Should you get a Downdraft Ventilation or not?
What is a Downdraft Ventilation?
A downdraft vent, also known as a downdraft vent or vent hood, is basically a range hood which is installed behind or next to your cooking stove. When you’re not cooking, the downdraft ventilation isn’t visible, but when needed you can retract it. Once the downdraft vent is fully extended, it will suck in the air pollutants and either transport them out of your house or filter the air and recirculate the cleaned air back into your kitchen. Downdrafts vents come in both stand-alone versions, which need to be installed into your kitchen counter, as well as in downdraft range versions. A downdraft ranges, also known as downdraft stove, is basically a whole range (stove +cooktop) which already contains an integrated downdraft vent. Downdraft ventilation systems are typically used by (but not limited to) people with a kitchen island. The reason for having a downdraft as your island cooktop vent is that some people really don't want to have a big kitchen island range hood hanging above their beautiful open kitchen island, because it obstructs their view and takes away the ‘open kitchen feel.’ That's why a lot of them have opted for a downdraft ventilation.
Note: There are also downdraft models which don't extend, but are pretty much just a vent grill located next to your cooking stove. Please steer clear of those!
Why you SHOULD get a Downdraft Ventilation
The most obvious reason to get a downdraft vent is because it looks incredibly sleek. Being able to pop-up and retract your downdraft vent in and out of your countertop really makes you feel you're standing in the kitchen of the future. The only thing that could enhance the experience is to have a release of carbon-monoxide accompanied with a psssshhh-sound every time you’re extending your downdraft vent. Downdraft vents truly are incredibly aesthetically pleasing. Trust us when we say that having one in your kitchen means capturing the attention of every visitor. So don't be surprised when your friends turn out to be green with envy.
A more pragmatic reason to choose a downdraft vent over a regular range hood is the space you will be saving. As we've mentioned before, some people consider a regular range hood to be a bulky eye-sore. Although that might be a matter of taste, we can’t deny that range hoods tend to take up a lot of precious kitchen real-estate. As available space in kitchens can be in short supply, getting a downdraft vent can absolutely save you a lot of space, because it's integrated into your kitchen counter or downdraft range. It will pop up when it's in use, and retracts back into your counter or downdraft range when not in use.
Why you SHOULDN’T get a Downdraft Ventilation
Downdraft vents obviously have their shortcomings. For starters, they generally cannot match the performance of regular range hoods. The reason for this can be summed up in one word: physics. Hot air naturally rises. When you’re cooking food, the resulting hot air together with the smoke, airborne oil particles and food smells, will rise upwards. This is the reason why range hoods are traditionally installed ABOVE your stove, as it makes it much easier to capture the air pollutants. Downdraft ventilations, on the other hand, are installed NEXT to your stove. So, instead of capturing the naturally rising air pollutants from above your cooktop, downdraft vents try to capture the pollutants by sucking them in from the side. This is obviously a much harder feat to accomplish, as downdraft vents will have to fight the natural tendency of hot air rising. In practice, this means that downdraft ventilations will need to be equipped with a lot more sucking power (CFM) compared to regular range hoods. But with great power not only comes great responsibility, it also comes with a legal obligation to provide MAKEUP AIR. And even with a lot of CFM under the hood, it’s very hard to beat the effectiveness of traditional range hoods.
Note: Having a downdraft vent with a lot of power (CFM) can be problematic for people with a gas stove. Especially when your downdraft vent is turned up to its maximum capacity, the flames on your stove might start to flicker and produce or even fully extinguish.
Another drawback of having a downdraft vent can be found in the maximum height of your downdraft relative to the height of your pots. If the pots you're cooking in are taller than your downdraft ventilation, the air pollutants (which are naturally floating upward) can’t possibly be captured by your downdraft vent, because your downdraft isn’t tall enough to reach the fumes in the first place. However, since the maximum height of a downdraft vent will differ from model to model, please pay close attention to it when buying one. Simply measure the height of your tallest pot and compare it to the maximum height of the downdraft vent or downdraft range. (We recommend getting a downdraft vent with a max height of 18 inches.)
Note: The height issue can be especially problematic for people using gas cooktops with downdrafts, as gas stoves usually have elevated grills to place your pots and pans on so as to leave room for the gas burners. When measuring your pots and pans, add this elevation to their height. Obviously, this isn’t the case with flat electric ranges.
Conclusion: Downdraft Ventilation, yes or no?
Having a downdraft ventilation in your kitchen means having an incredibly stylish range hood solution. The kid in you will probably let you make the downdraft go up and down repeatedly for at least the first hour after having it installed in your kitchen. Downdraft vents are just that futuristic and sleek. Another great feature of downdraft vents are that they are hidden when not in use, as they will be retracted back into your kitchen counter or downdraft range. Especially in kitchens with a limited amount of kitchen space this might prove to be an ideal solution., as well as in kitchens with a kitchen island, because having a downdraft ventilation as your island cooktop vent will allow you to keep that ‘open kitchen feel.’
There are, however, some drawbacks when it comes to downdraft vents. For starters, they’re generally not as effective as regular range hoods, because they have to fight physics. Hot air rises, which is why normal range hoods are installed above your cooktop. Downdraft ventilations, however, are positioned next to your cooktop, which makes them have to suck the air in from the side rather than from the top. Not only will this translate in a loss of effectiveness compared to regular range hoods, it also requires a lot more power to do so. There’s also a height issue with certain downdraft ventilation models. Their maximum height has to exceed the maximum height of your tallest pots, otherwise you.
How much CFM does your new range hood need?
Check out our FREE GUIDE to buying a new range hood to check how much CFM your range hood will need. (Includes a downloadable PDF on page 1).