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What are Vent Covers?

By Sherry Holetzky
Updated May 16, 2024
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Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) ducts require exposed holes in floors, walls or ceilings in order to allow heated or cooled air to pass from the ductwork to the interior of a building. Since no one wants exposed holes in the surfaces of a home or office building, for safety as well as aesthetic reasons, vent covers are placed over these holes. There are many designs to choose from, from decorative covers, which can be quite detailed, to those that are very simple in design and are purely functional.

Vent covers are obviously constructed in a way that allows air to pass through them. Some are styled more like a grate, while others have louvers which can be adjusted to increase or decrease airflow, or to direct air to a certain part of the room. Air deflectors, which sit on top of the covers, are also used for this purpose. They can redirect warm air, which rises, toward the lower part of the room, and push cool air higher into the room. They also work great under cabinets or furniture to redirect heat or air conditioning for better air dispersal.

Most vent covers require only two screws for installation, making them simple enough for nearly anyone to install. Maintaining them is also simple and requires only minimal effort. Simply go over them with a duster, clean them with a small brush, or remove the attachment from your vacuum and clean them with the hose. You can also purchase filters to place beneath vent covers, which will collect dust and debris so you don't have to clean them as often. Simply unscrew the cover, remove the old filter, and slip in a new one.

You may have heard of magnetic vent covers as well. These are used to cut off or limit airflow to certain spaces, and they are inexpensive and simple to use. They are made out of thin but sturdy magnetic sheeting, which can be cut down to fit any size vent. Since they are magnetic, they slip into place easily and stay there.

Magnetic covers also have another feature that makes them popular. They can be painted, wallpapered, and even covered with carpet so that they blend in and become virtually unnoticeable. To make standard vent covers blend in better, you can paint them the same tone as the floor, wall or ceiling.

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Discussion Comments

By anon249834 — On Feb 23, 2012

I have seen some small magnetic ones in magazines, but not any that would fit a large office vent.

By mbbschina — On Feb 23, 2012

They are installed near all of the windows of the house. Each one is installed so the air flow goes towards the middle of the room, not towards the window. I had somebody tell me they are all backward. What is the correct way and direction to install these vents?

By anon116669 — On Oct 07, 2010

I've seen folks posting looking for ways to cover vents and/or redirect air flow. There's a product called VentSTOP that works on any kind of vent because you use velcro, not magnets. I use them and they work great for the last two years.

By anon105521 — On Aug 21, 2010

Make sure you remove any vent covers before turning on the air con unit at the start of summer!

By anon48764 — On Oct 14, 2009

anon4732: There is no "right" way or wrong way to install a vent cover. It is simply a matter of cosmetics. Seeing into the wall cavity may be unappealing to some. But preventing dust from "floating" in the opening is silly. Dust gets *pulled* into that opening anytime the return is calling for air. Dust will accumulate on the vent cover regardless of which direction it is installed. Most visitors will never notice which way they are facing. But they may notice dirty vent covers if you don't keep them clean. If you are really concerned about looking into the cavity and seeing a stud or the backside of sheet rock, paint the cavity flat black. Don't use spray paint -- it could get messy if you are not real careful!

By anon41533 — On Aug 15, 2009

I would like to put a vent diverter under my couch. I'm worried about the heat in the winter on my hardwood floors. Once in the past we had a table in this spot and it only took one winter for the wood to split at a seam, Are there diverters that are more tube like so the flooring doesn't have to be exposed to the a/c or heat?

By anon40560 — On Aug 09, 2009

I am trying to find something to put over a ceiling vent in an old large church. The ac comes directly down on the altar and creates a problem with the candles etc. However there is a need for air to be circulating in that area. Are there any diverters/deflectors that might help?

By anon38626 — On Jul 27, 2009

what is the answer to poster #4732?

By joniann — On Apr 21, 2009

I am looking for vent covers that will keep air out. I know most are made for letting it in. But I am trying to find a vent cover that will meet OSHA standards for keeping air out when there is a possibility that the air could be contaminated.

I have seen some small magnetic ones in magazines, but not any that would fit a large office vent.

They suggest duct tape and plastic. I would like to find something that is easier to use and not so messy. Any suggestions?

By anon23608 — On Dec 29, 2008

The fin direction of vent covers has only a marginal difference to air flow. A dirty/clogged air filter in the system will have a much more dramatic effect on how quickly a home is brought to temperature. The reason "fresh air" vents are installed in residences is that current building codes make for much more "airtight" structures then what was built years ago. A home needs adequate constant air circulation and ventilation, otherwise problems such as mold in window frames, cracks in drywall seams and "popped" drywall nail holes from temperature and moisture changes will appear.

By anon18983 — On Oct 03, 2008

In then winter when the ac is off i get a draft that comes from my ceiling vents in all rooms why is this and do they sell a cover to place over my plastic vents to keep the cool air out?

By buddhageek — On Jun 05, 2008

Regarding, "ducts require exposed holes in floors, walls or ceilings in order to allow heated or cooled air to pass from the duct work to the interior of a building."

I just bought a condo and there are two exposed holes covered by grated vent covers. They are solely there for "fresh" air I was told, but my condo abuts an alley and the fresh are is not quite fresh. Even when fully closed, air comes in. I have windows and a balcony and can regulate fresh air needs. I do not need these vents. How do I cover these vents? Do you know of solid vent covers (not grated) that would close off the air coming from those holes? The magnetic ones seem fine, but I would like something more permanent.

By wiiilbur — On Mar 06, 2008

I have ceiling vent covers. They are installed near all of the windows of the house. Each one is installed so the air flow goes towards the middle of the room, not towards the window. I had somebody tell me they are all backward. What is the correct way and direction to install these vents?

By anon7200 — On Jan 20, 2008

I have been wondering about this also. I would like to put the covers on upside down so visibility into them is reduced, but wonder if this will compromise air flow.

By anon4732 — On Oct 30, 2007

I have been in an argument with a guy who thinks he knows everything there is to know about construction. The question is with cold air return vent covers that are mounted in the wall. Is there a right or wrong way to install the grill cover. One position is to always have them angled tins facing down so that dust doesn't float into the opening. The other position is to always have them angled away from someone standing, such that you never see into the opening. Which is right?

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