Recirculating Range Hoods — As Effective As Recirculating Toilets

Go to your kitchen, look above your stove or cooktop and open the cabinet door. If you don’t see a round pipe installed inside the cabinet, you most likely have a recirculating vent hood. They’re cheap, easy to install and you may as well be sitting at a smokey camp fire waiting for the wind to change directions.

Allison Bails –Energy Vanguard compares the “vent-less” appliances to a recirculating toilet and he, like me, thinks its about time for a new vent. There are other reasons you should convert your recirculating fan into a vented model.

You’d never settle for a recirculating toilet, would you? Press the lever and everything in the bowl just swirls around and around. Never leaving, just recirculating. That’s the image Professor John Straube painted for us last week in his talk at the Building Science Experts’ Session. He was discussing range hoods and indoor air quality (IAQ).

Think about it. You’re cooking for the holidays. A pot is sitting on one of the burners with no lid, vapors rising from it into the air. You turn on another burner to sauté some onions and something that spilled onto the burner another time starts burning off, creating a little bit of smoke. You’ve got a turkey going in the oven. The kitchen’s getting a little warm and steamy, so you turn on the range hood.

It’s making noise. You know the air is moving because you feel it hitting your forehead. But is it really helping to clear the air? No! It’s taking air from the kitchen and putting it back into the kitchen. Yeah, it may capture some of the grease and odors in that little metal mesh filter, so that may explain the acne on your forehead.

But it’s not really doing much to help your indoor air quality. To accomplish that, the range hood has to pull in air from the kitchen and send it outside.

Why do you want a range hood that vents air to the outside? Let me count the ways:

indoor air quality iaq range hood cabinet niche missing duct hole

  1. Carbon monoxide – If you have a gas range, especially one with a gas oven, you may be putting elevated levels of carbon monoxide in your air.
  2. Formaldehyde – one of the things you get from heating oil
  3. Other toxins – Those bits of grease and food that get burned off create airborne toxins you really don’t want to breathe.
  4. Moisture – Cooking can put a lot of water vapor into the air.
  5. Odors

How can you tell if your range hood is vented?

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