Registers, Grilles, Louvers… What Does It All Mean?

January 30, 2018


When you have a life-long passion for something, like our founder Mike Reggio has for registers, it’s easy to take the terminology we use for granted. Words like “registers”, “grilles”, “louvers”, and “returns” can be a little confusing for newcomers to the interior decorating and home improvement world, so let’s go over the most commonly used terms in a simple and understandable way.

Grilles Are The Part You See

Whether it’s mounted on a carpeted floor, inlaid into a wood floor, or screwed onto a wall or ceiling, the part of your home’s HVAC system—that’s Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning—that you see from most rooms, is called a grille. Here at Reggio Registers, grilles are our passion and our primary product. You see, unlike the hand-forged grilles of times past, most houses today and for the better part of the last century just use cheap stamped sheet metal grilles.

The most common use angled slats to try to direct airflow out and away in different directions, and while they do the job, they just don’t look very good. Some houses use fancier designs, like scrollwork, but if it’s just cut from sheet metal, they’re flimsy and tend to bow inward or even break just from the weight of being stepped on.

In contrast, our metal grilles are forged from aluminum, cast iron, or solid brass. They’re 316 of an inch thick, and sturdy enough to last for generations. Hand-crafted, finished, and meticulously inspected in our Leominster, MA home facility here in the USA, these are grilles of historic, heirloom quality, meant to add a touch of class, luxury, and quality to any room they’re installed in.

Louvers Control Air Flow

Underneath most registers are louvers. These are like a rectangular metal box, open on the top and bottom, with wide metal slats that can open vertically to let full airflow through, or close flush against each other to block the vent completely, using a lever, wheel, or key that you can access through the top of the grille. Or… at least that’s the theory.

The reality tends to be louvers that are stuck and nigh-impossible to budge, often because they’ve been painted over. Even when they do work, they often don’t even come close to fully blocking air flow, meaning you can’t really adequately control and customize the heating and cooling of your home. This can lead to uncomfortable guests and loved ones, tossing and turning at night, and wasted energy and money heating and cooling seldom-used rooms, all because the louvers aren’t of high enough quality to be worth changing throughout the day or year.

Our louvers operate smoothly and easily, and efficiently control airflow out through each vent and into the room. To preserve the beauty and appearance of our grilles, they’re operated with a key that’s inserted through the grille to move the louvers. This enables a sturdier, simpler mechanism that stays functional for generations and lets you effectively and efficiently control the heating and cooling in various areas of your home.

Registers Are the Whole Unit

The term “register” refers to an entire HVAC vent cover unit, consisting of a grille and associated louvers. In most homes, the two are combined into a register. We manufacture both registers, with the louvers built in, and grills and louvers separately. This allows you the freedom to choose whether a given room needs louvers, and opens up new options like flush-mounted grilles in areas where they would otherwise be difficult.

In general, we only offer registers in a relatively narrow range of standardized sizes, because of the added complexity of manufacturing. For a wider range of size options, for custom sizes, and for our wood grilles, the louvers are sold separately and sit below the grille. They’re held into the ductwork via friction rather than hardware, secured by foam strips that also serve to isolate and insulate the louvers from air leakage and any noise or vibration from your HVAC system.

Returns Take in Air Rather Than Blowing

Returns are how the HVAC system takes in air to recirculate, heat, or cool. Interior air is recycled rather than taking in outside air, or air just from the basement or other room where the system is located, for several reasons, such as increased efficiency since you don’t have to heat cold winter air or cool hot humid summer air from scratch, and reduction in allergens and odors pulled in from outside. Another important reason returns are located throughout the house, is to avoid pressurizing some areas of the house and thus creating drafts and air currents that flow extensively from room to room.

Returns almost never have louvers, but they do sometimes have built-in filters to lower the load of dust, pollen, and other debris on the system’s main filter. Our return grilles include a built-in frame to hold the filter, the filter itself, and a hinged door for easy access to the filter for cleaning or replacement without having to undo any screws or bolts.

Now that you understand the basics, hopefully, you’ll feel more at ease in navigating our website and catalog, but if you need any help figuring out what you need, we’d be thrilled to hear from you!

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