HVAC Grilles vs Registers: What’s the Difference?

If you are doing work on your HVAC system, then you may need to know the difference between HVAC grilles and registers. Here's the difference between the two.

When you first started looking at HVAC systems for your home or business, you likely focused on big picture questions. For example, maybe you wondered about natural gas versus electricity.

You probably worried about getting a system that was sized right for your space. After all, if you get a system that’s too big, you end up wasting money and capacity. Get one that’s too small, and you’re never really comfortable because it can’t keep up.

You likely didn’t give much thought to HVAC grilles and registers. You might even wonder if there is a difference between the two.

There is a difference. If you want to know the difference, keep reading for our quick guide.

What Are Grilles?

In any HVAC system, air needs a way to enter and exit a room. In short, there are holes in your walls, floors, or ceilings specifically meant for this air movement. Since most people don’t like the sight of a gaping hole, they need some kind of covering.

A grille is that covering. It’s typically a rectangular piece of metal that sits more or less flush with the surface. Grilles come with fixed slots that allow air to flow in either direction.

What Are Registers?

Registers often resemble grilles on the surface. They are also typically metal, rectangular, and sit flush with the surface.

What truly separates grilles and registers are the dampers. Dampers give you control over how much air flows into a room.

So, let’s say your spouse likes it warmer than you do in the house. You can limit the flow of warm air into your office.

You also occasionally see things like a linear slot diffuser, which serve the same essential role. These are more common in commercial settings.

Grills vs Registers

When you update an HVAC system, you might also decide that you should buy HVAC grills or registers as well. Whether you go in for the best HVAC grilles or a basic register depends mostly on how much control you want.

If you’re comfortable letting a central thermostat set the temperature throughout the space, you’ll just want grilles. If you think the rooms need a little more individual control, you’ll want registers.

Just remember that grilles let air passage in both directions. That means you can use them for air flowing into or out of the room.

You can only use registers where air flows into the room because the HVAC system needs a certain volume of air leaving any given room.

Choosing between HVAC Grilles and Registers

Choosing between HVAC grilles and registers is, as noted above, mostly about control over air flow. Once you move beyond that question, it’s largely about the look of the cover.

Since grilles and registers share a similar design, you generally pick either to match the overall look of your home or business.

Looking for more tips on updating your home or business space? Check out the posts in our Real Estate & Household section for more ideas.

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