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Downdraft exhaust fans

We're planning to buy a home in the next couple of months and I really want a good exhaust fan this go round so I don't have to hear the complaints everytime I sear meat or saute poblanos. It looks like downdraft is the way to go. Can anyone share their experiences with this type of installation? TIA

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  1. I had a Jen-Aire indoor grill with a downdraft exhaust system. It was basically useless. Of course that was more than 10 years old so when I redid my kitchen I investigated newer technology downdraft systems. ...until someone asked me why I wanted to draw off the heat that I was trying to generate on my cooktop.

    We ended up with a Miele hood and I love it. It was a much better choice because I could get one size larger than the cooktop. I also love the lights that a downdraft unit wouldn't have provided.

    3 Replies
    1. re: rainey

      If there is anyway to avoid the downdraft, avoid it. As others have responded, they are very ineffective. We have a center island cooktop on the first floor and managed to put a hood over it and run the vent between the ceiling and the second floor.

      1. re: bnemes3343

        Our hood also hangs over a peninsula between the breakfast area banquette and the wall-mounted TV in the family room. No floor above to negotiate but I had to research carefully to find something that was not a visual obstruction or distraction from the TV, not an ugly hanging in space and also highly efficient. The Miele I got is so minimalist that it does the trick aesthetically and also gets the job done most efficiently. It isn't as silent as one could hope but I'm not sure there's an alternative to the sound of rushing air.

        Here are some pix. Unfortunately, I don't have any from the completed construction.
        Front: http://www.flickr.com/photos/75667634...
        Back: http://www.flickr.com/photos/75667634...

        1. re: rainey

          Wow, I'm drooling over your cooktop. I just moved from Belmar where I had a five burner capital with awesome BTU output to an apartment in Hoboken. One so-so burner and 3 wimps...At least it's not electric.

    2. Cameraman, when we built our house (four years ago), I was told over and over again that a hood, if the kitchen layout allows, is much more effective than drowndraft systems.

      The reasons, as I understood them at the time, is that hoods 1) are usually vented in a less circuitous manner to the outside, and 2) since heat/smoke naturally rise, it's more efficient to draw them up with a fan, rather than artificially suck them down.

      I don't have experience with drowndrafts; I've only had hoods, but I feel that the professionals who advised me in this case helped me to make the right choice.

      Also, I agree completely with rainey regarding the additional lighting opportunity a hood can provide. Mine has halogen spots. Great from a practical standpoint, when cooking, but also re decor. I don't have a conventional backsplash behind the burners; I have a painted mural. When the cooktop's not in use, but the spots are on, I *really* like the dramatic effect it casts on the painting. I'm sure it would do the same for some beautiful tile or stainless steel...whatever material you choose for your backdrop.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Steady Habits

        I agree that the lighting is so important. For our primary lighting we installed a solar light tube with a florescent auxiliary light and we have two recessed cans down the center of the room. We put undercabinet linear lighting on one side (the long one) of the room and a hanging light with a low voltage RV bulb (cause it's wired in with the linear lighting) over the sink. Then there's a fan with lighting over the breakfast area table. The halogen spots are in the hood on the short wall opposite the sink.

        Almost inevitably at night I choose the hood lights and the linear/RV pendant for a soft, diffuse effect with real but directed light where I'm cooking. Much less harsh than the overheads and still spot on for seeing what really needs my attention. And it does the job for the family room as well so I just dial the ceiling fixture down to a soft glow. Very cozy for settling down with the TV and a standing lamp fills in for reading.

        1. re: rainey

          Solar light tubes *really* appeal to me. I like the quality of light they provide very much, much more than I do skylights, whose light can be harsh and drive up A/C costs in the summer.

          I'm pleased with our fixtures; they suit the house, a (very) traditional center hall Georgian. The work spaces are good--well lit by pendants with traditional chimneys, except for one can light where I could not put a pendant, and the hood lamps. I limited the upper cabinets; there is really no place (or need) for under lighting.

          The general lighting needs some augmentation. We added swing-arm wall lamps this weekend in the table area, as a stopgap since I couldn't decide what to do, but we both like these lamps very much, now that they're up. The house isn't a reproduction, but it has significant Colonial and Federal era attributes-i.e., wide plank pine floors, period trim, a prominent fireplace as the kitchen and den's focal point. The fireplace was built from antique bricks, a wide area of which are exposed, and it has a substantial surround and mantle with period trim. There's much beautiful lighting available today, but it's a challenge to find fixtures that are comfortable in a early New English atmosphere, without being kitschy or caricaturish. The house is meant to allude to and show our love for our New England roots--not conjure a Disneyworld rendition of them. These wall lamps and their simple white silk shades look "at home". But I still covet your light tube, and agree that those hood lights increase the ease of working in the cooktop area, and that a hood fan is the way to go, anyway, regardless of the lighting.

          1. re: Steady Habits

            Me too! I ended up with 4 of them -- one in the kitchen proper, one in the pantry and 2 in a long interior hallway that was always a dark little warren or had lights on when people weren't even using it.

            The only thing was when they were first installed getting used to the light suddenly going down if a cloud passed over the sun or a heavily foliated branch threw it's shadow across the collector on the roof. But as soon as I caught on that I wasn't having a stroke I got fine with it. ;>

            I agree with you that the color of natural light is THE BEST!

            1. re: rainey

              I can see that it would take an adjustment, but once one's used to them...I think I would love it. It's yet another way of bringing nature indoors, and nature is nothing if not changeable. When we built the house, the GC (ugh) "forgot" to leave the space the architect had alloted for one of the furnace chases. The HVAC guys arrived to begin installation, and suddenly the GC gasped and remembered that he had forgotten that chase (rolling my eyes at his idiocy, even now). So....on an emergency basis, I gave up a couple square feet in a closet; not a big deal. But...too bad he didn't "remember" that he had "forgotten" before the house was virtually done. That empty area runs over the wall between the kitchen and dining room. I could have moved a wall a few feet this way or that and gotten a light tube in my kitchen. I suppose we could do that now, but of course it will cost about a gazillion times more than it would have if he had remembered he'd forgotten before the house was 99 percent done. Oh, well. LOL

              1. re: Steady Habits

                I guess it's too late for you, but It's possible to set up light tubes with all kinds of angles to get around things. Not necessary in the least to have a straight run because the insides of the tubes are highly reflective and there's little or no loss of the light over distance or bends. So I'm not sure why your builder made you compromise on layout. I suppose a lot of traveling around obstructions would add material and installation costs tho.

                I was joking about the fluctuations in the light. It was a surprise at first but now it's just more of the "natural" effect as you suggest. ;>

                I love, love, LOVE them! We'll add them in other spots as we take on other remodeling projects.

                1. re: rainey

                  I could have pushed the GC, but, while he didn't know it, we were about to fire him the next day. He was a dishonest thief (any other kind?) who once upon a time had been fine (built hubby's previous house).

                  That's interesting to know about the tubes not having to be straight. I don't know if that was the case when they first came into use (not sure, but I remember....vaguely...having looked into them).

      2. As the other posters said, avoid downdraft. Like rainey, I had a jenn-aire cook top with a downdraft exhaust system. They simply are not effective. At all. For anything. You must have a hood.

        1. Sometimes a downdraft is the only feasible alternative. In one home the only way I could have an indoor grill was with a Jennair that had a built in electronic air filter. But in general I found most hood type fans were not very effective and if they were then they were very noisy. Finally I had a home where I could locate the fan for the hood outside the house that moved a lot more air which made it more effective with a lot less noise.

          1 Reply
          1. re: mexivilla

            I freely admit, and agree with you, that my hood at least is really noisy. Sometimes that baby sounds like a 727 revving up for take-off. (Of course, sometimes when the natives are engaging in their customary pre-dinner mayhem, I consider that a blessing, as it helps me block them out and concentrate on cooking, ha.) But my Braun at least does the job it's intended for very effectively. I like that idea of situating the fan outside the house, though. That's like the best of both worlds.

          2. This is all VERY helpful. Can anyone shed some light on what an installation should cost for an island hood with attic access? Also any recommendations for a particular unit? TIA

            1 Reply
            1. re: Cameraman

              I love my Miele. I linked to some pix above. Unfortunately, I know the model #. I think it was in the neighborhood of $3K -- not the cheapest thing on the block but for a more or less permanent and important part of the kitchen not highway robbery either.

              I'm sorry I haven't a clue what installation cost. It was just part of the remodel. But I bet an appliance salesperson would have a good idea what the going rate is in your area if they don't provide the service themselves.

            2. I'm going to have to buck the trend here. I installed a Dacor downdraft that pops up out of the counter and it works wonderfully. I increased the blower size to the largest possible even though the smaller blower would have worked for the length of my exhaust pipe run (10'). I've found that it does a good job drawing steam and odor from the burners closest to the front of the stovetop but to capture 100% of the steam/odor it's necessary to use the burners in the back (closest to the downdraft). To test how well it really worked, one day I had my husband stop about six feet away in the kitchen and asked him what I was cooking (he had no prior knowledge) he sniffed and sniffed and couldn't guess - it was bacon.

              For our open kitchen design a hood just wasn't possible at all and I'm happy with the downdraft. That being said, if a hood works with the design then I do think they are most often a better choice for total removal of all smoke and odor.

              Another tip - I also over-amped the garbage disposal and went with a 3/4 horsepower instead of the standard 1/2hp - that thing could take off an arm!

              Phoo-D
              http://www.phoo-d.com

              3 Replies
              1. re: Phoo_d

                Sometimes, you have to work within a design, and I think what you did demonstrates that it is generally possible to use a little creativity to come up with most or all of what you really need. That's a pretty good result, if your husband couldn't identify bacon from that close!

                1. re: Phoo_d

                  Thanks phoo-d. Very impressed with your website. Good work. Just curious what web design package are you using?

                  1. re: Cameraman

                    Hi Cameraman - thanks for the compliment! I'm just getting started so it's exciting to see people actually reading it! I've been using the blogger online software in combo with a design template from http://jameswilliam.2600degrees.com/. Best of luck with your new kitchen!

                2. Jennair is useless. Had two and if I bought a house with a Jennair in it I would rip it out 30 minutes after signing the contract.

                  1. Hood, hood, hood! No downdraft -- they are useless. We have a Viking hood, but the real operator is the huge system in the attic with a lot of cfms. For most things, we use it on half power, but you can crank that sucker up and you could be cooking a whole hog and wouldn't smell a thing.