Tilson Homes
Dec 2, 2019

The Advantages of Air Returns in Every Room

Construction Practices

Designing and installing an HVAC system that operates at peak efficiency is as much a science as it is a craftsman’s art. When it’s done well, you’ll hardly notice the air conditioner working in the background, yet you will experience the full measure of its benefits. A properly sized and calibrated system provides consistent temperatures, quiet performance, and maximum comfort in every room.

HVAC Load Assessment

Our HVAC design process begins by calculating the “load” of your new home. The load is a measure of how much heating or cooling your house needs. Figuring a precise load value ensures that we install the perfect sized HVAC unit. That’s why we use Manual J, the industry’s leading residential load calculation software. It isn’t required to do, but in our experience the results of this protocol are well worth the extra effort.

Too many builders will shortcut this calculation by using rudimentary rules of thumb to estimate the size of HVAC equipment to install. The problem with this approach is that every house is different. From square footage, to number and size of windows, to insulation R-values –you name it, it all affects the load. Even the location and the direction your home faces will impact it! A correct calculation not only optimizes energy consumption, but helps to prevent excess moisture and mold build-up as well.

Air Returns: Central vs. Dedicated

Once we’ve appropriately sized the HVAC unit, it’s important to make sure it can do the job it is designed to do: heat and cool your home in a consistent, uniform manner. We’re talking about airflow now. Because we build every home with a tight thermal envelope (meaning they don’t experience an excess of air leakage), proper indoor airflow management becomes really important.

Let’s say you have a 5-ton HVAC system in your home. It will draw in roughly 2000 cubic feet of air per minute (CFM) and condition it to your preset temperature. Then, it will promptly disperse that same air throughout the house. As it does so, the system continuously draws new air back in for conditioning and recirculation. That makes sense.

Only, here’s where things can become problematic:

In order to save money, some builders will install large return air vents in a central area of a home. This becomes a problem when bedroom doors are shut. Cut off from the recirculating flow of air, the HVAC system’s ability to “breathe” is significantly reduced. Room-to-room pressure imbalances occur, leading to temperature variations throughout the home. Not only that, the HVAC system has to work really hard to find the new air it needs. It may take it in from places like your attic, maybe from outside, or perhaps even a chimney flue. That’s not good. It overworks the system and lowers your indoor air quality.

At Tilson Homes, we avoid these airflow problems by utilizing dedicated return air ducts in every room that can be closed off by a door. Each room gets its own supply of fresh, conditioned air as well as its own return. This way, your HVAC system will never struggle to heat and cool your home evenly.

Quality Testing

We make sure every home meets our quality levels by hiring a third party to inspect and test every installed system. A duct blaster test and blower door test are conducted to ensure that your new home is built to the most rigorous energy standard.  When you build with us, you can trust we’ll deliver you an efficient home with a reliable, high performing HVAC system.

Watch and Learn

Interested to know more about how we optimize HVAC systems in a Tilson home? Check out our latest Craftsmanship video where our senior vice president shares the details.


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