Why does my kitchen stove have a chimney?
March 18, 2017 7:07 PM   Subscribe

I've bought a house, and it came with a vintage O'Keefe and Merritt gas range in the kitchen. It has a large pipe coming out the back, feeding to a chimney. Does anyone know why this stove might have a chimney, when almost every other stove burns natural gas without?

Our stove appears to be a slight variation on this model. The pipe is similar in size and position to this.

I've never encountered a vent pipe on a gas range before, does anyone know why ours might have one? Modern ranges don't seem to have these, and it doesn't look like most vintage ones do either. The range is hooked up to regular residential natural gas. The pipe looks like it connects near the top of the left-hand oven, it definitely isn't a vent hood sort of thing for the stovetop.
posted by what of it to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
All gas fired ranges dump an amazing amount of water into the air when operating (it's about a gallon per 100,00 btu per hour). The pipe may be designed to vent the water created by the ovens outside.

Alternatively I wonder if your stove is old enough to have originally been powered by town gas. In which case the vent may have been a way of handling the dangerous constituents of that gas (why the trope of people committing suicide by sticking their heads in an unlit oven which doesn't work with natural gas).
posted by Mitheral at 7:24 PM on March 18 [3 favorites]

There are vintage gas appliances that require venting. The old Merrit stoves are among them. It's a vent for grease and smoke.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:11 PM on March 18

According to the guy who services our 1950 wedgewood, vents like this were common in our area (SF East Bay). I found this explanation:

'These stoves, like their Franklin predecessors, had stove pipes (that bluish metal piping is for these...and not for your water heater). These would attach to the back or top of the oven flue built into the unit and were intended to attach to a stove pipe in the house. Many of the houses of the East Bay still have either a Patent Flue (a huge ceramic lined, steel jacketed flue that takes up a foot-and-a-half square space in the wall next to the stove) or a brick flue (about the same size and location). The stove was intended to pipe into this to take away the grease and smoke from the all-day baking that characterized women’s lives in the early 20th century. Today, the need for oven ventilation is decreased by the design of equipment but most folks still don’t use a stove vent on their antique. I think venting for an old stove is a good idea but in its absence be sure you have plenty of window ventilation.' (About the House: Deconstructing Grandma’s Cookstove)
True enough, there's a massive brick flue right behind our kitchen wall (that is not in use anymore). We 'vent' by opening our windows or the back door - no range hood. Not entirely sure why they disconnected the oven from the flue in the first place, but it's been like thisfor a few decades...
posted by The Toad at 10:09 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]

Our O’Keefe & Merritt has the same pipe, and this thread has helped me understand a rectangle of mystery space between the kitchen and dining room of our Oakland craftsman house.
posted by migurski at 11:07 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]

In addition to The Toad's answer, I ended up stumbling on this forum thread where people were discussing the same question. It seems like most people end up disconnecting these and using an overhead hood instead.
posted by what of it at 8:27 AM on March 19 [1 favorite]

These were fairly common before overhead hoods became the thing; I ran into them in East Bay houses fairly regularly during renovations.

Modern ovens are more efficient and vent differently.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:26 AM on March 22

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