Ventilate Your Kitchen Like a Chef

For devoted home chefs, proper kitchen ventilation cuts down on heat, grease and smells

Exhaust hood and range in kitchen with blue kitchen cabinets and white subway tiles backspash after renovation
Nikki and Chris’ kitchen renovation in Astoria, Queens

If you’ve ever had all four burners on and the oven cranking in a kitchen with average airflow, you know why ventilation is important. There’s the immediate issue of smoke, grease, and heat that can prompt your dinner guests to poke their heads out of the nearest open window and your smoke detector to pierce your eardrums. And then there’s the following day hangover, meaning the stale smell of last night’s meal camping out in every corner of your home.

Thoughtful ventilation in a kitchen can reduce, if not eliminate, this altogether. And the good news is it can be an easy addition to your renovation project.

It’s best to conceive your ventilation plan in the design phase of your kitchen renovation, because each decision will have an impact on other elements of your kitchen. Your choice of range will dictate the exhaust hood you will need to suck up grease and odor. Your hood might determine whether or not you can skip the ducting to funnel air outside.

Popular types of kitchen ventilation 

Here are four types of kitchen ventilation ranging from the least involved, in terms of your renovation build out, to the most involved (and also the most effective):

Downdraft Kitchen Ventilation

If an exhaust hood doesn’t fit in your kitchen design, then there’s downdraft ventilation, which is a built-in feature of some ranges. They can either be stationary behind the range or pop up when you are cooking. This system pulls air horizontally into its filtering system. The air either goes back into the kitchen or, if there is ducting, taken outside of the home. If no ducting is involved, then downdraft ventilation is an option for apartments and townhouses where air cannot be directed outside.

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Ductless Exhaust Hood Ventilation 

The restraints of your home and your budget, as well as your choice of cooking range, are the biggest factors dictating your ventilation. A hood with no ducting or piping to the outside will filter out some of the grease and odor in the air, but ultimately that air will be recirculated into the room, explained Jace Kieffer from Kieffer’s Appliances, a leading showroom based in Philadelphia. If you’re doing a lot of cooking, cracking a window might seem basic, but it will help, he said.

Apartment and townhouse owners may not have the option of funneling cooking odors outside. If that is the case, then downgrading the size of your range to limit smoke and odor might be a wise idea.

The cost of a hood with no additional ventilation is a few hundred dollars from a big-box store like Home Depot. Although construction costs, especially labor, can differ across the country, Sweeten contractor Jon estimated installation of a ductless hood to cost $150. For New York City, installing a smaller hood against a wall starts at $250, said Scott Kopin from design showroom Pirch. Larger hoods and those installed over kitchen islands are more complex adding to the installation costs. You’re looking at a starting price of about $500 for this, Kopin said.

Ducted Exhaust Hood Ventilation

A hood with piping that takes cooking air and odor outside will be sufficient for most families who like to cook, according to Sweeten contractor Jon. For big meals, it might be worth opening a window so the old air is pushed out as fresh air comes in. On top of buying a hood (that can go from a few hundred dollars to several thousand for a custom job), the cost of installing ducting and cutting an exit into the wall of your kitchen is “not as bad as you might think,” said Jon. To cut through vinyl or wood siding (something like stone is more difficult and expensive) and install about 10 feet of piping is about $400 to $800, according to Jeffrey Payne, sales associate from Atlanta-based appliance showroom Howard Payne Company.

Kitchen Ventilation System: Makeup Air

Unlike a typical HVAC system, makeup air is an open system that brings fresh air in as stale air is pushed out. It is activated only when needed, like when you switch your hood fan on.

A makeup air system could also be required. Since 2009, the International Residential Code, the code followed by most US states, requires a makeup air system for any hood that is 400 CFM or greater (Cubic Feet per Minute is a measure of air volume). Building inspectors previously took a relaxed approach to this clause; that has changed since houses became more airtight, according to Jace. It is becoming more common for the 400 CFM rule to be enforced. If your home, such as an apartment or townhouse, doesn’t allow for outside ventilation, including a makeup air system, then your hood may need to register less than 400 CFM.

With the makeup air system, not only do you get a fresh air, you can also get fresh air that matches the internal temperature of your home. That’s because the incoming air is warmed or cooled in the HVAC system before it is circulated in your home.

Makeup air is the most sophisticated–and also the most expensive. The piece that controls the inflow of air is a few hundred dollars, said Sweeten contractor Jon. Installing it, running the piping and cutting a hole in the siding for the air to exit starts at about $1,000.

Kitchen Ventilation

Like anything in home renovations, there are many variables–budget, layout, your priorities, etc.–that will determine your end result. Whatever your ventilation desires, make sure you decide what you want early in your renovation to avoid some later headaches.

When it comes to adding an exhaust hood to your kitchen, you might want to reconsider the configuration of your cabinets. Check out our Cabinet Ideas to Boost Your Kitchen Storage for helpful tips on making room and maximizing storage.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation on Sweeten.

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