When shopping for kitchen vents, you have a choice of overhead or downdraft ventilation. Either way, look for a quiet model with a capacity that matches or exceeds your cooktop's requirements and fits your cooking style. Undercabinet hoods work well with ranges or cooktops that produce few Btus. They mount to the wall or to the bottom of a wall cabinet, through which ductwork can be routed outside.
Chimney hoods work where there are no cabinets. They mount with a decorative cover that hides the ductwork, offering a stylish focal point in the kitchen
Island hoods are mounted to the ceiling and vented through ductwork above. An island hood should be wider than the cooktop -- optimally by 3 inches on either side.
Custom inserts are used when opting for a custom-designed hood. Because the guts of the ventilation are housed in a surround, the look is limited only by your creativity.
Downdrafts draw out air through ductwork under the floor. Downdraft ventilation offers space efficiency and a sleek look for nonprofessional cooktops.
The width of your hood should never be less than the width of the cooking surface. "If possible, the hood should be wider than the cooking surface below," says Clare Kronemeyer, an associate kitchen and bath designer (AKBD) in Tempe, Arizona. "The extra width provides for greater capture of the smoke, grease, and odors coming from the cooking area." The exception is downdraft ventilation, which should always be the same width as the cooking surface it is ventilating.
It's crucial that your vent hood be the proper distance above your cooking surface. It is generally recommended that conventional hoods be installed 18-24 inches above the cooking surface and high-performance hoods 24-30 inches above, but always refer to the installation manual for both your hood and your cooktop or range for specific instructions. "Every time you raise the hood 3 inches higher than recommended, increase the hood's cfm by 100," says Karen Collins of Broan-NuTone.
Fan sound level is rated in sones. Lower numbers designate quieter units. One sone, for example, is similar to the sound of a quiet refrigerator in a quiet room. Doubling the sone rating is the same as doubling the sound level of the appliance.
Vent fan capacity is rated by how many cubic feet of air per minute (cfm) a fan removes. If you use the vent fan once or twice a day and cook on a conventional electric range, you need a fan rated at 160-200 cfm. For similar use with a conventional gas range, choose a vent fan with a capacity of 200-300 cfm. If you do lots of cooking on a professional- or semiprofessional-style gas range, you'll need as much as 1,500 cfm.
Let's clear the air about kitchen ventilation: All major appliances used for surface cooking should have a ventilation system that follows the manufacturer's recommendations. It's not just about the offensive odors of last night's fish. It's about air pollution. Grease and smoke left by ineffective ventilation can harm your health and damage valuable kitchen furnishings.
"Kitchens with proper ventilation are much cleaner," says Karen Collins, marketing communications manager for Broan-NuTone, LLC. "Ventilation captures particulates, stopping them from settling on surfaces and fabrics and damaging cabinetry."
Ventilation also plays a significant role in achieving high indoor air quality by removing excess heat and humidity that fosters mold growth. In addition, range hoods have become a focal point in many kitchens and are available in countless styles -- from the popular look of stainless steel to the custom appeal of inserts within cabinetry surrounds. And, as the following pages reveal, you don't have to pay a pro-style price to get a stylish hood. "On average, range hoods cost only $5 a year to operate," Collins says. "How many things can you do for only $5 a year to provide a healthy indoor environment for your family?"
No matter what style or model of ventilation you buy, follow these instructions to make sure it performs effectively.
If your kitchen's configuration allows, vent to the outside to remove as much smoke, fumes, odors, and heat as possible. Use solid, smooth-walled metal ducting in the largest size that fits your hood and wall. "With gas ranges, it's imperative that you vent fumes to the outside," says Clare Kronemeyer, Associate Kitchen and Bath Designer (AKBD), As You Like it Designs, LLC , Tempe, Arizona (asyoulikeitdz.com)
Keep duct runs short and minimize curves for optimal airflow.
Use a wall or roof cap outside the house to prevent smoke, fumes, and gases such as carbon monoxide from reentering.
Establish a maintenance routine. Wash or replace filters every one to three months; most are dishwasher-safe. "When shopping for new ventilation, look for the Home Ventilating Institute label. It's a third party that rates ventilation performance. If you see the HVI label, you can be confident that the numbers are correct." Karen Collins, marketing communications manager, Broan-NuTone, LLC