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Fix a Noisy HVAC Return Duct

Fix a Noisy HVAC Return Duct

by Ethan Hagan (email Ethan) | | May 31, 2013 | 12 Comments »

Does your HVAC return duct make noises when the air handler starts and stops? Does your return duct “buckle” from the increased pressure when the supply is active? If so, your return duct may be slightly undersized for the rest of the system. This was the case for me after replacing a few components, and after the swap, I could hear the ductwork when the unit kicked on or off. One perk of hanging with contractors on Pro-Follows is that I can get their advice, and fortunately it’s easy to fix a noisy HVAC return duct.

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Pro HVAC contractors I spoke with recommended cutting an additional opening in my return duct. Some time ago, we removed a whole-house humidifier that was mounted to the return and covered the opening with sheet metal. After removing the screws and cutting through the mastic, I exchanged the sheet metal for a return vent grille. After that, I waited for the air to cycle on / off, and I was pleased to find that the noise was gone.

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12 Responses to Fix a Noisy HVAC Return Duct

  • Brady responds...
    May 31st, 2013 7:55 am

    I’d be interested to hear ideas about how to quiet a loud supply. The supply to the master bedroom is directly above the air handler, which is directly behind one of the master bedroom walls. The supply vent’s proximity to the blower as well as a sharp 90° turn right before it exits into the room combine to make the noise level in the bedroom pretty high.

    [Reply]

  • Joe responds...
    May 31st, 2013 8:34 am

    nice simple fix!

    I really need to have my entire system redone, my master bedroom is not getting enough airflow, and the basement gets too much in the summer (its already cool down there!!!)

    theoretically that should be done AFTER I refinish and properly insulate the basement. right now the insulation down there is non existent.

    [Reply]

    Joe Reply:

    I assume the basement is conditioned in your house, so you’re not sucking unconditioned air into the system constantly?

    [Reply]

    Ethan Reply:

    It is conditioned, and thanks for pointing that out. Otherwise, this would be the worst solution ever…

    [Reply]

  • supimeister responds...
    May 31st, 2013 10:44 am

    What do you use for cutting your hvac?

    [Reply]

    Ethan Reply:

    They make specialty recip blades but it’s easiest just to use aviation snips (tin snips).

    [Reply]

  • Joe 'the Pro' Sainz responds...
    May 31st, 2013 4:23 pm

    Something to consider: The return air ducts are designed to pull air from different parts of the house to help balance the system, moisture levels, and temperatures in that house. Putting a large hole in the main trunk is going to drastically lower it’s purpose.
    If you can locate the spot on the duct where it is flexing, you can stiffen the metal that keeps popping in and out.

    [Reply]

  • HANDYMAN51 responds...
    May 31st, 2013 6:09 pm

    Something to check for when purchasing a home, even if it can be fixed.

    [Reply]

  • Eek565 responds...
    May 31st, 2013 7:55 pm

    I love it when fixes are easy like this one. I know the opposite can be true too of exhaust fans. A lot of the time excess noise is because the ducts are too narrow.

    [Reply]

  • poiboybf responds...
    June 1st, 2013 9:24 pm

    Hmm interesting read. I haven’t noticed this with either of the returns in our house, but I’m not surprised given that ours looks gigantic. Something to look for for sure.

    [Reply]

  • trebor responds...
    June 2nd, 2013 9:09 am

    I have some minor noise when my AC or heat kicks in. It’s kind of a creaking in one spot along where I believe a duct is. It creaks and taps for a couple minutes and the best that I can figure out, it’s the ductwork expanding/shrinking to the temperature changes. Unfortunately, it’s located on the ceiling of a first floor room in a two story house so I can’t get a good look at it.

    I’m not very concerned about it as it seems minor; should I be?

    [Reply]

    Ethan Reply:

    I don’t think you have cause for concern. If the noise doesn’t bother you, don’t worry about it.

    [Reply]





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