For quite some time now, images of kitchens without range hoods have been popping up all over Instagram and home decor sites. The kitchen will be done to the nines but have no ventilation in sight. Invariably, the comments begin to trend toward a debate on having versus not having a range hood. This has raised the question for many people in the midst of building or remodeling a kitchen, “Do I need to install a range hood?”
I have noticed that I have been getting this question more and more frequently as this trend has started catching on. I have even noticed these range-less kitchens popping up in homes in the mid-south. What surprised me most is that most of these are higher end homes in the Nashville area.
I wondered why the owners would design a kitchen with so much effort, yet skimp on the range hood. When I discussed this with my husband, he unequivocally stated that he would not suffer a kitchen without a range hood. He is the cook in our house, (for which I and my children are grateful) so I sort of use him as my cooking snob source. 😉
Back when we were building this house, the only real input that he offered was the type of cooking surface that he wanted. He didn’t care what brand or what finish. But it had to be gas, have at least 4 burners and a griddle, and it had to have a decent range hood. Now, if I could only get him to care as much about the way the towels are folded.
Growing up Without a Range Hood…
Anyway, my initial reaction when people asked me if they needed a range hood was to say yes. But, then I started thinking about it, and I recall that my grandmother never had a range hood. (For those who don’t know, I was raised by my grandparents in a very homestead lifestyle).
I can still picture the old stove in my mind, and see her standing over it cooking dinner. To be fair, I also recall a few occasions when she opened the backdoor to let in some fresh air or to let out smoke from something that had burned. Since the door was right off the kitchen, that probably made all the difference in the world.
But, I imagine that lots of people recall their grandmothers cooking without a range hood. So, we know that it has been done without any ill effects. We also know that mankind survived all the way up until the 20th century without a range hood.
However, I would not want to return to doing many things the old way including giving up my range hood. But, that is my opinion. Some of you may feel differently. Right off the top of my head one particular blogger comes to mind who decided to not install a range hood, and she is not afraid to tell you so. Maybe some of you share that sentiment, and of course, that is why we are here.
Other Folks Opinion
From what I have seen within the discussion boards, those who are pro hoodies (my made-up term) are quite adamant that a range hood is a must. Anything less is verging on sacrilege. While those who are anti-hoodies feel quite strongly that the pro-hoodies are nuts.
If you have been noticing some of these popular images and/or debates floating around social media, you may be quite confused about what you really need to do. Your head may be swirling with design possibilities, placement options, and an overload of other essential information. So, before we get to the great debate, let’s first take a look at the types of range hoods available and when they are appropriate, just in case you decide to get one.
Types of Range Hood Ventilation Systems…
Range hoods come in two different types of ventilation options, vented and recirculating. The type that you will need will depend on where the range hood will be located. If one type is preferred over the other, alterations may be required to accommodate the choice.
Vented range hoods, also referred to a ducted, direct the exhaust to the exterior of your home. These are typically the most desirable of the two options. However, it is also the most expensive because it requires ductwork to be installed somewhere within your walls or ceiling.
Vented ranges typically use aluminum filters. These filters trap the grease from cooking and allow the odors and air to pass through to the outside of your home. You will need to wash the filter on occasion to remove grease build up.
Recirculating systems do not require ductwork because they do not vent outside. Instead, they use a charcoal filter to capture grease and odors. Then, the air is circulated back into the house. These type of range hoods tend to be less expensive and are easier to DIY.
Range Hood Power…
The strength of a range hood is measured in CFMs or cubic feet per minute. The amount of CFMs that you will need will depend on the type and size of the stove being used and what type of cooking you will be doing. The minimum amount required will be stated in the stove’s manual. However, there are some general guidelines that can be followed to get enough power for your needs.
Determine Your Needs:
A good rule of thumb is to divide the total BTUs by 100. This will tell you how many CFMs that your stove or cooktop will require. Gas stoves and cooktops will require more CFMs than an electric. If you do not know the BTUs for your stove, you can use the surface top measurements or the volume of the kitchen to determine the CFMs.
To use the surface area of the stove or cooktop, take the length and divide it by 12. Then, multiply that number by 100. For example, a 36″ cooktop would require 300 CFMs. (36/12 x 100). If you are measuring for an island cooktop, multiply by 150 instead of 100.
To determine by the volume of the kitchen, first, calculate the volume of the room. Then, divide that number by 4 to get the CFMs needed. Most people prefer to use the highest result of the three different methods.
Potential Dangers of High Powered Range Hoods:
I know that a lot of people think that the more powerful the better. After all, you want a range hood that does what it is supposed to, i.e. it prevents odors, grease and moisture from escaping into your living space. So, it stands to reason that more power is better than less, right? Well, let’s take a hot minute to reconsider.
If you over vent your home, you could end up creating some serious home hazards. This is of particular importance with those professional and commercial sized stoves that recommend up to, and sometimes over, 1000 CFMs. Most homes can handle up to 400 CFMs with no problem, but, before you go off and purchase anything over 400 CFMs, think about this.
For every bit of air that you cycle to the outside of your house, you will need to have an equal amount being returned. For most situations, this occurs naturally through small gaps around windows and through minute cracks in doors and foundations. However, we are quickly becoming a world of people who live in tightly sealed homes.
I know that I have made every effort available to prevent drafts around windows and to winterize doors. In fact, I prefer my home to be as energy efficient as possible. But, there lies the rub. If you install a range hood that pulls more air than is being returned, it could cause depressurization of your home. Depressurization can result in backdrafting from your combustible appliances.
What exactly does backdrafting mean and why should you care?
Backdrafting is when air is pulled through the flue of a combustible appliance or a wood burning fireplace. It is dangerous because it pulls carbon monoxide and other undesirables into your home. In addition, if you have a wood burning fireplace, it can pull smoke and possibly even flames into your living space. All of which are extremely hazardous to your health.
But, does this mean that you can’t or shouldn’t have your dream of a high-end professional range and vent hood? Absolutely not! I am not here to dissuade anyone from getting what they want. I am only pointing out things that you should consider before you make plans or head off to make a purchase.
If you have your heart set on your dream kitchen, go for it. Just be aware that you may need to devote some of your budget to get a proper makeup air system installed. Now, don’t be frightened by the term. It is not much more elaborate than installing ductwork. But, if you want to be in compliance with the International Residential Code (IRC), then you will need one.
Do I Need To Install a Range Hood?
Okay, so now that we know about the type of range hoods that are available and some of the things that you need to consider, let’s get to helping you decide if you are going to need one. I think it is best to separate this section into reasons for and against range hoods.
Reasons Why You Should Have a Range Hood…
There are many reasons that I can think of for why you might need a range hood, but of all of them, the one that you can’t ignore is code. If your city requires ventilation, you really should go forward with getting one.
Gas Cooktop or Stove:
Because all fuel-burning appliance can emit carbon monoxide, range hoods for gas stoves are significantly more important than they are for electric stoves. Besides removing moisture and capturing grease particles, a duct vented system will remove carbon monoxide and other hazardous gases released when gas burns. So, if you are planning on having a gas cooking appliance, it is probably a good idea to have a range hood.
Some cooking styles need ventilation more than others. If you love frying or searing food, you may fall into this category. The alternative to a range hood may mean that grease will collect on the wall and/or ceiling around the stove.
Range hoods can prevent food odors from traveling into other parts of your home. Whether or not this is an issue for you may depend on the types of food that you frequently cook. Things like bacon, fish, fried meat, onions, and some vegetables can linger for quite some time and leave a less than fresh odor to clothes and soft furnishing.
I would be remiss if I did not mention this. If you plan to ever sell your home, you really should think about what the potential buyer will consider. Most people will pass on a home that doesn’t already have a range hood. Even if they plan to remodel, the absence of ductwork can turn off a buyer.
Reasons Why You Should Ignore the Masses…
Now, if your city doesn’t require a range hood, maybe you want to ignore the arguments for getting one. Maybe none of the above persuaded you that you need one. So, when should you forget the advice and do what you want?
Maybe you are a person who never fries your foods. Maybe you are a steamer and a baker, or maybe you rarely cook anything at all. If so, your only real benefit from a range hood would be to collect odors and moisture. If you can live with both of those, you are probably okay to forego the range hood.
If you have an aversion for noise, maybe that outweighs the other benefits for you. This is an issue that I can relate to. One of my sons is autistic and has hypersensitive hearing. When purchasing our range hood, I had to pay close attention to the noise level and pitch of the motor.
Electric and induction cooktops and stoves do not have the same potential for hazardous emissions that gas stoves do. When combined with the previous two reasons, an electric or induction surface can really go a long way at reducing your need for a range.
What it all comes down to is that installing a range hood is almost always a personal decision based on individual needs, assuming that your city does not require one. And although I would caution you to seriously consider every downside to not having one, there really is no rule that says that you must. That being said, I would love to hear opinions and comments from the cooks out there.
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