Is it worth the trouble to vent our range hood outside?
March 20, 2009 7:55 AM   Subscribe

Is it worth the trouble to vent our range hood outside?

We are replacing our old range hood with an above-range convection microwave which can either vent outside or back into the room. Is there a good reason I should go to the trouble to vent it outside?

There is a pathway above the cabinets and it's a short distance to an outside wall, which I'd have to cut a hole in from the outside. I cannot easily reach the exterior wall from inside. I'd have to do most of the cutting work from the outside and fish the vent pipe over to the hole.

What benefits would I gain from venting outside?
posted by odinsdream to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you vent it outside, the very first time you cook or burn smoky food (which you WILL do at some point), you will wonder why you ever considered venting it back into the room.

Not so sound snarky, but this is, like, what vents were invented for.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:05 AM on March 20, 2009

I have actually not purchased homes because the range could not be vented outside. I am convinced that anytime you encounter someone who "smells like soup", it's due to poor ventilation. so, i guess the benefit is that you and your family won't smell like soup.
posted by ransom at 8:09 AM on March 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Having just repainted the grease soaked kitchen ceiling I would say yes, yes it is worth it.
posted by Gungho at 8:11 AM on March 20, 2009

In addition to getting the smoke and smell outside, it also vents heat outside during the summer making it much easier to use your stove without overwhelming your air conditioning.
posted by caddis at 8:12 AM on March 20, 2009

If you cook with oil or high heat, or broil anything, or cook fish, then yes, it's worth it. If your cooktop is primarily for steaming vegetables, maybe not.
posted by jon1270 at 8:34 AM on March 20, 2009

My smoke detector goes off every time he cooks anything that generates even a tiny bit of smoke (searing a steak or a roast will do it every time), so I would say vent it outside if you have ANY option to do so.
posted by deadmessenger at 8:35 AM on March 20, 2009

If you ever want to deep fry anything on your stove, it would be very helpful to have the range vented to the outside.

As for any other cooking, I agree with everyone else above me. If you just steam things, it's no big deal. Other kinds of cooking make various levels of smoke and air borne particulates. Deep frying is the worst, in my opinion.
posted by jefeweiss at 9:04 AM on March 20, 2009

As a person with an old stove that vents into the kitchen, I tell you YES, it is worth whatever trouble you must go to.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:05 AM on March 20, 2009

So far unanimous. Any tips or suggestions on the outside wall vent?
posted by odinsdream at 9:12 AM on March 20, 2009

I too vote for venting outside. One warning - if you live in a cold climate like I do, that outside vent can be a source of heat loss. Ours goes out basically right at the same level as the hood, and apparently this is part of the problem. The higher in the house that you can put the vent running outside, the better. On the first floor in the house, there is lower air pressure, so air can be sucked in from outside when the vent is not running. Higher in the house, there is higher air pressure, so air would tend to be pushed out, which is less of a problem.
If you can't vent it higher in the house, I would still install it for all the reasons listed above. You should probably consider insulating the ductwork, though. Having a vent cover outside that minimizes the ability for wind to enter is a good idea too. We're having that installed soon.
posted by Jupiter Jones at 9:28 AM on March 20, 2009

It depends on what direction you need to go and how things are set up. You probably want to use galvanized duct work, so you can just cut the hole from the outside and slide the ducting in to where the vent is going in. Using that plastic flexible stuff is just asking for trouble, and may very well be against code depending on where you are. Don't use ducts with 90 degree corners, use one that bends in series of smaller angles.

That might help.
posted by jefeweiss at 9:37 AM on March 20, 2009

Any tips or suggestions on the outside wall vent?

If it's in your budget, hire a handyman to do it. We did. It cost no more than 200 bucks, tops, including parts and labor. Totally worth it to leave for work one morning with a range hood that vented right back into my face while I was cooking, then return home that evening to a range hood that vented outside.
posted by dersins at 9:48 AM on March 20, 2009

Ok, ok, I guess they make good points. :) We'll do it your way. How are you going to cut the hole in the outside wall? What insulation concerns are we facing? I guess we can just talk about this when you get home.
posted by purpletangerine at 1:38 PM on March 20, 2009

Wait? Are you guys a couple and both on MeFi? I'm glad my wife and I don't have our "disputes" here. I would lose even more of these.
posted by caddis at 2:34 PM on March 20, 2009

You might think about venting into the attic first, then use a flex duct to vent it over to a soffit or an attic vent.

Depending on your attic, this might be the best and easiest option.
posted by Flood at 7:42 PM on March 20, 2009

Yes, god yes.

If you're not venting to the outside, you might as well not have the fan at all. Unvented range hoods — every one I've ever used, anyway — have been worse than useless. (Worse because people think they actually work and they seemingly just recirculate smoke throughout the room. Maybe they do something to airborne grease when brand new, but I doubt it.)

I have the hood running almost all the time I'm using the stove. Even if you're just boiling water it keeps the steam from rising up and condensing on your cabinets/walls/ceiling (if the house is cold); if you're doing anything more than that, it does wonders for the food smell and for keeping surfaces in your kitchen from getting coated in a layer of built-up grease over time.

I do all sorts of cooking that I'd never previously done inside now that I have a place with a good vent hood, too. In particular I'll do meat and other grilled foods on a cast-iron grill pan right on the stovetop. Easier than trying to grill outdoors in the dark and frankly it does a much better, more even job than my propane grill.

The S.O. pan-fries meatballs indoors now too, while in the old unvented kitchen we used to do them outside (electric skillet, extension cord) because it produces so much airborne grease and smell.

I will eat cold cereal forever before I go back to cooking in a kitchen without a good vent hood. It's that important. Bore holes, do whatever you have to do, but get it vented outside.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:43 PM on March 20, 2009

Just have to stop in to say Jupiter Jones's bit about varying air pressures makes no sense whatsoever.

Also, it's best to keep the duct run as smooth and short as possible. Flex duct creates a lot of turbulence which decreases the performance of the hood. If you've got a short path to an outside wall, use it.

Don't use adapters to step the duct size down, either; if the hood has a 6" opening then use 6" duct all the way to the outside.

A good exterior wall cap will help seal out the weather. Many hoods also have a built-in backdraft damper. For those that don't, you can get an inline damper.
posted by jon1270 at 5:30 AM on March 21, 2009

Well, I just finished the job. Took from Friday night until now.

Unfortunately after getting everything installed the knob on the microwave doesn't work, so we have a service guy from GE coming out on Tuesday to look at it. The ductwork was quite a challenge, but I'm hoping it was all worth it. Probably the most annoying thing was having to pick through Lowes for about two hours for all the right pieces. The kit they have for this is very specific, not at all versatile, and the outside flap vent was shit badly-molded plastic.

Even so, it looks great and really pulls a lot of air now. Thanks for the advice everyone.
posted by odinsdream at 10:06 AM on March 22, 2009

Total cost for the job was about $200, but half of that was a shiny-cool-new-awesome DeWalt jigsaw.
posted by odinsdream at 10:10 AM on March 22, 2009

jon1270 - this is exactly what I was told by the general contractor who built my home after he gave us a mea culpa over running the vent out at the same level as the hood. He builds eco-friendly homes that are very air-tight, and while taking some advanced HVAC classes he learned what I mentioned above. It makes sense to me.

Hot air rises in a house, creating a bit more air pressure on the second floor (assuming windows are closed). As a result, there is a bit less air pressure on the main floor than on the second floor.
posted by Jupiter Jones at 8:02 AM on March 23, 2009

I should add that I acknowledge that I do not really know what I am talking about and was just repeating what I was told, which may have been misunderstood by me or just inaccurate in the first place. Please disregard my comments. Also, this is a good reason why you shouldn't mark every answer as correct.
posted by Jupiter Jones at 12:48 PM on April 24, 2009

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