I need Exhaust fan 101

tshermanNovember 9, 2008

I've always had the OTR microwave which seemed effective getting rid of most of the smells (because, since we're all friends here let's face it, I don't fry at all or cook much fish, so we're talking about taco night twice a month.) As we discuss what the kitchen could be, a KD has suggested we need a focal point in the kitchen, and that should be the range area. So we are considering shifting the range to another (interior) wall, and moving the MW undercounter (good for my kids) and using a exhaust fan. If we take this approach, the KD will install the fan and "frame and cover with whatever cabinetry you want". I don't want the fan/hood to be the focal point, but I can see how making it blend into the cabinets would help.

As I price my appliances, what type of fan am I even looking for? I see hood liners, external extractors, traditional range hoods - what's the difference? I'm sure all these options give great flexibility... but right now I am just very confused!

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I suggest what my customers may like, but never tell them what they need. Once I'm gone they have to live with it and that is what counts the most. You will become bored with a focal point, but will be bummed out if the kitchen doesn't function well for you.

I do always want a very nice looking end product, because I don't even advertise. The frineds and family that see my work will be my next customers down the road.

Even with that being considered I always suggest they choose function over style.

You may post a question for folks that have under counter microwaves and see what they like or don't like about it. Kids grow up fast and I wouldn't like bending over to get in the microwave and clean it.


    Bookmark   November 9, 2008 at 9:23AM
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A hood is definitely preferable to an OTR microwave, without question. Both functionally and aesthetically. I am linking below the Appliances Forum FAQ on vent hoods to get you started. Then I would advise you to go to the Appliances Forum and read posts about exhaust hoods - there's tons of 'em there.

Here is a link that might be useful: Appliances Forum Vent Hood FAQ

    Bookmark   November 9, 2008 at 10:06AM
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Based on what you have said about your usage, I'd guess you can save a lot of money, or spend more elsewhere. Since you are happy with your cooking habits and your satisfaction with your over the range microwave is high. I concur with the Kitchener Designer advice above.

It is true that ventilation hoods are a funny weird complex subject where nothing is clear. There is another thread going in the Appliance forum about this. It may be on Page 2 by now. See if you can find it.


    Bookmark   November 9, 2008 at 10:07AM
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I hated my OTR MW so much that I switched it out for a proper hood at great expense (I had to sell the MW at a loss on Craig's List, buy the hood, have it installed, and then had to re-tile the backsplash up to the hood). Even with the expense, it was sooo worth it. I understand when people have small kitchens and the only place they can put a MW is over the range. But barring that reason, I would never recommend anyone get an OTR MW.

So, on the one hand, I agree with your KD. On the other hand, I am not sure that I agree with the choice of "covering it with cabinetry". You can do that if you like that look, but don't disregard the idea of just having a hood there with no cabinetry covering it. There are some beautiful hoods out there that add "wow" factor to the kitchen. Really, you'll love it.

Are you installing the ductwork for the hood, or is the ductwork already in place? It is important to make sure the hood is sized appropriately for the ductwork. Most hoods need at least an 8" diameter duct, although there are hoods that are OK with 6" duct, but those will be less powerful. If you install a hood that needs an 8" duct, but your duct is only 6", you will add significantly to the exhaust noise. If you are installing the ductwork now, make sure it is at least 8", or even 10" diameter.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2008 at 10:17AM
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tsherman: first, a quick hijack, then back to your question:

I am not even sure what Kenneth is trying to say, other than advertise his services. I think some of his statements are silly at best. "You will become bored with a focal point"--what?? A focal point is simply a way to organize the visual elements of a kitchen. Kitchens without some focus can look ungrounded and visually distracting. There's no instinctive direction for the eye to focus.

Our new kitchen has a range as a focal point. It's a Lacanche Cluny 1400 in an alcove which conceals a Modern-Aire custom 64'' hood liner with a remote inline Fantech FKD-10XL blower and LD-10 silencer. I think it's an effective focal point:

Here's a photo: (please note that this is an early photo during the renovation (final pics are forthcoming now that our backsplash is in) but you can get an idea of the look):

BUT...the important thing for us is that this range alcove cooks fabulously! The LC range is wonderful to cook with, and the ventilation is absolutely phenomenal, both due to the hood, as well as the design of the alcove.

So, my point is that "focal point" and function absolutely do not conflict. In mamy ways I believe a visual focal point when done well should function well too--remember, form and function are closely interrelated.

Now, on to his specific point. If I read Kenneth correctly, he's questioning the decision to move the MW undercounter? There are many arguments pro and con (search the Applicance forum for many threads) but it's certainly one option. What I'm confused about is whether Kenneth is really suggesting keeping the MW over the range.

The only option worse than an OTR MW for ventilation is no ventilation at all. If it's a recirculating MW all you're doing is blowing the same fumes, odors, and combustion gasses right back into the kitchen. If it's a vented MW, the performance, measured in cfm of air extracted, is miserably poor. Your KD is right on the money in suggesting truly functional ventilation.

Ventilation is a complex issue, which is often poorly explained. There is a ton of great information on the Appliance Forum. This is one of my favorite threads:

help please with ventilation

Once you're reviewed this come over and post questions to the Appliance forum. There is, strangely, a large group of ventilation gurus there who love to offer opinions.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2008 at 10:20AM
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In defense of Kenneth, I understand completely what he's saying. We all choose things that we think are attractive, but if they don't function well, there appeal is very short lived.
I chose a very unattractive vent hood, because I couldn't afford the high-end copper kind that I wanted. It was my intention to have a copper facade fabricated to cover my plain-jane hood. Well, my plain-jane is one of my favorite elements because it cleans the air so quickly. Whenever a bit of smoking fat sets off the smoke detector, turning on the vent hood shuts the thing right up. For people who really use their kitchens, function will outlast form.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2008 at 10:34AM
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I agree with Clinresga that Kenneth's post was non-sensical. As to MW placement, there's a great thread (linked below) with all kinds of pics and imaginative suggestions on MW placement. This forum is really great for creative ideas on this sort of thing! You can also do a MW drawer (again, do a search on the Appliances Forum for "microwave drawer").

Thread about Microwave Placement

As to the thread that Clinresga linked above, I am a little worried that the OP will get scared off by that thread! It's very technical at times, and some of the options discussed are out of a lot of people's price ranges or may be impractical to some. But it is great reading! Clinresga, your Lacanche set-up is gorgeous (so's your marble), but your kitchen is so out of my realm of affordability, I can only gaze with wonder. I hope people won't be scared off of proper hood ventilation cause they think it's only for high-end kitchens. So, to the OP, read that thread, but don't get intimidated or frustrated. This Forum and the Appliances Forum can help you with all your hood questions.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2008 at 10:44AM
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As AlwaysFixin has said, check the Appliances Forum. Just b/c you've never had what most here would consider a decent range hood, doesn't mean you won't appreciate it once you have it...and realize what you have been missing. Like you I make Tacos and/or Sloppy Joes two or three times a month, don't fry fish or bacon, etc. I had a "builder grade" range hood w/the old kitchen and thought it did an OK job, although you could smell the browned beef upstairs later.

When I began planning for my remodel, I read here about how a decent range hood would elminate even that browned beef smell as well remove heat & steam from the kitchen...so I decided to get a decent range hood.

Let me tell you, there is a world of difference b/w that old hood and what I have now...and it's only a 600cfm Vent-A-Hood! I will never go back!!! I do not smell the odors of ground beef or anything else in the rest of the house that evening, steam/heat removal was great this summer when it gets hot in our kitchen, and when something burns (yes, I do burn things occasionally!), the smoke doesn't get to the rest of the kitchen. In just a few months I was surprised at how much grease my range hood collected...I didn't think it would b/c I don't really fry, but it turns out there's more grease, etc. in other cooking than I realized!

OTR MW/hoods. My sister has one and I hate it...first, it doesn't work that well (not even as well as the builder grade I had in my old house). Second, I hate reaching over a hot range w/hot steam or grease (she does fry/brown more) in my face & on my arms, trying to stir something in the MW/check food/take it out. I'm fairly tall (5'10") and I consider it a safety hazard at my height!

Undercounter MWs. There are a couple of options there.

  • The first, and to me least desirable, mounting/building in a standard MW undercounter (usually on a shelf). Yes, that can be a problem, as davidro1 mentioned, b/c you have to bend down to look in/stir or remove items. However, many people here have done it and are OK with it.

  • The second and what I actually have and recommend, is a MW drawer...which will probably cost the same as a regular MW + Trim kit. It opens like a drawer, you reach straight down to stir/look at food, and lift up to remove food. It has a soft-close feature so there's no sloshing of food. The control panel is angled up so you can easily read/use the controls.

Look into your options...I think you'll be surprised on several fronts...

Good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: Appliances Forum

    Bookmark   November 9, 2008 at 10:46AM
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Fan 101

First ? is what type of range will you have in your new kitchen - That dictates what type of ventilation you need
2nd - How do you cook? Do you sear, fry (Ok you answered some, use a wok, will your range have a grill etc...
3rd - The BEST place for a range (from ventilation perspective) is on Exterior wall - this allows the ducting to go directly outside. For each foot of duct work and bend in ducting the less effective a range hood will be. So if you purchase a 600cfm -and the install requires long ductwork with bends it may actually render a 300cfm unit.
Your KD proposes 'will install the fan and "frame and cover with whatever cabinetry you want' thereby negating a critical function in your new kitchen. In other words it's putting the cart before the horse. The range/hood placement and type should be addressed 1st from a functional perspective Not the other way. Covering with cabinetry is costly & really unnecessary

Do a search & talk with your appliance stores - decide your choice of range & placement 1st

Good luck

    Bookmark   November 9, 2008 at 11:19AM
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Oh, I initially missed the part in the OP about the "KD considering shifting the range to an interior wall". Um, don't do that. Really. So, I'm seconding what Jejvtr said. TSherman, I am hoping it wasn't what the KD wanted, but maybe an idea of yours? The KD really shouldn't be suggesting moving a range from the ideal exterior wall to an interior wall, for the reasons Jejvtr said, or else I'd be wondering about his/her KD abilities.

One more suggestion: if choosing between a hood with mesh filters vs. a hood with baffle filters, get the baffle style. Baffles are more efficient, easier to clean, less noisy, don't get clogged the way mesh filters do. I am probably getting ahead of you here, but it's something to keep in mind when you are at the point of choosing a hood.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2008 at 11:49AM
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If you have attic space directly above your kitchen, then it doesn't really matter much whether the range is on an interior or exterior wall.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2008 at 12:12PM
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Agree with ci lantro: exterior wall is not automatically the best choice from a ventilation standpoint. It's true that exterior wall allows the shortest duct pathway, but longer ductwork can be compensated for by 1) making sure you use adequately sized ducting (10'' is the ideal) 2) minimizing turns and 3) upsizing the blower to compensate. Thus, a 1200 cfm remote blower through a longer run of 10'' duct will likely outperform a 600 cfm blower running out the wall.

The biggest reason to consider running up through the attic rather than a shorter path through the wall is simple: the latter requires that you put an exhaust duct on the wall of the house. For all of the folks worried about aesthetics, this is a big deal: do you really want some big aluminum vent stuck on the side of the house right outside your kitchen? Realize too that depending on where the wall in question is located, that you may be blowing your fumes into a potential outdoor living area, like a deck or patio. I'm much happier with the roof vent that we have, which is invisible from almost all views of the house and which exhausts the fumes 40 feet above my deck.

Wall venting also makes using a remote blower much more difficult, as mounting an external blower on the side of the house is even more obtrusive than a vent. Why is this an issue? Because if there is any way remotely possible to do it, using a remote blower is far superior to an internal blower in the hood. See my earlier post for my rationale:

vent hoods and noise

As ci lantro says, as long as you can route ductwork up to the attic through an interior wall, it's just as effective as an exterior wall. Our range pictured above is against an interior wall. It took some creativity, but we were able to run 10'' duct (or for one stretch, 18'' rectangular duct) to the attic.

debsan: you and I are really saying the same thing. I totally agree with you that if function is sacrificed for form, then it's a mistake. I was just pointing out that it is possible to have both, contrary to what Kenneth was implying.

akchicago: thanks. I agree that the thread I posted was perhaps a bit overly obsessive. But there's good info there. I also strongly agree with you that there are great solutions to problems that are not top $$. I think the key is to be armed with some knowledge, and then find the best option your budget will allow. So, yes, your message is right on target.

And to the OP: Don't trust your appliance store! Over and over we read posts about what folks were told by their appliance dealers (the most recent post on Appliances had the dealer claiming that Modern Aire hoods were "inferior quality low end hoods"--laughable). Their real agenda is to push the (typically) single line of hoods they carry. They are like used car dealers.

The best approach IMHO is to post even the simplest questions here or on Appliance forum and you'll get good, clear and non-condescending replies--just like what...

    Bookmark   November 9, 2008 at 1:01PM
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Wow - so much knowledge and information! You gardenwebbers never cease to amaze me! I guess I need to take a step back and reconsider how we will use the kitchen. I had done that but his fancy drawings put me in a trance and I forgot where to focus.

Kenrbass - To be fair, the KD asked how I cooked and drafted the plans with the range in the new location (interior wall, facing FR) and the MW over it. Once it was so "featured", I asked if it would be better to move the MW and he readily agreed it would look much better and a proper fan would function better.

clinresga - your kitchen is beautiful, but obviously much larger than mine (and you must be a better cook because that is one serious range!)

akchicago - your post was perfectly timed. I had just started scanning through the ventilation post and decided maybe I should just open the window! ;) I'll learn to take baby steps.

Buehl - You're probably right, I may cook greasier and stinkier than I realize. I "real" fan may be worth the investment. That forces me to reconsider where the MW goes though. And it is very frequently used. I am open to anything - the drawer looks pretty slick actually!

alwaysfixin - Um, yeah. It was the KD's idea to move the range to an interior wall. This KD is one of the top in the area. I never thought he'd be near our budget but he was close enough we were seriously considering him. Now I wonder...

OK, Lessons learned so far:
* My house may stink and be greasier than I though.
* I need easy access to my MW - I use it no less than 5 times a day (often more than 10.) It would be great if the kids could get to it, but I'll be doing most of the cooking so this remodel is really all about me.
* We'll have a 30" range (Whirlpool, GE, Frigidaire)with about 37-42 btus.
* I think a unobtrusive fan may be best - I'll start hanging out on the appliance forum a little more.
* I need to remember that all decisions must be based on function first.
* I think I need to look for another KD.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2008 at 1:36PM
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Just a warning: PLAN ahead for your fan. I'd planned an OTR MW that could be vented outside, and I thought I had everyone on board with this. When push came to shove, we discovered that there were trusses that couldn't be compromised in the vent's pathway. The tradeoff: I could get the carpenters back here and they MIGHT be able to finagle a way around it . . . estimate of 2-3 days work, that might or might not ultimately work.

I ended up settling for the circulating fan, with disappointment. It won't be the end of the earth since I'll have another stove in a "summer kitchen" in the garage, and in my last house I got in the habit of doing very smelly things there, so I can do it again. Just not what I'd hoped for in this house.


    Bookmark   November 9, 2008 at 1:54PM
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Just a little sidebar here: Clinresga, your kitchen looks fabulous and it is so unique. Can't wait to see the finished product!

    Bookmark   November 9, 2008 at 3:10PM
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My Mom is getting the attached Panasonic OTR micro and fan which has gotten some positive recommendations here (see link). Exhaust fan is up to 420cfm. Hers will be vented outside and in a high rise condo without a cross draft it is a definite necessity (no window in the kitchen either). She will be getting a 30 inch freestanding ceramic top Whirlpool electric range.

I'm not clear how Kenneth is advertising his services (if he is then all the KD's who generously share their expertise here are as well - maybe I'm naive but that seems like the farthest thing from their minds). On a more practical note there is a fairly remote chance that he lives anywhere near you. I certainly think the things he is saying in relation to practicality make perfect sense - function should be a primary consideration in a kitchen. In some of the other threads access for children has come up with some worried about the ease of access to the micro if it is down low (a lot of microwaves have lockout features). You have a lot of options including an OTR with a decent fan. Sometimes it is the best option in terms of space. My Mom likes it because she wants to keep all her cooking appliances together. The other factor is if you don't have a bottomless budget there is some real cost savings to be had by combining these functions. I just bought the new "Kitchen and Bath ideas Products Guide" and the cheapest hood they featured was $2000. They do recommend hvi.org to get more info on your possible exhaust needs.

Not sure how old your kids are or how old kids should be to use the microwave but I can imagine with teenagers in the house it might be nice to have the microwave away from your main cooking area so they can serve themselves snacks without getting in your way.

Not sure what the deal is with the OTR microwave on GW but in relation to the design crimes I've seen I personally think it is a rather minor one to say the least but to each his own.

Here is a link that might be useful: otr micro thread

    Bookmark   November 9, 2008 at 4:08PM
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Six points all good, in "lessons learned" in my opinion. The last point may be good since I suspect you may be over-remodeling when you may not need to.

It appears you are happy with an OTR microwave.

They do work. For most types of fumes and for some types of cooking. Hot, smokey fumes from grilling contain various sized particles; some won't float far, some will go a long ways. Using an OTR while grilling is not optimal. Grilling is best done outside, in any case. Using an OTR also means more noise than otherwise. So what? You haven't complained. Besides, when operating in a kitchen, everybody makes noise of some kind or another.

Routing the ductwork will have a huge effect on how well a system works or not. The width (diameter) of your ductwork too. You can always increase your ductwork diameter, and you will get better performance. This is almost never mentioned anywhere.

The comment about "focal point" may have made sense in the original conversation but I guess it is clear that it is not one of the main criteria for deciding what to do.


    Bookmark   November 9, 2008 at 5:35PM
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Well, I have to respectfully disagree with some of Caryscott's post. As I mentioned in my earlier post, I believe the only reason to have an OTR MW, and it's a good reason, is if you have a small kitchen and space constraints. Other than that, there are so many reasons to have a hood instead. I really detested my OTR MW, and it was an expensive Dacor, with supposedly the strongest cfm's available for an OTR MW. The hood I replaced it with is so much better.

Since this thread is entitled "Exhaust Fan 101", I think a part of that is to list the cons against an OTR MW.
First, just regarding the MW part of the machine:
- since it is installed at a height, you must pull hot, perhaps sloshing, ingredients from that height.

- kids cannot access it, or if they try, it could be dangerous, given my previously mentioned sloshing hot ingredients issue.

- an OTR MW costs HUNDREDS of dollars more than a countertop microwave.

- although it costs hundreds of dollars more than a countertop microwave, typically its cavity is small and horizontal, since it has to fit above the range. The countertop MW I bought to replace my OTR MW cost $130, and has a huge cooking area.

- if you are using the range, and someone needs to use the MW (like one of your children), you have to jostle for position. As you and the MW user are jockeying for position, meanwhile the flame is up on the range, there are hot fry pans, steaming soup pots, and the like.

Second, regarding the exhaust part of an OTR MW:
- capture area is inadequate. The MW barely covers the back set of burners, and furthermore, an OTR MW typically has two small squares of mesh, that's all. Regardless of cfm's, there's no way to exhaust properly with just two small squares of mesh covering the back of the range.

- advertised cfm's, like the above-mentioned 420, is misleading, given the capture area, and the small squares under the MW that are supposed to pull in the smoke, steam and grease.

- OTR MW's are unbearably noisy. Now I'm not saying hoods are quiet either, but the OTR MW's make even more noise, while doing even less exhausting.


    Bookmark   November 9, 2008 at 5:51PM
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I'm all for respectful disagreement (in fact I even like direspectful agreement) and while we may be disagreeing about OTR microwaves we actually are making a couple of the same points:

-best reason to get one is space and the other would be convenience (the OP's space & convenience not mine or yours)

-with teens it may be best to move it away from the stove so they can access it while you are using the stove (this is in my post)

As I indicated in a post in the link I provided my Mom picked hers based on the recommendation of friend who had the particular model she bought and found the fan to be very effective (as others have pointed out it probably depends on how you cook and what your used to). I actually used to have a microwave over my stove (no fan) and I liked it as a location for the microwave but it was only me and I mostly re-heated things. As to cost I'm not sure what exhaust fans run elsewhere but for a very basic one with the same cfm as the one in the combo unit my Mom is getting I haven't seen anything for much less than $750, which is $200 more than my Mom paid for her unit. I am by no means an authority on the pricing of exhaust fans nor would I suggest anyone make this decision based just on $$$.

I'm not recruiting for the OTR Microwave Secret Society, I just thought I'd provide some info for the OP. My Mom's doesn't go in until next Friday so I can't vouch for it one way or the other and as you didn't have this model neither can you. I believe the OTR micro and exhaust fan wasn't for you and could very well not be the right choice for the OP but that his\her call not mine.

This is always such polarizing topic. I'm grey, if you don't need an OTR micro and fan or don't want one then I wouldn't get one. I think some of the hoods available or gorgeous and I'm sure a dedicated fan would work better - it only makes sense.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2008 at 7:08PM
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