Kitchen exhaust fans provide much-needed ventilation where it matters most. Both gas and electric stoves cause airborne irritants and traces of smoke that can lead to negative long-term respiratory health issues. It’s not enough to simply have a kitchen fan, either. Find out why using it consistently is a smart way to maintain excellent indoor air quality at home.

What Is a Kitchen Exhaust Fan? 

Also known as a kitchen exhaust fan, this handy device is installed above your stovetop to capture smoke, fumes, steam, heat, and other byproducts of the cooking process. Turning the fan on whenever the cooking surface is hot reduces the risk of these airborne irritants spreading throughout the room. It's particularly important when cooking with older pots and pans that might contain harmful chemicals like BPA and PFAS.

Kitchen fans should be installed between 24 and 30 inches from the stovetop to work efficiently.

Related: Our Complete Guide to Indoor Air Quality

How Does a Kitchen Exhaust Fan Work? 

Kitchen exhaust fans work by actively extracting air directly above the cooking surface using small but powerful fans. Once the fumes are concentrated above the stovetop, that air needs to be pushed outdoors or cleaned. Your home relies on one of these two common types of kitchen fans:

  • Ducted kitchen fans are the most popular style in residential kitchens. They're easy to spot thanks to the large hood installed above the stovetop to help direct fumes toward the fan and its corresponding duct.
  • Ductless kitchen exhaust systems may or may not have a hood and work slightly differently. Instead of concentrating fumes through a duct, a ductless system pulls in kitchen air and forces it through two separate filters before being blown back into the kitchen. Most ductless filters are made from charcoal or paper, though some manufacturers are utilizing reusable and dishwasher-safe filters.

Choosing the Right System 

When it's time to replace your current kitchen exhaust system, it's usually easier to stick with what you have. Installing an external duct to accommodate a ducted system may be cost-prohibitive compared to replacing a ductless fan with a more modern version.

Both types of kitchen fans offer some nifty features. While not all these features are proven to improve efficiency or provide better air quality, they may make sense for your home!

  • Multiple fan speeds – Most fans include a high and low setting. That's usually plenty, but if you cook for longer periods, you may find that additional options perform better without being too loud.
  • Heat sensors – Some modern hoods have heat sensors built in. These can sense cooking temperatures and automatically adjust the fan to an ideal speed.
  • Kitchen fan timers – Who hasn't left the exhaust fan running? Selecting an exhaust fan with a timer will turn the system off after 10 minutes or any time interval you decide.

Exhaust Fans and Gas Stoves 

A recent study found that 1 in 8 cases of childhood asthma are likely the result of a gas stovetop in the home. Gas stoves introduce fumes from not only food but fuel to the home. There's even evidence that gas stoves can emit toxic compounds without being on! A study from PSE Health Energy discovered the known carcinogen benzene in 99% of homes with gas stoves. Other toxic chemicals found in the study include xylene, toluene, and ethylbenzene.

Kitchen Fan FAQS 

Are kitchen exhaust fans required? 

There is no federal housing code addressing kitchen exhaust fans, but many state and local regulations require kitchen fans. Your local One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning technicians can answer all your indoor air quality questions, including whether kitchen ventilation is required.

Do kitchen exhaust fans need to be vented outside? 

Ducted extractor fans should vent directly outdoors. Ductless systems do not need any ductwork or external venting.

Do kitchen extractor fans remove smells? 

Kitchen fans can help remove strong odors quickly, especially orders embedded in steam, grease, and other tiny particles. Using your fan throughout the cooking process (i.e., before you burn the pancakes) can reduce odors from becoming overpowering.

Indoor Air Quality Matters in Every Home 

Invest in your family's respiratory healthy with a proactive indoor air quality assessment. Your local One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning experts can identify ways to improve ventilation and air filtration and explore ways to improve your home's energy efficiency. Request an appointment today or call (800) 893-3523 to get started!