We are planning a rehab of our first floor (2-story home). The furnace and air handlers are in the basement for the whole house. The supply and return for the 2nd floor run STRAIGHT up to the second floor into the attic from the air handler. We would like to re-route the lines that go to the 2nd floor about 8' from where they are presently. Can this be done without moving the air handlers (which are huge)? I guess my concern is the loss of efficiency when adding 90-degree angles to the path. I am obviously just a homeowner and do not plan to make these changes on my own, but would like some information to help us in the planning process. The inability to move those lines would obviously affect the plans. Thanks.

  • You need to call a reputable HVAC company for their advice and cost. Adding a 90 and/or moving ductwork or air handler location is not a problem for an HVAC professional.
    – d.george
    Commented Aug 26, 2018 at 11:08
  • Thank you, as I said I have no plans to attempt this project but wanted to know for layout planning on the first floor renovation.
    – Wood 1
    Commented Aug 26, 2018 at 14:46
  • Moving the trunk lines can be done. Will it affect the efficiency probably because of the added length and 90's. There may be one advantage you could have adjustable dampers added so you can balance your flows for summer and winter at the different levels and this may off set some of the losses. Because of the extra length and bends they may up size the duct so there won't be much difference to the home in the long run.
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 14:49

2 Answers 2


Depending on where you live, yes, moving the return air duct can affect the efficiency.

If you “heat” mostly each year, then the efficiency of the unit is increased if the return air grille is located at a high point in house. This allows the unit to return the “warmest” air to the unit, it reheats that air and then redistributes it throughout the house.

If you move the return air to a lower position, cooler air will be returned to the unit and therefore need to be heated more before redistributing it throughout the house.

Likewise, if you cool your house more each year, the location of the return air can increase its efficiency by relocating it to a new location.

BTW, one reason the SUPPLY ducts are run directly to the attic is because they can be “run” to each room easily in the attic.

Back when we all had radiators and baseboard heat, we liked them to be installed low so the heat radiated and rose up (often drying out condensation on single pane windows). Now, we can “push” air so vents don’t need to be “low”. In fact, having a dresser on a vent opening will greatly reduce its effectiveness.


They can move the lines no problem. The only thing it may affect is the amount of freon recommended for the units. May have to charge the unit a little with a longer line set.

  • They don't want to move the air handler just the trunk lines if possible.
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 14:40

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