WhteRidge HVAC Logo
Heating & Air Conditioning

Home maintenance: Should I use a vent cover?

There are a lot of things in our homes we rarely think about … until we move. Suddenly, the weird utensil rack in the dishwasher becomes a daily annoyance, you desperately miss something as mundane as your favourite washing machine setting, and the white vent covers marring your new dark flooring stand out like a sore thumb.

What are those vent covers there for, and can you replace them with something else? Vent covers largely just prevent debris and other things from entering your ductwork. Because they’re designed to maximize air flow, they don’t actually have a lot of barriers to keep things like dust out, but they do a good job of catching stray toys and larger items. They can also direct the flow of air.

A vent is simply a hole in your wall or floor, connecting to your heating, cooling and air conditioning (HVAC) system. So yes, you should always use a vent cover to protect the opening, to keep your HVAC system from being exposed to debris, and to give your home a finished look. If the vent is on the floor, it’s also a safety issue to leave it uncovered.

But there’s a wide variety of vent covers available, and it turns out there’s no need to live with ones that don’t match your decor or aren’t doing the job effectively. Here are some of the things to consider when choosing or replacing your vent covers:


Vent covers aren’t just there to look pretty (although we’ll cover that part later). They actually have a function. Grilles provide protection for your ducts by covering the vents and protecting things from getting lost in there. This helps to keep your ducts clean, and promotes good air circulation in your home.

Registers, on the other hand, also keep debris from getting into your ducts, but provide another function as well. Registers are a vent cover that allow you to control air flow. A louver changes air flow direction, while volume can be controlled with a damper.

Using a register to control air flow has some big advantages. It can help increase the efficiency of your HVAC system by allowing you to adjust where the heated or cooled air is being directed in your home. This can provide your family with maximum comfort levels while also lowering your energy bills. 

While all vents should be covered, selecting a register over a standard grille is preferred, especially in areas that require temperature and air flow adjustments.


Return vents pull air back towards your HVAC system to be heated or cooled again for circulation in your home. They’re typically located on a wall, either at ceiling or floor level. Return vent covers don’t need to be particularly durable, but they should still provide some level of protection for the vent.

Air supply vents, on the other hand, are often located on the floor. These are the vents that blow out the heated or cooled air. Because of their placement, they require a very durable cover that can withstand being walked on or having furniture moved over them. They should also be able to handle continual heating and cooling without becoming brittle.

Cast metals are thicker and heavier than other materials. They also allow for dimensional depth. Cast aluminum, brass, and steel are resistant to rust (think: humid bathroom), making them a solid long term investment, even if they are a bit more costly than other materials.

Hardwoods like oak, maple, and cherry are also durable options at a slightly lower price point. High-density machine board is another great alternative to match your decor exactly, since it’s ready for primer and paint. Wood can appear beautifully built-in, but may be less good for floor areas that see high traffic. 

Good old plastic or vinyl varieties are inexpensive and easily accessible, but they may need to be replaced if they crack. They don’t suffer the frequent denting of some metals, though.


Gone are the days of eyesore vent covers! Grilles and registers are now widely available in aesthetically-pleasing designs. 

Return vents are often in highly visible places and can become a part of your decor if you choose one that’s intricately cut in a beautiful design. Even registers on your floor can be upgraded with unique patterns and customized colours.

Caring for your vent covers

Now that you’ve successfully covered your vents with an appropriate grille or register (or upgraded old unsightly ones), you’ll want to keep them clean. Vent covers are the first line of defence for your HVAC system, preventing debris, hair, and other contaminants from entering your ducts, so they are prone to getting dirty.

Carefully clean your covers according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Some can be removed and scrubbed in soapy water, while others (like wood ones) should be carefully wiped using a gentle floor cleaner.

If you notice that your vent covers are particularly grimy, it’s a good indication that you should book a duct cleaning service. This will ensure that the air in your home isn’t continually recirculating dust and other debris, which can make your house feel dirty and also contribute to unpleasant allergic and asthmatic symptoms.

Whyte Ridge’s duct cleaning technicians are always ready to clean out your ducts using high-powered negative air equipment. This quickly and efficiently removes all of the dusty buildup in your ducts to allow your HVAC system to work more effectively when heating and cooling your home. 

Find out how we can help you make your home more comfortable with recommendations to manage air flow and keep your ducts spotless. Maintaining your HVAC system with our reliable services is a great way to keep both your system and your family healthy.