Kitchen Range Hood Use to Improve Air Quality


Do you have a Range Hood, and do you actually use your Range Hood in your Kitchen? Regular use of kitchen exhaust ventilation systems can help control excess moisture in the home. Indoor air and human health are major housing issues.

Air Quality

Biological pollutants, such as molds, are health threats. These pollutants require a moist environment. The quality of indoor air, and its effect on human health, is an issue of major importance in the field of housing. Recently, molds and other biological pollutants in indoor air have received considerable media attention. Litigation and insurance claims have increased as homeowners become concerned about damage from mold, both to the physical structure of the home and to the health of the occupants. The incidence of allergies and asthma has increased, especially among children. Families have learned that biological pollutants, such as molds and dust mites, can exacerbate problems with these illnesses.

Controlling Moisture

Molds, dust mites, and other biological pollutants are naturally occurring in the air, structure, and furnishings of a home. However, to grow to abundance and become a health threat, they require a moist environment. Moisture in the home is a complex subject. Controlling Moisture build-up in the home is one of the most important strategies for ensuring healthy indoor air. A continually moist environment harbors biological pollutants such as mold and dust mites, which can trigger asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Regular use of kitchen exhaust ventilation systems can help control moisture, yet, according to a study published by the Forum for Family and Consumer Issues (FFCI), most people don’t use range hoods for moisture control, but for other issues, such as smoke and odors. The study, titled Use of Kitchen Ventilation: Impact on Indoor Air Quality, found that noise is a major factor, as is homeowner ignorance about the importance of ventilating a modern home.


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As part of a study of kitchen usage, the Center for Real Life Kitchen Design at Virginia Tech interviewed 78 households, asking many questions about when and how people use Kitchen Range Hoods.

The big three: noise, ignorance and belief that it’s “not necessary.”

The participants in the interview cooked regularly and frequently: 68 percent cooked complete meals five or more times per week and 97 percent prepared dinner on a regular basis.

The majority of participants (84 percent) had electric ranges, but most also owned a microwave oven. An interesting finding is that 32 percent used the microwave oven about the same as their range top, and 31 percent used the microwave oven more than the range top.

Most of the participants (92 percent) reported having mechanical kitchen ventilation systems. The most common type was an updraft system—a hood attached to a cabinet over the cook top or range. The most common features in the ventilation systems were a light (91 percent) and a multi-speed fan (84 percent). Over half of these systems (55 percent) were routed to the outside; however, 17 percent of the participants did not know if their ventilation systems exhausted to the outside.

Here’s the really interesting part: Only 8 percent of the participants used their ventilation system whenever they cooked, while 8 percent used ventilation “almost never,” and 15 percent used ventilation only “once in a while.”



The table describes the most frequent reasons that people cited for using or not using their kitchen ventilation systems. The most common reasons cited for using a kitchen ventilation system were to control odors and smoke. Noise was the most common reason for avoiding the kitchen ventilation system.

Participants gave various reasons for using their kitchen ventilation systems specifically with cook top cooking, typically to solve problems with odor, smoke and steam. Kitchen ventilation was less common when only the oven was being used: 46 percent never used ventilation, while 28 percent only used ventilation for oily/greasy foods and 17 percent for smelly foods.



Our Recommendations

Since people are more likely to use a fan if it isn’t noisy, always spec an Energy Star-rated unit. Range hoods that have earned the Energy Star label are not only 70 percent more efficient, they must also meet standards for noise and efficacy: Minimum Efficacy Levels2.8 cfm/watt; Maximum Sound Levels2.0 sones.

The Energy Star website includes a searchable database that you can use.

One of the best innovations in range hood technology in recent years has been particle and heat-sensing devices. In our view, these devices should become the de facto standard across the industry. Further, it’s time for range hoods to be integrated with the Internet of Things. For homeowners, reluctant or not, there would be clear health benefits to regular use of range hoods. And for those who choose not to use the hoods, devices that are “smart” can automatically kick on anyway, clearing the air for everyone else who lives in the building. For more information be sure to Contact your local Kitchen Designer to get a personalized approach at picking the right Range Hood for you.


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