Homeowners often select their range hood as a decorative piece, stainless steel with clean lines for a contemporary look or ornately carved wood for a more traditional space; but the working element beneath the decorative shell is one of the most important selections homeowners will make for not only the health and safety of their home, but the cleanliness of their kitchen as well.
Gas cooktops have made headlines recently for environmental and health concerns, but Kenny Rieman Jr., marketing and IT specialist with Custom Distributors, Inc. guides homeowners on how to keep their family and home healthy without sacrificing their cooking method of choice.
TYPES OF HOODS
“I don’t think anyone intentionally skimps on ventilation, but they may only be meeting the minimum requirement —which might not be enough power to truly fulfill their needs,” Rieman says.
The type of hood best suited for a homeowner depends on several factors, one of which being the location of the range. If it is in the island, the ventilation can be installed behind the appliance as a downdraft or overhead as a more decorative option. If the range is along the wall, the ventilation can be installed inside a wall-mounted hood or under cabinetry–even built into some microwaves.
Some wall hoods are sold as complete kits. They are in-the-box products that come with everything homeowners need for standard ventilation, including the decorative surround and blower, and these simply hook up to the home’s pre-existing duct.
Then there are semi-customizable options where homeowners can select their color and finish to match the rest of their appliances. Homeowners can also pick the power of their blower, ranging from 400 CFM (cubic feet per minute) to 1500 CFM depending on the combined maximum heat output of their cooking appliance.
Then there are fully-custom hoods. This is where homeowners work with their designers and contractors to build a wood or stone surround that fits the ‘guts’ installed in the decorative hood. While people often have their own designers build their custom hoods, Vent-a-Hood and other companies offer homeowners all-in-one custom ventilation products constructed out of a wide variety of materials with smooth, hammered or patina finishes, among other options important to those customizing their space.
Over-the-range microwaves offer 290-350 CFM, but Rieman says these are only recommended for people dealing with size or space restrictions. “It’s effective enough, but it is far from ideal,” he explains. “If you have an induction cooktop you could maybe justify an over-the-range microwave, but if a homeowner uses a gas cooktop we would much rather get them a separate microwave that can be hidden away in a cabinet and instead utilize more powerful ventilation so they’re not breathing in gas fumes and smoke while cooking.”
Another option is a downdraft vent. This is a great solution for an island where you can avoid having a large hood blocking the view of an open kitchen. These will sit low or flush to your countertop and at the touch of a button will rise and start pulling air down instead of up. Downdrafts are used mainly for aesthetic reasons, where space is limited, or where there is no option to vent above the cooking surface. “Downdrafts have obvious limitations of working against the natural flow of air movement but can be effective when installed correctly alongside compatible cooking appliances,” says Rieman.
FUNCTION OVER FLASH
The ventilation system over a cooktop may not be the most exciting selection homeowners will make, but it can be as important as any other decisions they have for their project.
“Not only does ventilation serve to exhaust gas fumes, it also gets rid of smoke and odors coming off food,” Rieman says. “It cleans the air. For this reason, ventilation systems are important no matter what style of cooktop a homeowner uses in their home.”
“A lot of people strictly view it as a utility, like replacing a water heater,” he adds. “It’s not always a flashy selection. Homeowners want effective ventilation, and they want it to be quiet…It’s a lot like selecting a dishwasher.”
“If you’re building a new house, check your community’s codes for ventilation and make-up air requirements (intake). If you have an older home you may be grandfathered in, but it’s best to verify that is the case before making selections,” Rieman explains. “Regarding concerns about gas cooktops, at least in the communities we serve, we are business as usual. We’re certainly not distancing ourselves from gas, instead, we simply promote proper ventilation while helping homeowners pick what is best for their needs.”
TIPS AND TRICKS WHEN SELECTING AND OPERATING A VENTILATION SYSTEM
• When possible, select a hood that is physically wider than the range—extending at least three inches beyond the cooking surface on each side. Rieman says most homeowners don’t know to follow this tip because many building codes only refer to CFM (cubic feet per minute) requirements. If existing cabinetry restricts homeowners from selecting an oversized hood, he recommends increasing the size of the blower.
• To calculate the CFM required for a certain cooking appliance, take the BTU (British Thermal Unit) of each burner, add them together, and divide by 100. A Profile dual-fuel range with five burners all running at once has 60,000 BTUs, so a 600 CFM hood would provide adequate ventilation.
• Turn on your ventilation 10 to 15 minutes before cooking, so new air is already moving before you begin. When you start your gas burner, if you don’t have your vent running you may smell gas fumes, indicating the air isn’t being properly ventilated.
• Clean ventilation filters weekly (ideally) or monthly (at a bare minimum) depending on the type of food and how often you cook. Most filters can be put in the dishwasher and run through a regular cycle.
Article by Sarah J. Dills
Article originally appeared in July 2023