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New kitchen - no range hood?

dubedo Apr 28, 2009 08:01 PM

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?

  1. MikeB3542 Apr 28, 2009 08:29 PM

    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. j
      janniecooks Apr 29, 2009 04:50 AM

      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. d
        DGresh Apr 29, 2009 05:02 AM

        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.

        1 Reply
        1. re: DGresh
          dubedo Apr 29, 2009 06:01 AM

          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).

        2. CindyJ Apr 29, 2009 07:02 AM

          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. o
            Oldyote Apr 29, 2009 11:43 AM

            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. e
              embee Apr 29, 2009 12:26 PM

              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. s
                sibaik Apr 29, 2009 12:43 PM

                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. r
                  rainey Apr 30, 2009 06:55 PM

                  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. r
                    RGC1982 Apr 30, 2009 08:43 PM

                    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
                      MikeB3542 Apr 30, 2009 11:16 PM

                      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
                        DGresh May 1, 2009 03:00 AM

                        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
                          CindyJ May 1, 2009 01:27 PM

                          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. Fritter May 1, 2009 05:21 AM

                          "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. dcrb May 1, 2009 10:02 AM

                            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!


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