Range Hoods for a Healthy Home

Range Hoods for a Healthy Home
Many kitchens have a properly venting range hood.  That’s a very smart move, and here’s why.

A study by Brett Singer, Principal Investigator and leader of the Indoor Environment Group at Berkeley Lab, reveals that “a significant portion of residences exceed outdoor air quality standards for several pollutants” and that “if these conditions were outdoors, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) would be cracking down.”  

Gas ranges particularly, as is the case with any device that burns fossil fuel, emit chemicals such as nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and formaldehyde.  Singer notes that “electric burners produce ultrafine particles” and that “once they’re in the air, they recondense”.

Indoor Pollution from Food

It’s not just the burners on your range that release harmful chemicals.  Cooking oil heated to its smoke point releases acrolein, a known skin and eye irritant.  (The smell of burning fat is the glycerol breaking down into acrolein.) Acrolein is in the same chemical family as formaldehyde.

When starchy foods such as potatoes, bread and other wheat products are cooked at high temperatures, acrylamide is formed.  Acrylamide, often used in the production of paper, dyes, and plastics, has been identified by the World Health Organization as “probably carcinogenic to humans”.  (Try not to burn the toast).

Cleaning the Air in Your Kitchen

We can’t just stop cooking.  Eating raw or undercooked meat increases the risk of E. coli, salmonella, and other disease-carrying pathogens (and raw meat doesn’t taste good).  Raw potatoes can cause digestive issues as may some raw vegetables.  

The answer is ventilation!

There are different ways you can improve your home’s air quality. 

Window fan: You can get window fans with reversible airflow, so air can flow out of the window, carrying the toxins out. Ideally, the best place to put it would be the kitchen window, but if your kitchen doesn’t have a window, you can open as many windows as you have near the kitchen and place a fan towards them.  This method has its limitations, though, particularly in winter.

Air purifier: Another tip is to invest in an air purifier. Models with HEPA-filters can clean up a significant percentage of particles in the air. If you cook with a gas stove or have asthma, you could benefit from an MCS (multiple chemical sensitivities) HEPA filter.

Range hoods: Range hoods remain one of the best and most convenient options. According to Dr Singer, “If … homes were to use a range hood that exhausts to the outside and is even moderately effective, the number of homes exceeding the [EPA safety] standards would drop by more than half.” 

Range hoods not only remove indoor pollutants and odors, they provide other benefits:

  • They help to keep the kitchen clean by removing smoke before it gathers on cupboards or countertops
  • They remove heat to help to cool off hot kitchens.
  • They provide extra lighting in the cooking area.

Some range hoods, particularly the up-market ones, have appealing design features that add to the aesthetics of your kitchen.

The Most Effective Range Hoods

Range hoods are not created equal.  In terms of power, the rule is the more the better.  A range hood’s air movement power is measured in CFM (cubic feet per minute).  You want a range hood that will exchange the air in your kitchen at least 15 times per hour.  A kitchen that is, for instance, 18 feet wide x 20 feet long x 8 feet high is 2,880 cubic feet.  Divide the cubic feet by 4 (720 CFM) and then add 100 CFM to compensate for the resistance of the cap and the turns in the ducting for a total of 820 CFM as the minimum size in this example.

The most effective range hoods are those that cover the entire stovetop area, including the front burners. If your range hood covers only the back area of the cooktop, try cooking on the back burners to facilitate the capture of that air. 

Vented vs Non-Vented

The fan in vented range hoods leads to a duct that moves the air to the outside.  Not all range hoods vent to the outside. A non-vented range hoods draws in the air, filters it, then recirculates it.  While these types of range hoods are sometimes the only option (where the cooking area is not adjacent to an exterior wall), they do not generally work as well as vented range hoods.  They do remove some grease and cooking odors, but they do not remove heat and humidity.

Range Hood Noise Levels

Unless you enjoy shouting to be heard, you’re probably want to get the quietest range hood you can.  A range hood’s noise level can be measured in sones or dB (decibels). Normal conversation is generally around four sones (48 dB).  

The only noise a range hood should make is the hum of the motor.  Other noises (a rattle or vibrating noise or a squeaking noise) are indications that a part needs to be adjusted or replaced, or that there is a build-up of grease or other debris in the range hood that is interfering with its operation.

Venting a Range Hood

Proper venting is critical to the operation of your range hood.  Most manufacturers provide recommendations for duct size and type as well as installation instructions.  It is important to follow the instructions and recommendations to get the most from your range hood.

Cleaning Your Range Hood

For optimum efficiency of your range hood, and for fire safety, it’s important to make sure the range hood, including its filters and its
hidden accessible components, is regularly cleaned.  For tips on cleaning range hoods, click here.

For the very best in repair and maintenance of your stove and other major appliances, call the experts at C&W Appliance Service at (855) 358-1496 or (214) 358-1496.


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