Kitchen exhaust fans, also known as range hood, exhaust hood or vent hood, are a key appliance for a well maintained home. Cooking, by nature, creates it's share of spills and splatters, but it's the smokey, oily steam and mist that poses a health threat if not properly ventilated. Proper kitchen exhaust fans keep your lungs and your kitchen clean.
The Over-the-Stove models have long been a favorite with homeowners for their aesthetic and ability to really get the job done. Whether it is installed and vented as above or through overhead cabinets, these models are great for capturing steam and particles as they make their way up into it's filters and fan (heat and steam rise, after all). Also, they usually have lighting built-in, which is a big bonus! I love crisp, bright halogen lights over my stove/cooktop.
This downdraft fan is used for cook tops. It is installed into the counter top at the back of the cook top and sits flush with the counter top until the user pushes the power button. When turned on, the fan rises out of its casing and is ready to capture the steam, mist and smells of whatever you are cooking on your stove. Another push of the power button and it retracts back into the counter top, barely detectible.
In the past downdraft fans were considered a sub-par solution, but there are several models today that have the horse power and CPM combinations to suit just about any residence. Keep in mind that if you are cooking with gas, a super powerful exhaust may actually pull the heat away from the cooking surface. Finding the right exhaust fan for your cooktop is crucial. These are suitable primarily for general family cooking; not for any type of commercial use.
This space-saving, double-duty microwave and exhaust fan combo can be an effective solution for a small space or small budget. Again, as with all fans, be sure you are getting enough power and air flow (CPM) for the type of cooking you do and the size of your kitchen. As a general rule, these types of fans aren't as effective as a dedicated over-the-stove hood but in many situations they will work just great, where the over-the-stove model may be overkill.
Size and Power
As a general rule, kitchen exhaust fans should be the same width as your cook top or range. This will ensure adequate coverage for each burner. Whether you choose and overhead or a downdraft fan, having enough power is vitally important. You will need to analyze the type of cooking you typically do and base it on that. Using any kind of grease (and most of us do) will automatically require you to use as much power as your kitchen requires. To figure this out, as a general rule, you can double the size of the kitchen floor square footage and that is the amount of CFM (cubic feet of air per minute) your fan should be capable of. For example, a 400 foot kitchen should be equipped with a minimum of 800 CFM. Again, this is what will vacuum those small and invisible cooking particles out of the air. Clean air=clean breathing!
Whichever fan you use should be connected to properly sized metal duct work that will blow the air through to the outdoors. There are special roof caps for these vents which are made to handle a lot of air flow. Be sure you are using the proper size. The seams of the ducting should also be carefully sealed with foil tape to ensure that there are no leaks where the air can escape depositing grease in unknown spaces in your home creating a fire hazard. Of course reading the installation manual is imperative. This will give all specifications as to size of duct work, maximum length of duct work and whether or not any bend in the duct work are permitted. It is vital that you abide by all of the written guidelines for safety and warranty.
Proper Makeup Air
With all of the air being sucked out of the home with quite some force, it will naturally create a vacuum inside the home trying to replace the air being displaced. This is also a very important consideration and it must be addressed to ensure the safety of those in the home. If there is not a proper makeup air vent installed, the draft created by kitchen exhaust fans could pull the air in from other points of least resistance, such as fireplace chimneys or furnace vents which contain poisonous carbon monoxide. Be sure that you have proper air flow/makeup vents before running your exhaust fan.
So, measure your kitchen, assess your cooking style and research the right kitchen exhaust fan for your home. There are probably several that will work great, but budget, space and aesthetic will be the determining factors for your perfect fan.