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New kitchen - no range hood?

My husband and I are in the process of buying our first house. The kitchen leaves much to be desired but we went in expecting to buy new countertops and -most important - a new stove/range. But today during the inspection we realized that the current range is a downdraft-type - i.e. it is vented down through the cooktop, not up through a range hood. I haven't even seen any downdraft ranges for sale in the stores, and the ones I see online are super expensive. Meanwhile, the overhead fan in my rental house kitchen has been broken for months and it has been no problem - but technically there is a vented range hood there, even without the fan. So, my question: do you need a range hood, really? Could I put a new range in there and not worry about the ventilation? Or am I forced to either buy another downdraft range or have a range hood installed?

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  1. Pretty sure there are plenty of downdraft ranges out there still being made (JennAire). I have heard mixed reviews about how effective those downdraft vents are. I believe that downdraft vents basically re-circulate -- perhaps someone who has one can clarify.

    You need to decide what your range needs are, then assess your cooking style. If all you want is a basic 4-burner range and oven, and don't do a lot of frying or thinks that generate a lot of smoke, a basic recirculating hood is probably just fine. Larger and more powerful "pro-style" cooktops, and frequent frying and grilling will demand that you put in a ducted vent.

    1. I've had a downdraft range that vented to the outside, my experience is they don't work. At all. And I spent three months in a rental house that had a gas range with no range hood (and no downdraft either), and the first thing I had to do was clean everything in the kitchen - every surface and object was covered in a film of sticky grease/oil residue that was the result of cooking without a hood.

      Since you're investing in a house, and having to do some kitchen renovations, consider resale value and the fact your cooking habits may change over time. Seems to me it would be more cost effective to invest in a range hood now than have to retrofit it later.

      Finally, ensure that the hood is vented outside. Recirculating hoods are no better than nothing.

      1. I had a similar issue. Our old kitchen had a downdraft cooktop. When I replaced it when the stove wore out, I could not find a new downdraft cooktop that would fit in the spot (they all bumped into the cabinets on the back side of the cabinet below the cooktop). So I skipped it and installed a standard cooktop. Never really noticed the lack of a hood. I cook a lot, but do not fry. When we completely redid our kitchen, the cooktop was in a new place, and it wasn't feasible to put in a vented hood (big structural beams in the way). So I put in a stainless recirculating hood for aesthetics only (I do like the light in it). I've only turned it on once or twice and only used it to clear out a bit of smoke then quickly turned it off since it's kind of noisy-- I just don't tend to generate a lot of smoke in my day-to-day cooking. So there's my story--I have a "normal" gas cooktop, not one of those really high end professional types.

        9 Replies
        1. re: DGresh

          Thanks, that's interesting. And I should clarify that, as of now, the house has no gas lines - so it'll be an electric range (to my chagrin).

          1. re: dubedo

            I am going thru the same problem. Island range, no way for overhead venting or gas. Started with GE downdraft. Hated it. Switched out for Jenne-aire (100 yrs. ago) don't like it either. Redoing in Stainless and really don't want another downdraft. How has your range worked out? Thanks.

            1. re: AZsharon

              Hi AZsharon,

              Be sure to check your local building code. Building a home, I wanted no vent. Local building inspector said I had to have one. My builder and I found the proper code section and discovered it said that the room had to be vented, but didn't specify the means. With 3 large operable windows in the room, my builder and I thought we met the requirement. Mr. Inspector argued that we might not open the windows. I argued back that I might not turn on the vent. He said gas fumes = bad. I said gas oven fumes = no requirement for it's own vent = inspector is an idiot. Well, I didn't tell him that, but the gas oven with no venting requirement did enter the discussion.

              In the end, we only won because the inspector was indicted on bribery charges and his replacement was more reasonable. It was a bloody battle and set my schedule back by more than a month.

              1. re: DuffyH

                Sounds like the first inspector could have been easily more reasonable. You thought you were arguing about a vent!

                Seriously, living in a cold winter area, I would never consider not having a vent. Many of our windows are non-opening. There is just no good way to exhaust odors. Consider self cleaning oven fumes, seasoning pans, strong cooking odors, burned food and the grease that can float around your kitchen if it's not drafted out.

                1. re: Cam14

                  Hi Cam14,

                  <You thought you were arguing about a vent!> Just so! After the indictment came down builder and I realized we could have got our approval soooo much faster!

                  My house was in northern Virginia, with snow several times each year. It's not Buffalo, but it was cold. And hot in summer. Some cooks and homes don't really need a vent. That was my case then.

                2. re: DuffyH

                  We have been to by the town that if the manufacture requires venting it is required but most electric ranges say nothing about it but our town is VERY strict on building so I am afraid to take the word of the man I spoke with. So, still trying to decide. Hope the "old" range doesn't decide to give out until if decide! Thanks for sharing your experience

                3. re: AZsharon

                  Are you REALLY sure there's no way to install an overhead vent? I've got an island (well, actually, peninsula) cooktop. Like you, I didn't think an overhead exhaust system was possible. For 30+ years I was using a downdraft system. The first one was built into a JennAir electric cooktop. Then, when I got a gas Dacor cooktop (propane -- no NG in my area) I had a (very expensive) pop-up downdraft system installed. The pop-up was totally useless. I described my frustration with that system back in 2009, in a post below.

                  We recently did a kitchen reno and I was ready to have NO venting at all. My house is a 2-story with a bedroom directly above the cooking area. And, a 20-year old addition to the house left my kitchen with no back wall; the kitchen is positioned more-or-less in the center of the house.

                  But my kitchen designer had other ideas about what was possible, and had an HVAC person come in to take a look. As it turned out, through some creative ducting, an overhead exhaust WAS possible. It required running extra ducting through the ceiling, then down, under and around joists, and finally, up and out. That ducting was later "boxed in" in the back of an upper cabinet, so it's not at all visible. I also chose an overhead system with more CFMs than I might have needed to compensate for the bends in the ducting and the added length. But my mission has been accomplished and the system works nicely.

                  If you're interested, you can see the overhead exhaust in these photos which the kitchen reno company posted. http://www.houzz.com/projects/553165/...

                4. re: dubedo

                  Adding a proper hood may not be that expensive. My last house had a bathroom type Broan fan and a beam that precluded a better solution. I added a downdraft which was noisy, but useless. I did not like it at all. The lingering smells were annoying and the aerosolized products of heated fats are not great for your lungs. My current house had a down draft fan when we moved in, but now it has a proper one.

                  You might want to consider induction in place of a regular electric cooktop or stove. They are much more pleasant to cook on.

                  1. re: AbijahL

                    Thanks for you remarks! I have been entertaining the idea of induction but not sure about the "learning curve" I read about. What brand did you choose? Did you not put in venting at all? If not, how does that situation work for you?

              2. I don't have a place for a regular overhead range hood. Until about a year ago, I had an old Jenn-Air cooktop with downdraft. It worked okay, not great. Last year I replaced it with a Dacor cooktop. I also purchased the Dacor pop-up downdraft venting system, which cost about as much as the cooktop. It's totally USELESS!!! It pulls heat from the burners, but it's not really high enough to pull cooking fumes from most of my pots and pans. Also, since it's located to the rear of the cooktop, and not in the middle of the burners like the Jenn-Air was, it does nothing for the pots on the front burners. So I cook without an exhaust system, and it's not awful. Given my druthers, I'd much rather have an overhead system. But if I had it to do over again, knowing what I know now, I'd have opted out of the downdraft.

                BTW, we have no gas service here where I live, so we decided to have a propane tank installed. Finally, I can cook with gas, and I love it. Propane is a very viable option in many places, and the propane tank, in the back of the house, is well hidden from view

                1. We recently remodeled our kitchen. Prior to the remodel we had a double oven and a center island with a burner insert. Because of this the original design of the house called for a downdraft vent. The downdraft vent worked poorly at best. Heat wants to rise as such the smells and small particles associated with cooking also want to rise. It’s a tall order for downdraft vents and I would guess that even the best ones will struggle to work as well as the worst hood.

                  We also did not have a gas line, but we found that because we already had a main gas line for our fireplace and hot water heater, it was relatively east to get a gas line to where we wanted the stove to be.
                  You may need to get creative but you may also have options for running a new vent outside your home so you could install a hood. In our case our kitchen wall where the appliances live shares a wall with our laundry room. We were able to run a duct through that wall into the laundry room and outside the house. We sort of like the industrial look so we left the duct exposed, but could have easily boxed it in and sheet rocked around it.

                  This may not be an option but it might be worth have a contractor/carpenter look at the options. We use the hood a lot now that we have it. Before we just accepted that our house would smell like whatever we were cooking and we would need to do some extra cleaning. Now we don’t have to do that. If you can do it without completely remodeling your home, I don’t think you would be disappointed.

                  Finally if you do go through the trouble of running a gas line, and opening up the wall for a vent you might also consider running a water line at the same time. Since we had to open up the wall anyway we decided to run a water line and install a pot filler. Good luck with whatever you do.

                  1. I've never seen a downdraft that worked particularly well. Since, as others have noted, this fights with basic physics, it's hardly surprising.

                    If you have gas, you really should have an outside vent, even if it isn't required. But whatever your stove, it's still a good idea. Most fans, especially low end ones, don't suck enough air to matter and recirculating vents are useless. However, you don't need to spend a fortune either.

                    You didn't indicate whether your stove is on an outside wall. If it is, you can get great results for little money by installing a kitchen fan unit directly through the wall behind the stove. These fans were very popular in the fifties and should be widely available. I'm pretty sure Broan/Nutone makes several models. It's a single unit with a filter in front of the fan blades. Then get a hood to put over the stove, sans any fan mechanism.

                    For a little more money (about $200-$300), you can get a decent fan hood (say about 300 cfm) and vent it directly outside as well.

                    If your stove is on an island or an interior wall, it becomes more complicated. Please advise.

                    1. I have a Wolf range with a Wolf downdraft hood. I would have to agree that it isn't the most efficient hood, and the annoying thing is that the burners go off from the draft! What I do like is that there's nothing above my head and my husband is tall so he doesn't have to worry about bumping his head into something (I have been in kitchens where the overhead hood is at forehead level! Also, when I burn off alcohol, sometimes the flames go really high (like 14 inches) and I don't have to worry about destroying a hood with the flames. I'm wondering how a better hood would lead to a cleaner stove--does it also suck in grease-laden vapors?

                      1. We didn't have one in our kitchen for a good long while until we could afford to redo the kitchen. I'm here to tell you it can be done. ...but disconnect all the smoke detectors in the vicinity unless you want to listen to them screech at you when you really need to be paying attention to your cooking or prefer to relax over dinner.

                        We also had a Jen-Air indoor grill with a down draft system. Messy, ineffective thing. I've also read that they draw away the heat that you want on your food. Never made a scientific study of it myself, but I could never get it hot enough to sear meat even tho, over time, I got the iron grates hot enough to bow.

                        I went for a good range hood when we remodeled even tho it's now hanging out in space over a peninsula where we eliminated the upper cabs that housed the old non-working vent system. We chose a Miele for the efficient exhaust and minimalist aesthetic. There's a pic here: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3635/3....

                        1. GE and Dacor make downdraft cooktops. Go to a good store and pick out something.

                          Yes, you need a vent if you cook with gas. The byproducts of gas burning can be toxic if they build up. Slight risk, but nevertheless codes usually require a vent with a gas range or cooktop for this reason.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: RGC1982

                            Very UNlikely that an outside vent is required for the typical gas range in a home. Local codes, of course, will get the final word, so check with building inspector if in doubt (rather than taking the word of a salesman or contractor).

                            The vent is strictly to clear smoke odors and particulates from the air, not manage harmful combustion gases like CO. (If combustion gases were the issue, there would be no ON/OFF switch, the hood would come on when the stove or oven was fired up.)

                            Typical residential range just doesn't burn enough gas long enough to cause trouble. (Which is why code doesn't permit true commercial units with lots of high-output burners along with multiple ovens and broilers in homes.)

                            Unless you generate a lot of smoke and fumes while cooking, a re-circ is probably fine, and it will save the trouble of dealing with the vent. Save the project for the kitchen re-model.

                            1. re: RGC1982

                              no way. We had a kitchen redo with complete code compliance. No vent even though we have gas. Like MB said, check with your local jurisdiction, but it just ain't so. It really depends on how you cook; see my comments above.

                              1. re: RGC1982

                                See my post above about the Dacor downdraft. It's a total and complete waste of money. I stopped back in the store where I bought it and asked the salesperson about its shortcomings. I was told that I need to start the downdraft about 10 minutes before I begin cooking to get the air flow going. Even that didn't help, and, to add insult to injury, it's so darned noisy that conversation is impossible anywhere in the vicinity while it's running.

                              2. "Could I put a new range in there and not worry about the ventilation? Or am I forced to either buy another downdraft range or have a range hood installed?"

                                This depends on the building code where you live as well as your home. Many homes here get built with a cook top in an island (gas or electric) and no hood. Most here with a range do utilize some sort of ventilation whether it's down draft, recirculation or vented to the exterior.
                                Those who do not utilize any ventilation will pay a high price in the end if they stay in those homes long term. With out a hood grease builds up on cabinets and walls not to mention odors wafting through the entire house. It's a lot more cost effective to buy a hood than replace cabinets or paint. Besides, I hate painting! ;)
                                If it's an option and you cook a lot IMO you are lite years ahead by installing a hood that vents to the exterior. I'm no fan of the recirculating microwave hoods but even this is better than downdraft. If the downdraft is the only option then it's far better than no ventilation at all.

                                1. Here is a link that might be helpful in your situation. It should not require you to purchase a specific cook top or range. I would give them a call. You will need an outside wall vent for the unit to vent outdoors rather than filter and recirculate. If using gas, please be sure to check with the range manufacturer as to the effects a downdraft vent could have on flame, especially the back burners. As for the necessity of range hoods, when we re-did our kitchen I was getting more advice than I needed regarding size, efficiency, etc. I eventually went to Blue Star Ranges and EuroStoves for guidance, both can be googled. A lot of stress disappeared with two simple phone calls. Good luck!