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What is a Downdraft Ventilation System?

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  • Written By: Terrie Brockmann
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 24 August 2016
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A downdraft ventilation system removes smoke, some toxins, and other impurities from the air by drawing the air down into a ventilation system. Usually, builders install this system in a kitchenm but companies also use downdraft systems in industrial situations, such as to draw away welding fumes. In a kitchen, a good ventilation system removes odors, grease, and other impurities. It also reduces the damage that these impurities cause to walls, cabinets, and other surfaces. A downdraft ventilation system is compatible with a gas or electric cooking system.

There are two types of ventilation systems: the updraft and the downdraft. Most people associate the updraft style with range hoods and chimney-style ventilators. Often, the downdraft system recesses into the cooking appliance or the countertop. This invisibility makes the downdraft system ideal for using in kitchen islands and peninsulas. It contributes to the open design in these kitchens.

One of the two styles of downdraft ventilation systems is the flush mount style. The flush mount downdraft ventilation system is flush with the stovetop or countertop. This is the least efficient type of ventilation system, and cooks frequently complain that the fan pulls the flame and heat away from the food.

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The other style of downdraft system is the pop-up or countertop type. This ventilator is retractable, rising when it is in use. When not in use, the pop-up style ventilator is level with the cooktop or counter. This invisibility is one of the greatest features that homeowners value. The pop-up style is more efficient than the flush mount type, but it is not as efficient as the updraft ventilation system.

A downdraft ventilation system has several disadvantages. It is less effective with tall pots. Many cooks also find that unless they make odorous or smoky foods near the vent, the downdraft vents are not effective. Professionals do not use downdraft ventilation systems because of their inefficiency, especially with the tall, large pots.

The advantages of the downdraft ventilation system vary. If the fan is located away from the kitchen, such as in a basement or outdoors, the kitchen is quieter than when using an updraft system. There is the option of installing it separately in the counter and base cabinet under a cooktop. Sometimes homeowners can buy the downdraft ventilation system as part of the cooking appliance.

In general, kitchen ventilation systems have many advantages. The nitrous oxides that sometimes are a byproduct of cooking may cause a ground-level ozone layer. It may affect people with respiratory disease, and in significant amounts, may cause respiratory problems. Other benefits of good ventilation include energy savings, less cleaning time and expense, and cleaner-smelling air. Another advantage is that with the majority of smoke pulled from the air, the smoke detector alarm may not activate.

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