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Grilles and Registers

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Definition

GRILLES & REGISTERS: Grilles are louvered or perforated coverings for air passage openings. Registers are grilles that allow the airflow to be adjusted with a damper mechanism.

Grilles and registers were
once fashion plates

1. Image of a pedestal register

1. Pedestal registers were offered as
decorative additions to rooms. Click the image
for more information.


At the end of every length of ductwork in homes that are heated and cooled with forced air is a hole that needs blocking to stop small pets and all kinds of objects from slipping away to oblivion (at least until the duct cleaning company comes and vacuums them out). The generally louvered metal covers for these holes, which secure homeowners from these losses, are called “grilles.”

There are usually two kinds of grilles, those that are adjustable, we call them “registers,” and those that are not. In the terminology of the HVAC industry, adjustable grilles are ones that allow the airflow to be “damped” or restricted. With registers damping is commonly achieved by opening or closing two metal plates with a thumb wheel.

Adjustable grilles are common on “air outlets,” the ducts that deliver heat to rooms, giving the homeowner a measure of control over the temperature of each room. The grilles that draw air from the house to feed the furnace and improve circulation are called “returns” and are usually just metal rectangles with louvered openings stamped into them.

Grilles first appeared in the latter half of the 19th century in response to growing concerns about ventilation, as “exhaled air” was thought to cause disease. Made of cast iron, bronze, or brass, they could be very ornate and often complemented a room’s decor.

The golden age of grilles was around 1900. The Second World War ended the age of ornate grilles for a time as metal was desperately needed for the materiel of war. The result was the development of the simpler, flimsier grilles so often found in homes built since.

Section Gallery

2. Image of a convex side-wall register3. Image of a circular top-side wall register4. Image of a self-indicating convex side-wall register

5. Image of a glide movement register with a Japanese pattern6. Image of a round floor register7. Image of a hot-air floor register with a Florentine-pattern


Article Sources

Grilles and registers were once fashion plates

  • Research from the archives of the HVACR Heritage Centre Canada (DCSB #216).
  • Clare Brothers, Descriptive catalogue of fine stoves, ranges and hollow-ware, of warm air furnaces, registers and combination heaters, 1893-4, Internet Archive, via www.archive.org.
  • This Old House, via www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/article/0,,1581522-1,00.html.
  • Grille, via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grille.

SIDEBAR: More Grilles

  • Research from the archives of the HVACR Heritage Centre Canada.
  • Clara E. Laughlin, ed., The Complete Home (New York: D. Appleton And Company, 1907).
  • This Old House, via www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/article/0,,1581522-1,00.html.
  • Japanning, via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanning.

Image Credits

Grilles and registers were once fashion plates

  • Clare Brothers, Descriptive catalogue of fine stoves, ranges and hollow-ware, of warm air furnaces, registers and combination heaters, 1893-4, Internet Archive, via www.archive.org.
  • ibid.
  • ibid.
  • ibid.
  • ibid.
  • ibid.
  • ibid.