Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.
You should take significant measures to maintain the quality of your indoor air. One best way is to ensure that you frequently ventilate the humid air from your kitchen, but does that mean that you need to install an exhaust fan in the kitchen?
Kitchens do not need exhaust fans since there is no code that requires you to install them. However, kitchen exhaust fans play a role in maintaining indoor air quality and, to some degree, protect the health of the occupants of the house. They get rid of the moist air and odors that arise when cooking.
The rest of this article will explain the importance of an exhaust fan in the kitchen in great detail. It will also look at other similar topics such as how kitchen exhaust fans work, the type of range hood to select, and how to get the most from your range hood.
Importance of an Exhaust Fan in Your Kitchen
While cooking is essential to everyone, it can be a health hazard if you are not careful. When you cook, the stove releases toxic gases and ultra-fine particles into the air, which circulates the building, exposing everyone around.
Moreover, it releases oils, fats, and grease into the air, which then settle on surfaces such as cabinets and walls. With time, the oils create a layer of grunge. Without a kitchen exhaust, you may have to endure a persistent odor and even expose yourself to health problems such as asthma.
You may also have to continually change curtains and wipe your furniture and surface to remove the stink of food that collects every time you cook. You can also prevent grease and smoke from collecting on your walls and ceiling by installing a kitchen exhaust fan.
An exhaust hood also helps to regulate the temperature in the kitchen. Anytime you cook, the stoves produce a lot of heat. Without proper ventilation, the high temperature leads to an increase in moisture in the kitchen.
Once the kitchen temperatures cool down, the moisture collects as water on top of walls and surfaces. When you fail to clean the water, there is a high chance that it can damage food items, countertops, and finishes.
Additionally, it can also lead to the growth of molds. Condensation is a huge problem, regardless of whether you cook food or not. Therefore, you must install a proper exhaust system that can mitigate such a situation.
In the past, it was easier to control such problems by opening windows and relying on gaps on the walls and floors. While the approach was not entirely efficient, it was functional. Such a hit or miss approach may not work for modern houses since they are sealed to ensure energy efficiency.
How Does a Kitchen Exhaust Fan Work?
Your kitchen exhaust fan, otherwise known as a range hood or hood fan, operates from the top of the stovetop. Prior to getting to how they work, you should understand that there are two types of range hoods, ductless and ducted. But how do they both work?
Ducted Range Hoods
They are the most common types of exhaust fans. However, some kitchens may limit their installation since they need to transport the air out of the kitchen. Due to this reason, you have to install them only in specific areas in the kitchen.
The range hood requires pipes that connect to a duct to transport the dirty air and foul odor away from the kitchen to outside.
The exhaust fan effectively gets rid of the moisture in the kitchen that arises due to an increase in moisture and vapor from food preparation, a feat that the ductless fans cannot. You can leave the installation to an expert or do it yourself if you have enough experience.
Ductless Range Hoods
These exhaust fans do not draw air to the exterior of the house. Instead, they filter the air they suck and cycle it back to the kitchen. The range hood uses carbon and charcoal filters to clean the dirty air before blowing it back into the kitchen.
Unlike their counterparts, you can install them anywhere since they do not need ducts to transport the air outside. However, you have to occasionally clean the filters and replace them annually to increase their lifetime.
It is easy to set up a ductless fan as it does not need any piping or ductwork. You can follow the connection guidelines on your exhaust fan.
Here is a video on how to install a range hood:
Do Kitchen Exhaust Fans Need to Be Vented Outside?
The primary purpose of installing a kitchen exhaust is to get rid of the lingering cooking odors from the stovetop and the excess hot air from the kitchen when cooking. However, you can choose to either install a vented/ducted or an unvented/ductless range hood depending on your needs and preference.
A vented range hood is more economical when it comes to the use of energy. Its fan does not blow too hard since the hot gases direct themselves outside, and the pipes let in the fresher and less humid air. You can therefore save more on your utility bill.
On the other hand, unvented range hoods require more power to blow the hot air out, clean it, and blow it back into the kitchen. Therefore, you may end up spending more on your utility bill. However, as technology advances, you can find plenty of unvented exhaust fans that do not require massive power usage.
You can also find the installation of a vented range to be highly inconvenient, mostly when you stay in a condo or apartment. This is due to the need for a piping system to transport the gases to the outside. You may have to overhaul your apartment to install the ducts inside the ceiling or even inside the walls.
Moreover, it may not be possible if you have a small kitchen. Fortunately, you can install an unvented range hood since it can fit in any space and can work in all types of kitchens.
You can install a ducted range hood if you do not want to always worry about its maintenance. While the installation can take a toll, it can take several years before there is any need for repair. It is, however, different when you consider a ductless range hood.
A ductless hood requires plenty of maintenance, especially by cleaning the filters to eliminate the accumulating grease and dirt and replace them annually.
As you can note, none of the ducted and ductless exhaust fans is perfect. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, your choice falls back to your needs and preference. You can either choose to use exhaust fans that are vented or unvented.
How to Get the Most From Your Range Hood
Always ensure that you install your range hood close enough to the cooking surface. Only then can the fan’s suction efficiently attract all the cooking gases and invisible particles circulating in the kitchen.
However, it should not be too low, or it may get in the way of your cooking. It is highly advisable to install it 24 inches (60.96 cm) above the stovetop.
Many stoves come with their hoods that are rightly fitted to match. However, be very careful when installing a stand-alone hood. Ensure that it is big enough to effectively cover the cooking surface and just the right size to avoid bumping your head on it while cooking.
An exhaust fan is significant for improving the air quality in your kitchen. While it is crucial to have an exhaust fan in a commercial kitchen, the rules apply very differently in a residential kitchen.
Still, you can either choose to install a ductless or ducted range hood, depending on your preference. Examine and research both options carefully before making your decision.
Before making a purchase, pay close consideration to the hood’s size, the fan’s power, design, and noise level.
- Remodelista: Remodeling 101: The Verdict on Vented vs. Non-Vented Range Hoods
- Wikipedia: Kitchen Hood
- AireServ: The Do’s and Don’ts of Kitchen Exhaust Fan Installation
- Compact Appliance: Ducted vs. Ductless Range Hoods: The Pros & Cons Compared
- HowStuffWorks: Time to Vent: Why You Need to Turn on the Kitchen Exhaust Fan
- Hunker: Kitchen Ventilation Code: What You Need to Know
- Industrial Fans Direct: Do you Need an Exhaust Fan in the Kitchen?
- Consumer Reports: Range Hood Buying Guide
- ScienceDirect: The benefit of kitchen exhaust fan use after cooking – An experimental assessment
- This Old House: Kitchen Hoods 101
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