How to Choose the Best Venting System for Your Kitchen

It’s easy to choose a kitchen venting system based solely on aesthetics, but having a solid understanding of the pros and cons of different products is important too. Learn more about the various overhead and downdraft venting systems and find a solution that works best for your home.

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July 10, 2019

Photo By: Wolf, Sub-Zero Group, Inc.

Photo By: Jennifer Boomer/Verbatim Photo A

Photo By: Jeffrey Kilmer

Photo By: Larny J. Mack

Photo By: Collete Wright, the lipstick lens

Photo By: Fraley and Company

Photo By: Wolf, Sub-Zero Group, Inc.

Photo By: Haier

Photo By: Wolf, Sub-Zero Group, Inc.

Photo By: GE

Photo By: James McEntee/Getty Images

Photo By: Cory Holland

Which Venting System is Right For Your Cooking Style?

Both your personal cooking style and the orientation of your kitchen will play a part in determining what type of vent system works best for your home. Though both overhead and downdraft systems add efficiency to indoor and outdoor kitchens, homeowners may gravitate to a certain vent system without considering how they use their cooktop. Is your cooktop gas, electric or induction? Are you routinely cooking with oils or burning the bacon? Do you use very tall cookware or are you a very tall person? All of these factors come into play when choosing between downdraft and overhead venting.

Downdraft vs. Overhead: How Are They Similar?

Both systems effectively collect smoke, steam and grease and vent them outside. They also serve to collect emissions like carbon monoxide from gas cooktops. You’ll find that all products offer a range in power, and both require some degree of maintenance related to cleaning the grease filters. Pricing varies a wide range based on the design and its sheer size for necessary efficiency (more power is more money), but if you’re looking to get a sense of cost, know that you’ll find a lot of variables between products that run $500 when compared to the $5,000 models. Both styles are available with ductless options, though, without ductwork venting to the outdoors, the circulated air tends to add humidity to the kitchen and requires extra filter upkeep.

Downdraft vs. Overhead: How Are They Different?

The design of the two systems is the biggest differentiator. Downdrafts pull smoke, steam and grease downwards in order to vent them outside. Overhead vents collect emissions as they naturally rise. Downdraft vents are usually either built into a cooktop or installed as an accessory to the cooktop that operates independently, often even telescoping up for use and back down when out of use. Overhead venting can either drop from the ceiling as its own unit or can attach to wall space above the cooktop. If other appliances are above the cooktop, such as a microwave, you can choose a cooker canopy hood where the overhead venting is connected to the bottom of that appliance.

Advantages of Downdraft Venting

You can entirely eliminate the need for an overhead hood vent, which is sometimes the best solution when it’s not easy to vent through the ceiling or when you don't want to sacrifice upper cabinetry. Downdrafts can be installed behind a cooktop and include a telescoping design that raises and lowers out of the countertop. For $500-$1,500, you can buy a telescoping model that remains out of sight when not in use.

Advantages of Downdraft Venting

Downdraft venting is available as a built-in option in many cooktops, making it a viable way to add functionality in a more cost-efficient, space-saving way. An integrated downdraft may increase the cost of a cooktop by $400-$800.

Cons of Downdraft Venting

If your cooktop is installed on an island or where you have a pass-through space, telescoping downdrafts can aesthetically change the feeling of having a wide-open cooking space. When raised, the downdraft may feel like it creates a division of the space. Another consideration is cooking with pots that are taller than the venting system; the steam coming out of the top of the pot may not get sucked back down into the vent.

From: Fraley and Company

Cons of Downdraft Venting

If your kitchen is outfitted for an overhead vent, you will need to add new venting to accommodate a downdraft system, which commonly exits through an exterior wall.

Advantages of Overhead Venting

The wide variety of design and customization options for overhead venting makes it a popular solution for homeowners. From contemporary to country and even to extremely tech-savvy like the model shown above, manufacturers construct wall-mounted and drop-down vent hoods to be decorative, rather than an eyesore. Be prepared to pay based on the design of the unit; while low-end overhead vents can cost as low as $300, customized designs can increase the price by 10 times or more. The digitally integrated Kitchen Hub for Haier shown here starts at $1,299.

Advantages of Overhead Venting

If drop-down hoods aren’t the look you’re going for, manufacturers also offer vents which sit between ceiling joists and rest flush with the ceiling. Flush-mount ceiling venting is a premium with prices starting around $2,000.

Advantages of Overhead Venting

Functionally, one of the biggest benefits to an overhead venting system. It catches emissions (smoke, steam, odors and grease) as they naturally rise so they don't spread to the rest of the room. Built-in task lighting also makes overhead vents are a popular choice.

Cons of Overhead Venting

Headroom can be a concern if the overhead venting intrudes into a high-traffic area. Consider the height at which you mount any hood so that taller residents aren’t dodging sharp corners or facing a limited line of sight (and that would really be sad if your outdoor kitchen overlooks a glorious landscape). Also, be aware that installing a wall-mounted overhead vent will reduce the number of upper cabinets you can install in your kitchen.

Cons of Overhead Venting

Pricing for overhead hood vents varies greatly due to the installation technique (wall vs. ceiling mount) and the efficiency of the system. While some manufacturers offer low-end exhaust hoods starting at less than $500, prices climb quickly as you consider the size of the unit and design features.

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