This section is from the book "Cyclopedia Of Architecture, Carpentry, And Building", by James C. et al. Also available from Amazon: Cyclopedia Of Architecture, Carpentry And Building.
The cold-air box should be large enough to supply a volume of air sufficient to fill all the hot-air pipes at the same time. If the supply is too small, the distribution is sure to be unequal and the cellar will become overheated from lack of air to carry away the heat generated.
If a box is made too small or is throttled down so that the volume of air entering the furnace is not large enough to fill all the pipes it will be found that those leading to the less exposed side of the house or to the upper rooms will take the entire supply, and that additional air to supply the deficiency will be drawn down through registers in rooms less favorably situated. It is common practice to make the area of the cold-air box three-fourths the combined area of the hot-air pipes. The inlet should be placed where the prevailing cold winds will blow into it; this is commonly on the north or west side of the house. If it is placed on the side away from the wind, warm air from the furnace is likely to be drawn out through the cold-air boy.
Whatever may be the location of the entrance to the cold-air box, changes in the direction of the wind may take place which will bring the inlet on the wrong side of the house. To prevent the possibility of such changes affecting the action of the furnace the cold-air box is sometimes extended through the house and left open at both ends, with check-dampers arranged to prevent back drafts. These checks should be placed some distance from the entrance to prevent their becoming clogged with show or sleet. The cold-air box is generally made of matched boards, but galvanized iron is much better; it costs more than wood but is well worth the extra expense on account of tightness which keeps the dust and ashes from being drawn into the furnace casing to be discharged through the registers into the rooms above.
The cold-air inlet should be covered with galvanized wire netting with a mesh of at least three-eighths of an inch. The frame to which it is attached should not be smaller than the inside dimensions of the cold-air box. A door to admit air from the cellar to the cold-air box is generally provided. As a rule air should be taken from this source only when the house is temporarily unoccupied or during high winds.