The Down Low on Downdraft

For people who are building or renovating their kitchens, there are many things to consider before you put things to a plan. One thing that sparks an interesting design question is downdraft ventilation….what it is and how it is it used? So I thought I’d break it down.

What is a downdraft?

Downdraft is typically a retractable, slim-lined vent that raises and lowers behind your cooking surface to extract impure air from cooking such as smoke, grease or odours. There are also stationary downdraft systems that are incorporated into the cooktop, like the Jenn-Air cooktop that has been around for many years.downdraft

Why would you use a downdraft?

In certain kitchen designs a downdraft option works especially well. For example, if your cooktop is in the island with no ability to have an overhead fan, downdraft might be your only option. Another popular reason for hidden ventilation is to keep the sight lines clear of any bulky hood fans. Many designers choose downdraft as an option purely for the esthetics of not wanting to see a cumbersome hood fan in their kitchen. Modern kitchens with clean lines and integrated appliances lend themselves to having nearly invisible ventilation.


Does it work?

This is where the debate begins so I asked Shirley Van Der Lee, a sales consultant from our Calgary South location for her input. “We all know heat rises, so the impure air coming from the top of your pots has to be pulled down into the downdraft in order to get the air out, so it’s less effective than an overhead fan. People that use tall pots regularly or even just using the front burners, find that downdraft is not effective at extracting the air at all. Another problem, especially for gas users, is with the fan being so close to the cooking surface; it pulls heat creating inconsistent cooking temperatures.”

The bottom line!

Downdrafts certainly have their place for some kitchen designs, and if it’s the only option, it’s better than nothing…but you should have clear expectations of the performance of this kind of venting.


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