Kitchen Exhaust Fans for Wallless Homes
June 19, 2012 10:21 AM   Subscribe

I've been advised to get a 900cfm range hood for my loftlike kitchen/living area, but I really want a ceiling-mounted exhaust fan instead. What are my options?

I just bought my first home and am working on making it livable. The most important change I made was to eliminate the wall between the kitchen/family room and the living/dining room to turn the non-bedroom half of the house into one big space.*

So now I've got this 40x13 room, with a gas stove (30", 4-burner, utterly unremarkable) right smack in the center. I was hoping to get a ceiling-mounted exhaust fan to keep the room as open as possible. I really don't want a hood.

The contractor who is going to be installing the fan said I should look for something that does 900cfm, because nothing else is going to be strong enough for such a big room. I can't find any 900cfm kitchen fans, but Googling has turned up a few fans made for hydroponics. Are hydroponics fans OK for kitchens? Alternatively, can I install 2 450cfm kitchen fans for the same effect? (This would be preferable because of the way they look.)

Or is 900cfm overkill in general? Each of the parlors on either side of the kitchen has a ceiling fan, and the climate is so nice that the windows will be open all the time. The ceilings are standard height.

*Imagine the house as a hot dog bun, opened flat. One side of the bun is bedrooms & bathroom, the other is the big open living area.
posted by hyperfascinated to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The further the intake is from the cooktop surface, the less effective it will be. If you do a lot of high-heat cooking that produces smoke and clouds of tiny oil droplets, or if you cook especially stinky foods (e.g. fish) then I doubt that any fan at ceiling height will be sufficient. If you don't do much of that messier cooking then it may not matter much.

If there's a basement or crawl space underneath, then you could also consider a downdraft vent.
posted by jon1270 at 10:44 AM on June 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Or maybe you should just change the layout so that the stove is against an exterior wall and can be vented to the outside there.
posted by mareli at 10:57 AM on June 19, 2012

My aunt's kitchen stove has a vent that is at the back of the stovetop and sucks air across the top of the stove (where the vent actually vents to, I have no idea). The vent may actually be part of the stovetop. It seems to work OK? Ah, I looked it up and apparently it's called a downdraft vent system?
posted by mskyle at 11:05 AM on June 19, 2012

I was coming in to suggest a downdraft -- the way to not have a hood above your stovetop is to suck the air into the stovetop. They don't do as good a job as a range hood with aerosolized oils, though.
posted by mendel at 11:34 AM on June 19, 2012

Former appliance salesperson here. Keep in mind that you may run into code issues if you try to replace the hood with a ceiling exhaust fan, though that will be highly location specific.

First, double check your contractor's recommendation. The general rule of thumb is that you need 100cfm for every 10,000 BTU's your range is capable of producing. Sum the BTU's for each burner, then divide by 100. I imagine there are refinements to that calculation that your contractor may be using, and you may need to add to it the farther away from the range you place the fan and the bigger the room is, but that gives you a ballpark idea.

Downdraft systems are an option, but I've never had good luck with them. They just don't seem to suck well in my experience, and smoke and heat rise if they aren't immediately captured. Same thing with exhaust fans far above the range, plus the issues jon1270 mentions regarding smoke or oil.

Personally, I'd go for a slim island range hood, like this 940cfm one (for illustrative purposes only, I'm not recommending that particular hood or retailer). It would be more functional, and the right model would look like it was floating in the middle of the room and not break up the space very much at all. Have you looked for hoods or fans in high end appliance stores, or talked to a big-box salesperson about special orders? I seem to recall being able to order fans of different strengths separate from the hoods from some manufactures, like different engine options on a car.
posted by postel's law at 11:36 AM on June 19, 2012

Maybe I should add that my family is vegetarian - it doesn't seem like we'd need as powerful a system as omnivores.
posted by hyperfascinated at 2:21 PM on June 19, 2012

Obviously you can do whatever makes you happy, and should to the extent it meets code. But remember you can burn vegetables too. And what, you never use hot oil? Besides, no matter what you're cooking or how well you're cooking it you also want to be able to remove heat. Finally, what if you want to sell the house in five years? Buyers will be looking for standard solutions to standard problems.
posted by postel's law at 7:05 PM on June 19, 2012

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