usually need returns because the door undercut is usually enough but that's a very large bathroom. It's worth asking about.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 3:40PM
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We checked over the weekend and the big bathroom does have a return, so that's good, anyway. Two messages left with builder since Friday morning and still waiting for some communication on the other issue. :-/

    Bookmark   March 10, 2014 at 9:17PM
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Okay, heard back from builder. It is the HVAC engineer who designs everything and the builder doesn't have much input or knowledge of what or why anything is done.
The manager agrees that supply vents next to light fixtures is unacceptable and has requested the HVAC super do a walk-through of the house. We have requested to be there when he does it.

I did find some HVAC engineering guides online that suggested air diffusers be near perimeter walls, and that that diffusers placed directly over occupancy areas will cause uncomfortable air drafts.

So hopefully we have a leg to stand on, so to speak. Any other advice when/if we meet with the HVAC super?

Also, they placed the thermostat in the hallway. Intuitively this seems like a bad placement. Isn't it supposed to be in a main living area?

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 5:18PM
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Builder did not arrange a meeting with the HVAC super. However they did pass on our concerns, and some changes were made today. Two smaller vents were installed in the living room several feet away on either side of the light fixture instead of the one large central one. So we are happy with that.

The family room is now also two smaller vents, but they are much closer still to the center of the room and will right right above where each couch will be in that room. This room is 18 x 22, with a sliding glass door behind where the person taking the picture is standing. There is also a 12 ft. wide opening to the kitchen/ breakfast nook behind and to the right of the photographer.

The unit is a Lennox 14HPX-048-230-18. Will be engineered with air handler to be a 15 SEER. I asked about the air handler model and I am still waiting to hear back. I know this system gets bad reviews but we just don't have the budget to do anything else right now, and builder, not being custom, won't let us shop around.

I am still concerned about this family room. Should I request another change, moving each of the two air diffusers even further back towards each perimeter wall? Should there be a third one anywhere, or is the two enough?

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 5:53PM
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